I attended PC (USA) General Assemblies every year from 1990 until the year 2001.
That final year for me, 2001, was the year the war for the soul of the PC(USA) was lost, in my opinion, the year that biblical faith was set aside and liberal progressivism was hailed in its place.
The continual erosion of scriptural authority since then resulted, not surprisingly, in the 2014 GA, held end of June in Detroit, voting to reject the Bible’s teaching on marriage. Shocking yes, but given the 2001 victory for regressives, it was to be expected.
I said it at the time and now bolstered by the facts I will say it again. The war was lost in 2001!
What happened in 2001?
Attending the 218th General Assembly in Louisville, commissioners could not decisively reject the apostasy of the 2000 Peace Making Conference in which the keynote speaker’s theme was “What’s the big deal about Jesus?”
Dirk Ficca, a Presbyterian minister, thumbed his nose at Jesus’ own claims to be the way, the truth and the life, the only way to God the Father.
PRMI joined the Presbyterian Lay Committee, other Presbyterian renewal groups and, in the end more than 1300 congregations nationwide to stand firm in our biblical faith and in our confession that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and that the Bible is the Word of God and our authority.
On the floor of the assembly, the faithful bore witness to the Lord by sending up judicial actions and making petitions, all to no avail.
The Confessing Church Movement which the Holy Spirit had ignited only a few months earlier was rebuffed by the GA leadership.
In the realm of the Spirit this was bad enough, but the crowning blow came when Commissioner Rev. Gerrit Dawson of Western North Carolina Presbytery brought an overture to the floor asking the assembly to reject the apostasy expressed in the Peace Making Conference of 2000 and instead to affirm the “singular, saving Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
I am never going to forget that day.
The overture was debated for over three hours. I watched as presidents of Presbyterian seminaries (with the notable exception of Dr. Tom Gillespie of Princeton), former GA moderators and many of the liberal leaders of the denomination rejected this simple affirmation of our historic faith as written in our Creeds and Confessions, declaring it to be too narrow, not inclusive enough.
Evangelicals also stood and affirmed their faith by pointing out repeatedly that the overture was simply a reaffirmation of the foundation of biblical Christian faith which has marked true Christian faith since the beginning.
In the end, we did not have the votes.
The overture was sent to a study committee. Later, when the report came back, it was agreed that Jesus was unique. All language of His singular, saving Lordship was eliminated. Unique? Yes, you and I say, Jesus is uniquely the singular saving Lord, but unique was all they could say? For that matter, Buddha and Mohammed are both unique!
Of course, Scripture has an answer: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. (Act 4:12)
Study papers may be worthwhile on some things, but on Jesus? In the realm of the spirit, the PC (USA) as denomination was given the chance to correct its apostasy. It failed to do so by voting against the overture.
I will never forget meeting my brother in Christ, Gerrit Dawson, in the hallway after the vote, weeping bitterly and repeating in grief and astonishment, “They could not affirm that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.”
Jesus says clearly, Matthew 10:32-33. “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
Now, when a formal governing body of a denomination misses a moment to affirm its faith in Jesus Christ, and instead denies its historic faith, it is more than just a vote.
Indeed, it is a formal action taken in the spiritual realm, which in this case, opened the doors wide for Satan and his demonic host to work with the willing, especially those in leadership, to choose not to bow before Lord Jesus.
This formed a very powerful demonic stronghold within the very leadership structure of the PC (USA). The stronghold had been building for years, actually going back to the Auburn Declaration of 1837 and continuing through the Modernist/Fundamentalist Controversy in the 1920s and 1930s.
The failure of 2001 sealed the deal—the war was lost.
From that point in 2001 the stronghold of liberal progressivism gained more power and influence. One decision after another dismantled the theological and doctrinal basis for the PC (USA) to claim its membership in the Church Universal.
Few people were aware of what happened in the realm of the spirit that decisive day in the war between Truth and falsehood.
But PRMI’s intercessors who prayed to cover the assembly in the Holy Spirit’s protection experienced it firsthand. Some of them said afterward that It was like climbing a mountain using ropes securely fastened to the mountain side, when suddenly the mountainside gave way, the pitons came loose, and all hopes were dashed in the abyss below.
Our prayers for the PC (USA) to be renewed in the Holy Spirit and to be restored to its first love of biblical faith in Jesus Christ had no further basis because that faith had been intentionally and publically denied.
Satan swept in and attacked the intercessors with a vengeance. Nearly a year would pass before most of them could recover from that attack. And to date, some have not recovered completely.
The decisive battle in the realm of the spirit was lost which was the decisive battle in the war. The Holy Spirit showed us at PRMI that we were no longer to pray for renewal of the denomination and were no longer to do battle in the heavenlies for the PC (USA) as denomination.
Such corporate rejection of Jesus Christ meant there was no further grounding for our prayers. Of course, we were called to ongoing prayer for the faithful remnant and to offer them equipping to cooperate more effectively with the Holy Spirit to accomplish Jesus’ ministry.
From that 2001 GA, when the PC (USA) leadership chose not to confess Jesus Christ, we have looked on in sorrow as the demonic stronghold due to willful apostasy has enabled the leadership to consolidate its control and bind the denomination to demonic deception.
There is no room here to enumerate the many cases of apostasy over the last decade plus.
In closing, allow me to draw attention to an action taken in Detroit which was overshadowed by the votes to redefine marriage and oppose Israel by divesting in corporations doing business with Israel.
Commissioners knowingly voted down an overture calling for teaching and ruling elders to promise to be “obedient to the Scriptures” rather than to be “guided by the Scriptures” which is the current language of the ordination vow. If there had been any doubt before, let it be known by all that the Spirit of Rebellion does indeed have its talons firmly tearing into the flesh of the 501c3 nonprofit called Presbyterian Church (USA).
What to do?
I am a member of the PC (USA) and I am struggling as to what I am to do. You too must continue to wrestle with your responses. The following are considerations the Holy Spirit brings to my mind.
You, of course, are aware of the many Christians and congregations before us who over the years have taken decisive actions, either to stay and confess or to disaffiliate from the PC (USA). You may have already taken that step. The great hemorrhage began in the 1960s and has ebbed and flowed as the denomination’s straying has caught evangelicals’ attention.
Each of us must decide how we are called to be faithful to Jesus, our first love. He may direct some of us to stay and to profess Christ faithfully within a faithless denomination. Some may be called to leave and join another Reformed body. However Jesus calls each of us and our congregations, I believe, He wants us to make sharp distinctions and clear decisions, rather than passively looking on as it happens to us.
If we are called to stay, we must come to regard ourselves as the prophetic minority, that is, out of love for the Lord Jesus and His Church, to live in a state relentless and bold resistance to the apostasy. What is the form of our resistance? We must be fearless and wise, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit in to decisively name and to stand against falsehood and to continue to confess the biblical faith once and for all passed on to us. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit for love as well as power in our bold proclamation in words and deeds of our faith in Jesus Christ.
By definition, further conflict will ensue. Both human and demonic opposition to our efforts are inevitable. Remember that what Jesus told us in Mat 10:34-38 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword…”
If we stay and confess, we must also be careful that our in our efforts to show love and work for peace and unity we do not become co-collaborators with the oppressors of true faith.
Pray for me as I seek the Lord’s guidance. I will pray for you as well.
I realized this was happening but it was sad to read it. God be with you, I fear that we in the CRC re not far behind. Bless you brother! If in this area let’s try to connect. Here is my info. I now live in Bowmanville (35 m East of Toronto. Am well, still active but getting older (75 tomorrow)
(personal contact info removed)
Brad, thank you for this important history. I was unaware of how stark that decision was in 2001. I am one of those whom the Spirit has not yet called out of the PC(USA), and I have been wondering why – and learning to obey one step at a time. Your perspective helps me.
One thought that the Spirit keeps bringing up is that if everyone who is grieved by the actions of the PC(USA) were to leave, there wouldn’t be anyone left to confess those actions as sin. How could we (the PC(USA) is still my “we”)be forgiven and healed without confessing our sin? Whatever else the Spirit gives me to do here, a constant is that I will be called to confess the sins of my church – not as an outsider but as an integral member of this body that does this evil. I believe that there is a sense in which Romans 7-8 applies corporately as well as individually, and I am hopeful that in the same way that Jesus graciously put his Spirit in me at the invitation of whatever meager part of me was willing to repent when I prayed the prayer of salvation, so too will he graciously respond to the penitent prayers of the remnant, on behalf of the whole.
Thanks so much for posting this history of the PCUSA’s spiritual downslide. It is very insightful and helpful. As a PCUSA pastor I am one who is also needing to discern how the Holy Spirit would guide me in response to this current rejection of biblical truth. I am particularly watching to see how the presbyteries vote on the amendment to change the wording on marriage in the Book of Order. If the wording is changed how can I continue to be faithful to my ordination vow to uphold the Book of Order (which ironically has a much stronger Christology than what the 2001 GA refused to confirm)? In the meantime, our session (Foster Presbyterian Church in Tukwila, WA) added a statement to our website (www.ftpc.org) to affirm our commitment to God’s plan for marriage.
Grace and peace to you in your ongoing leadership of PRMI.
Psalm 23 has your answer.
Thank you, Brad, for this background on the PCUSA’s dramatic move away from Jesus as Lord. I didn’t realize how concrete the decision was. How to continue to associate with “our church” when scripture continues to be ignored and rejected. Praying about how I could take vows as an elder in such a denomination, though my allegience to Christ is served through Foster Presbyterian Church. Praying for wisdom for all.
Brad – I joined PCC in 1975 after the third conference in St. Louis and I continue to get PRMI’s newsletter and pray for it. Like you, I too am concerned about “what to do” given the direction of the denomination since 2001.
I continue to preach regularly in very small congregations in our presbytery as well as maintaining an active pastoral counseling ministry. The Spirit is still alive in those small congregations, but they feel quite defeated and have no option judicially other than having individual members leave and let the presbytery become a property manager of the vacant building.
Peach and grade to you and PMRI. May we all find the wisdom of the Spirit for living in these days.