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Friday, September 12, 2008

can i get a witness?

I read the report of the court case over Kirk of the Hills church with great sadness. In some ways, the expulsion of this congregation of over 2000 from the building and property saddens and discourages me more than the years of wrangling over ordination issues. When Christian sue Christians there can be no good outcome... only a lose-lose. When the local church wins the property, it's just embarrassing and a black eye on Presbyterians and Christians in general. But in this first prominent case of a presbytery winning the property from such a vital congregation... it is, in my opinion, disastrous.

Who in that community would want to come to the soon-vacant building? Who will buy the property? What will that money be used for? Even if a strict PCUSA understanding of property trust was upheld, something far greater was lost. The witness to Jesus Christ in that community and area, not only for PCUSA Christians, but for all Christians and churches, has been tainted. Does anyone doubt me? I'd pray that I'll be proven wrong. But go into a coffeeshop and ask someone who has read the article in the paper what they think of the Church... of Christians... and then count the cost.

Is there any way out of this? If I could plead with the Presbytery of Eastern Oklahoma, I'd say, "Okay, you've proven the polity case... now, won't you sell them the church back for $1?" That would be a miracle, of course, but I think it will take a greater miracle than that to pull the name of "Christian" back out of the mud for the next generation in Eastern Oklahoma.

For all the rest of the presbyteries watching... there is a better way! And by presbyteries, I mean the pastors and elders that constitute a presbytery. Please, please, whatever right you may claim to property, there are more important things at stake! If you have not considered a pastoral response to churches seeking dismissal, now is the time to wrestle with that gracious alternative to litigation.

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