Thriving Presbyterian denomination emerges from PCUSA

"A relatively new conservative Presbyterian denomination has been enjoying increased growth over the last four years as hundreds of churches continue to leave the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA)." One News Now

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CAWatson's picture

When I was a youth minister at a Chinese Church, we rented space from one of the churches that spearheaded this new Presbyterian group. Our church took their staff out to lunch every year in gratefulness. I talked extensively with their pastors. They are socially conservative (concerning homosexuality), but they are not theologically conservative. They understand the "gospel" effectively as "social gospel" (in their words, Jesus increasing his kingdom on earth through things like feeding the poor and digging latrines) They are not convinced of inerrancy. They wanted their message to be "Jesus is the unique saviour of the world." And that statement without definition. 

Aaron Blumer's picture


Interesting that they would see homosexuality as worth separating over, if they let the gospel itself go a long time ago. Hard to see how such a group could endure as distinct from the body it came out of.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

CAWatson's picture

I was only sharing my experience. There are, probably, good men in the organization as well. 


Larry Nelson's picture


Christ Presbyterian, Edina, MN:

Hope Presbyterian, Richfield, MN: 


Both had well-publicized (and expensive) exits from the PCUSA.  It cost Hope something like $2M to leave the PCUSA.  Since Christ Presbyterian is roughly 4 times larger, and since the fee is mostly per-capita derived, their fee was likely several million dollars. 

Bert Perry's picture

Most mainline churches, I would presume including the PCUSA, have quite a variation in actual beliefs in the pulpit and even more in the pews.  In big cities, the liberal theology is so pervasive, you cannot ignore it, but in small towns and rural areas, the liberality is suppressed to the point you might think you're in an evangelical church except for the signs of "high church" theology.   More or less, someone who really values the fundamentals needs to "look underneath the hood" if he's attending such a church.  A lot of people who disagree totally with what's going on in the seminaries and administration will stay simply because their pastor doesn't dare pass it on.  


Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Most mainline churches, I would presume including the PCUSA, have quite a variation in actual beliefs in the pulpit......


One local PCUSA church's Senior Pastor has his B.A. from FBBC (Ankeny), class of 1978.  (Additionally, his M.Div and D.Min are from evangelical seminaries.)

I'm puzzled how a FBBC guy ends up pastoring a PCUSA church..... 

Bert Perry's picture

Larry, my grandmother attends a United Methodist church pastored by an evangelical.  One thing that is going on, IMO, is that if you want a steady stream of pastoral candidates, you've got to actually believe in something.  Hence the liberal churches are increasingly using evangelical materials and pastors simply because their own well is dry.  I am guessing this guy sees himself as an evangelical missionary there, really.

Another example; when fighting cancer, my late mother, a United Methodist as well, started reading a lot of books about theology....none of them from Methodist sources.  The edifice of mainline liberalism is teetering, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of beautiful old buildings came on the market in the next ten years.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

The term "social gospel" gets thrown around way too much when it comes to conversations like this.   Although phrases such as building God's kingdom or words such as social justice and missio Dei do set off the warning bells, the way churches use these phrases and words might be different than what a Baptist fundamentalist believes they are using them. 25 years ago when I began doing urban ministry, I was falsely accused of embracing the social gospel by my GARBC church that I grew up in and I realized much of it was a communication problem.   So then I decided to try to understand the historical, theological, and cultural tenants of what I was being accused of so that it would never happen again;  and then trying to understand the relationship between the actual gospel and social justice/action/responsibility/concern (whatever noun is used to describe loving one's neighbor) For the sake of clarity, I developed four general views of how Protestant Christians understand the relationship between the Gospel and Social Justice.   As in all taxonomies, not everyone fits neatly into each category, which is why certain groups fall into more than one.  Roman Catholic views do not fit as neatly into these categories because certain branches are more influenced by its official Catholic social teaching or Liberation Theology or Mother Teresa's mysticism.

First View-Social Justice is the gospel.  This view is held by liberal, progressive Christians mostly from Mainline denominations.  They've denied and twisted basic fundamentals of the faith, including: denying the original sin/depravity of humans, embracing a moral or scapegoat (non-violent) atonement, and questioning the reality of Hell.  Therefore, good news is social justice in their communities and throughout the world.

Second View-Social Justice is integral to the gospel.  This view is held by progressive and moderate evangelicals, conservative mainline, and some missional Christians.  They believe that the gospel includes both Christ's redemptive work on the cross and social transformation.  They see Jesus' gospel of the kingdom and Paul's justification by faith alone as complimentary to each other.   Therefore, these churches are both evangelistic and passionate about making the world a better place.

Third View-Social Justice is an implication of the gospel.  This view is held by conservative evangelicals, missional, and some fundamentalist Christians.  They hold to the belief that the gospel in a nutshell is "Christ dying for our sins according to the scriptures."  These Christians keep the gospel separate from social justice, yet believe Christians should allow their good works of mercy and justice bear witness to the gospel of Jesus.  Some (like myself) believe that social justice and works of mercy are a vital implication of the gospel, while other see it not as important.  

Fourth View-Social Justice is irrelevant to the gospel.  This view is held by many fundamentalists, some conservative evangelicals, and many conservative Christians that equate social justice with socialism.  Some believe that Christians should only obey the Great Commission and shouldn't concern themselves with the present world.  Others are suspicious of social justice because it may lead to more redistribution of wealth, while some believe any effort towards works of mercy and justice will become a distraction to the great commission.

Having read the majority of books that they recommend on ECO mission resources page of their website, this denomination is most influenced by the integral view of how the gospel relates to social justice with a few books advocating an implication view.

CAWatson's picture

When I use the term "social gospel," I try to limit it to both the theology and the practice put out by Walter Rauschenbusch in Christianity and the Social Crisis and A Theology for the Social Gospel and its modernized version put out by Brian McLaren in The Secret Message of Jesus and Everything Must Change.  

When I was at lunch with the leadership at CPC in Edina, I was talking with one of the assistant pastors, and I asked how he became a Christian. He went and worked in DC twice, first for a congressman, and second, for a lobbyist. He wanted the world to be a better place, and through a DC ministry, came to realize that the best way for social change to occur was for Jesus to increase his kingdom on earth. So he went to seminary. And he leads mission teams to Guatemala, digging latrines in villages. He works with homeless in the cities, and packs boxes of food for Feed My Starving Children. All in the name of "Jesus increasing his kingdom on earth." So as I understand your taxonomy, he would hold the first. 

The Senior Pastor, at that time, had no interest in separating, yet wanted the presbytery to affirm one (undefined) statement: "Jesus is the unique savior of the world." I didn't get too much into a conversation with him about social work, but it is possible that he would hold the second. 

I, like Joel, would hold to the third. I see value in caring for the poor, widows, and orphans. In our small town, the ministerial association has a common pot of money that is used for a few purposes: (1) Someone runs out of fuel, they get $30 of fuel from the local gas station (a household can only take advantage of this fund twice in one year - again, why it is run by the ministerium is we keep common records) (2) Someone is stuck in town overnight, they get a night in the local motel (4 rooms, assuming one room is open) (3) Someone needs a meal, we have an account with a local cafe. 

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that they key point is to remember the center of the Gospel, Christ came to save sinners.  If we assume, as the New Testament tells us, that we are going to be leading Pharisees, rich Romans, whores, slaves, criminals, drunks, soldiers, and perhaps even engineers to Christ and integrating them into the Church, we are going to need to take a look at the challenges they face and their particular besetting sins and figure out ways to lend a hand to them.  We can debate the particular applications, but if that's not a social implication to the Gospel as demanded by the need for sanctification, I don't know what is.

Brought back to the new Presbyterian denomination, it strikes me that their success is going to depend a LOT on how well they get the order for justification and sanctification; if they follow Presbyterian history, the Solas, and the like to see salvation as preceding sanctification (no works salvation, more or less), they just might do well.  Otherwise, they fall into the trap set for most mainline churches, the Catholics, and quite frankly a certain fringe of so-called fundamentalists. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I really appreciated your four-fold explanation.  Would make a good article.

"The Midrash Detective"

Joel Shaffer's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

I really appreciated your four-fold explanation.  Would make a good article.

This comes from material that I've taught in workshops at a couple of ministry conferences in the West Michigan area.  If I have time, I may develop it into an article and submit it to Sharper Iron.  Thanks for the encouragement.