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Saturday, September 06, 2008

open letter to my pcusa brothers and sisters

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

My name is Robert Austell and I am pastor of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. I was a commissioner to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church this past June (2008). While there, I wrote a resolution calling on presbyteries to establish a gracious process through which to relate to churches that might be seeking dismissal from the PCUSA. My concern is that lack of such a process in many presbyteries has resulted in "pre-emptive strikes" on all sides, often resulting in legal action between Christians.

The logic and gracious spirit of this resolution was sufficient to pass overwhemingly in committee (49-3-1) and then in plenary (519-157-8). With this vote, the General Assembly directed:
"...the Stated Clerk to send this resolution to the presbyteries, synods, and sessions, indicating the will of the Assembly that presbyteries and synods develop and make available to lower governing bodies and local congregations a process..."
The resolution goes on to describe goals for such a process so that it would be grace-bearing and witness to our mutual faith.

I would share this appeal with every pastor and session in our denomination - indeed, that was the overwhelming will of the Assembly! I am not looking for an easy or tough stance on dismissal - we need our presbyteries to create a gracious process, whereby brothers and sisters in Christ treat each other with the consistency, pastoral care, accountability, grace, openness, and honesty due to all people, much less fellow believers. This affects our public witness to Christ - it IS a public witness to Christ.

Each presbytery has the constitutional charge to set the tone for this.
  • If your presbytery doesn't have a process, use resolution 04-28 to get the ball rolling.
  • If your presbytery has a process, but you think it falls short of the ideals in this resolution, inquire about modifying the process accordingly.
  • If your presbytery has a gracious process already - get a copy and send it to me so it can be shared widely!
If you have any questions, would like resources or need direction in how to communicate with your presbytery about such a process, please e-mail me at robert@gspc.net.

You can find the full content and story of this resolution here:

I challenged each commissioner at General Assembly to carry the resolution to their presbytery. It's not something that can be ordered - just shared. Would you help do that by forwarding this as e-mail (or the link to this post) on to as many pastors or elders as you know in order to get this out to the church?

In God's grace,

Robert Austell
Pastor, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church -
Charlotte, NC
Minister Commissioner, 218th General Assembly (2008)

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