Sunday, July 15, 2012

Seeking Dismissal

As reported to you today in worship by Elder Richard Price the Session of the First Presbyterian Church of Omak has chosen to seek dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA).  The vote came at the conclusion of a process that began in February and was led admirably by the Denominational Investigative Commission (DIC).  The DIC read through many documents, led several community forums and learned much from a survey distributed to the membership.  All of these led the DIC to unanimously recommend the Session seek dismissal.  Session adopted the recommendation of the DIC.
The reasons for seeking dismissal boil down to our sense of call as a community of Christ's disciples.  We are called first and foremost to be followers of Jesus Christ as he is revealed in Scripture.  If we are given to choose between following Christ and our denomination, then our choice is clear.  The Session, in their action, has made the choice that for us to follow Jesus, we will seek to affiliate elsewhere.  The Session believes that for us as a congregation to continue to follow Christ, we need to do so in a different denomination.  Our hope is to become involved in a denomination that is not marked with the same intractable conflict over the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority of the Scriptures and the understanding of biblical ethics, especially sexual morality.
Overall, this process has been marked with high emotions.  Some have been angry and expressed a sense of betrayal.  Greater than anger, however, has been a sense of sadness.  Personally, as your pastor, I am saddened that we have had to come to this decision in our life together, yet I am also hopeful.  I have long thought of this dismissal process as a sort of get over it so we can get on with it project.  We need to get over the emotional issues and conflicts that seem to dishearten us in our mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and get on with the work of evangelism and discipleship.
The road ahead will mean two separate process occurring simultaneously.  First, a commission was created to work with the Presbytery's dismissal process.  You can read first hand the steps our Presbytery has set forward for congregations here.  Our hope is that in moving forward, though this process will be marked with sadness and loss on both sides, that our witness for Christ will speak loudest.
Second, a separate commission has been created to begin working on finding our new denominational home.  Our commission has reached to the Session of the Okanogan Presbyterian Church to work in partnership with them as we are both seeking a new denomination.  While I cannot speak for the commission, I know that I would appreciate your ideas and thoughts on the denominational search.  Remember, we are not seeking safe harbor, but rather a denomination that will support our ministry efforts and challenge us to deeper discipleship and richer evangelism.  Please also keep in mind that the denomination we choose must be Reformed in theology, consistent with Presbyterian polity and have sufficient permanence so that we will not be dismissed into de facto independence.  We will and must be dismissed into another Reformed denomination from the Presbytery's perspective.
Among the many denominations for us to consider, our Executive Presbyter, the Rev. G. David Lambertson has suggested two denominations really stand out.  The first is the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, or ECO for short.  This is a newly created denomination and would mean that we would really be part of creating a new way of being a denomination.  The second is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), a denomination created in 1981 that desired greater clarity in essentials.  These are just two of the options that could be considered.
Please pray for those that will serve on these two commissions and for our entire congregation in this process.  Our hope and pray is to follow the will of God as we seek to be better disciples of Christ.

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