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Discernment: Questions & Answers
May 27–28, 2014 Town Hall Meetings
There has been confusion about what we are voting on. What is it exactly? IT IS A NON-BINDING STRAW POLL TO DETERMINE IF THE CONGREGATION WANTS TO ENTER THE DISCERNMENT PROCESS WITH THE PRESBYTERY. Someone could vote "Yes" in the first straw poll, but vote "No" at the end, against dismissal.
For the straw vote, what are the plans to get out the vote? How is the percentage determined? There will likely be a percentage of the members that actively vote as opposed to total membership. Our history has been that we've gotten a quorum of about 65 needed for meetings, but at most, 20-30% of membership might vote on an issue.
How will the straw vote be taken? Starting Sunday, June 15, through June 22, members of IPC, and regular attenders who call IPC their home church, will have an opportunity to participate in a straw poll on whether we should consider our affiliation with the PC(USA). Ways to cast your ballot:
• June 15: On the patio after worship service
• June 15-21: Online at www.irvinepres.org/discernment
• June 16-20: At the church office, 9a-5p
• June 22: On the patio after worship service
What is Canvas doing about Discernment? Will they vote with us? They are staying in the Presbytery. A statement was sent out by their leadership this past weekend.
What percentage of the vote is necessary to approve dismissal from the Presbytery? At the END of the discernment process, after a joint solution is reached and approved by Presbytery, a 2/3 majority of members present of the congregation is required to be dismissed.
What happens if we can't come up with a Joint Solution? There is room for amending. Not enough time/history has happened for these types of situations to have arisen.
Are their additional risks? Can the rules be changed while we're in the process? Not likely. This has been a gracious process with LRP.
Might other churches follow suit? There is no time limit on when churches can enter discernment.
Will this process distract from our true purpose to serve the Lord together as a congregation? Yes, but it’s a temporary distraction. If we look at where the PC(USA) has been historically and where it’s going … and project 5 or 10 years from now, we may not be allowed to be the IPC that we are now; the authority is being moved from local congregations and presbytery to Louisville. We’re taking proactive steps now, so that in the long-term we’ll be able to be what God is calling IPC to be.
Will we have more regular reporting to the congregation about the progress of this process … this was new to many of us? Yes, there will be congregational meetings, communication at Sunday services, email, and many opportunities to interact with Session and the Presbytery.
Why has the congregation been given so short a time for the straw poll to give a decision on something so important? The straw poll will be to vote on entering the discernment process, not whether we will leave the PC(USA). This is just the beginning. The Presbytery is walking along with us — listening to congregation, and us them. We’re all working together in the discernment process.
Isn’t it a given that we will leave if we enter discernment? No, it is the beginning of the process. We could decide to stay in the denomination.
Why is Session asking for this NOW? Why is this the right timing? Session has been considering leaving the PC(USA) for over 4 years. IPC was going through some difficult issues for the past few years and Session didn’t feel it was appropriate to enter the process until now. Also, the Presbytery invited congregations to enter this process, and like-minded churches are leaving.
Will PC(USA) agree with LRP's property decisions? LRP's decisions are binding.
Was our paying down on the building wasted money? How is our net worth determined? There is a checklist on the Los Ranchos Presbytery (LRP) website that is used to determine net worth which takes multiple elements into consideration. LRP is focusing on one congregation at a time—not comparing one congregation with another. Joint Discernment teams consist of different people. LRP is developing policy as they go.
If we leave the PC(USA) do we risk losing this church? No. The settlements have to be fair to both the congregation and the Presbytery. The guidelines are not meant to disenfranchise us.
With ECO, would the congregation hold title to the church? Yes.
What kind of financial “deal” are the churches who are leaving getting? 10 churches have left Los Ranchos Presbytery (3 were just dismissed on May 31st). The property settlements were: St. Andrews ( $1.7 million payable in ten increments of $170,000 per year); First Westminster ($98,786 payable within 90 days); and Trinity United ($928,250 payable in five annual payments of at least $185,650 per year with 5% interest). This is a ballpark of 4-5% of net worth of church. Our Presbytery has been fair and even-handed so far.
Contrast that with Menlo Park Presbyterian in the San Francisco Presbytery which will pay 20% of their net worth. Los Ranchos has settled on much lower %s, but a statement of dissent was filed on May 31st, so the recent dismissals may be appealed. For IPC, our money invested in Canvas will be considered in our favor.
When did the 3 recent [LRP] churches begin their processes? We are around 9 months behind those churches.
Is the mortgage ours or LRP’s? Although the property is held in trust by LRP, the mortgage is ours.
What alternatives to ECO has Session considered? Session looked at EPC and PCA, but one excludes women completely and one partially. ECO was selected partially because it is egalitarian, and because we already have an affiliation with many of the churches in or considering ECO. Becoming independent would cause us to completely lose our property.
What other reservations might there be in aligning with ECO? There is no general assembly, but instead there are national gatherings. There is accountability—measurable goals must be submitted—this is extra work but a good process. ECO allows us to be part of an affinity group—share resources and learn from each other.
With their short history, are there good theologians in ECO? Yes, ECO has a written theological statement.
Will our structure stay the same? ECO is less rigid, more nimble and agile. With regard to calling of pastors, ECO recognizes that God calls leaders in different ways. In many ways the structure is less cumbersome. Session remains the same: there are elected leaders. Individual churches can decide about deacons. Sessions must gather annually with other Sessions.
Are the five basic principles (five "tenets" mentioned in the slides) in ECO? Yes. They hold to confessions. They have a theological statement.
ECO was formed in January (2012). How many congregations belong to it now? 125
What “accountability” will be required by ECO? Will this require extra staff? No, we have already begun our own measurable goals in our budgeting and VISION statements this year, so that will fit nicely with ECO’s accountability.
Comment: ECO is a “start-up” organization and does not have all its rules or structures in place. This could be more like the “honeymoon” period and they could have problems later. No organization is perfect.
How does what happens at ECO national gatherings translate to the local congregation? Much of what is already happening at IPC is more like ECO, although ECO also emphasizes education and accountability.
How do ECO’s resources compare to PC(USA)’s? PC(USA) has been around much longer and has more members.
Will ECO recognize the ordinations of the PC(USA)? Yes, PC(USA) has recognized ECO as a denomination.
IPC PASTORS / LEADERSHIP
Will the name of IPC change? No
IPC does its own thing ... why can't we continue to do that? No congregation can thrive on its own. It's a matter of integrity. PC(USA) is becoming more centralized, which will offer less opportunity for IPC to do its own thing. We need to look at how we will be most successful for the kingdom.
Does Steve Yamaguchi's leaving as Executive Presbyter affect the process? We believe this will not will affect proceedings.
Are the pastors’ pensions affected if we leave PC(USA)? The pension money that was paid in stays in the pension plan. Agreements with the new denomination will honor the pastors’ pensions.
Is it possible to have a new members class before the final vote so that folks who are regular attenders can become members? There is a new member class scheduled for the fall.
Will we be engaging in an all church prayer time during this process? Each Tuesday evening we have a time of prayer from 6-7 pm. All are welcome.
Are the concerns (national level) generated only among leaders, or also from the lay members of the congregation? Concerns have largely been generated by church leaders, although many lay members have been involved.
What would happen to Scott [Bullock] if we go to ECO? This is called out in the Joint Solution.
What happens to people who vote “no”? This is covered in the Joint Solution.
Would leaving the PC(USA) send a message to gay people that they are not welcome at IPC? No. Gays have always been welcome to worship at IPC and always will be. They are welcome to be part of our worshiping community on the same basis as everyone else: fallen people who are struggling with various temptations and sins in their lives, and who are seeking restoration to God through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in people's lives.
The difficulty, if there is one, is that the question, "am I welcome at IPC as a gay person?" may actually mean, "will you affirm that sexual relationships outside of a marriage between a man and a woman are biblically acceptable?" And that is simply part of a long list of places that we can’t go and still be faithful to the Bible. We can’t tell our people that it is okay to be angry and to lose their tempers, or to talk about people behind their backs, or to lie, or to use pornography, or to get drunk, or to be selfish or greedy, or to not be compassionate to the poor, the struggling and the oppressed—we can’t tell our people those things are acceptable, any more than we can tell them that sexual relationships outside of marriage between a man and a woman are proper, because at the end of the day, it is not compassionate to do so.
Everyone sins and falls short of the glory of God. Everyone struggles their whole lives with recurring sins and temptations of one sort or another. And everyone is loved by God who made us all in His image and desires nothing more than that we should be restored to right relationships with Him, with one another, and with the whole world. If the only people who worshiped at IPC were those who did not struggle with temptations in their lives, this place would be empty. The good news of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven.
Are there other “voices” or information available that addresses a reconciliation approach? See the Additional Resources section of our discernment brochure. The Los Ranchos Discern blog, which is listed as a resource in the brochure, is an extensive source of opinions on the issues. You may also visit the Presbytery website for more information.
The Discernment paper seemed one-sided. From the PC(USA) website it seems that churches can make their own decisions. There is a link on PC(USA) website entitled “Anti-propaganda” which I found helpful and seemed to discredit our brochure. PC(USA) allows for wide latitude, but won’t be pinned down on essential tenets for ordination. The flexibility and range of beliefs dilutes and changes our missional focus.
Example: Changing definition of marriage in PC(USA). Official position is that marriage is between one man and one woman, but homosexuals are being ordained in some presbyteries and the General Assembly will discuss the definition of marriage at the next meeting.
PRESBYTERY / OTHER CHURCHES
What about the option of staying in PC(USA) but working with the Fellowship of Presbyterians for evangelical inspiration? Fellowship of Presbyterians consists of PC(USA) members, ECO members and members of other Presbyterian denominations. Session has discussed this alternative, but felt ECO is a better fit with like-minded beliefs.
Has Session studied the discernment processes of other churches so we don’t have to repeat their mistakes? Has Session studied any dissenting groups’ opinions (e.g., there is a blog created by the dissenting members of Trinity who are unsatisfied with the decision to leave)? We have been intimately associated with Trinity’s process, sending representatives to attend their town hall meetings. It was a very divisive process. Session wanted to begin with a positive recommendation of where we might fit best to avoid some of the conflicts. However, we want to hear everyone’s’ opinions in the small groups.
Will we as a congregation relate more to St. Andrew’s and Trinity than we have in the past (not just the leaders, but the lay people)? We have had a relationship with these churches for a long time, especially St. Andrew’s. We expect that our relationship would deepen, particularly as part of ECO accountability.
Is PC(USA) getting a wake-up call? We’ll know more after the July General Assembly.
Session welcomes conversations regarding the denominational affiliation of IPC.
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