Greetings in Christ’s Name. I want to offer my thanks and appreciation for all who supported me in prayer and finance while I led a strategic prayer team in partnership with PRMI at the recent 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA in Pittsburgh, PA from June 30 – July 7, 2012.
Perhaps, the biggest “news” from this recent General Assembly of the PC(USA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the US with nearly 2.3 million members and 11,000 congregations, is that the traditional definition of marriage in the PC(USA) Book of Order defined as “between a man and a woman” was affirmed, for at least another two years until the 221st GA in 2014. This gives PC(USA) evangelicals and moderates critical time to navigate their future course in a cultural war that is consuming our nation and rocking the mainline church these days. The recent Chick-fil-A controversy is a case in point. For the next two years, Presbyterians who subscribe to a more traditional/orthodox view of Scripture have a few choices:
1.) Continue with “business as usual” and simply ignore the inevitable departure of orthodox congregations from the PC(USA).
3.) Seek to be faithful within the midst of a denomination that is becoming increasingly more progressive by participating in the Fellowship of Presbyterians and other renewal groups.
4.) Come before God in humility and pray for personal/corporate repentance and a return to Biblical truth.
Regardless, of how Presbyterians who hold to a traditional view of Scripture feel, they will make one of the above choices in the next two years either intentionally or by virtue of doing nothing.
The recent Presbyterians For Renewal (PFR) letter on the 220th General Assembly states:
The PC(USA) “train” has left the “station” of orthodoxy and is headed into an undefined future where, seemingly, anything is possible. Individuals and congregations who are skittish about the risks and challenges of transferring their affiliation to a different denomination must understand that continuing on with the PC(USA) is not for the faint of heart either. In the decision of affiliation there is no status quo—there is no easy path. The only question is where is God calling you to engage in ministry?
Go to Presbyterians for Renewal for the complete letter and a great teaching by Dr. Kenneth Bailey on Paul’s theology of sexual practice from 1 Corinthians 6.
The Results of Intercession
Many of you reading this post may have prayed along with the intercessors in Pittsburgh through an online prayer Facebook group providing updates during the GA. Thank you!! On Friday, July 6, 2012, the day the General Assembly was considering reports from Committee 13: Marriage and Civil Unions, I led a fasting/prayer walk around the David Livingston Convention Center in Pittsburgh with an intercessor from Pennsylvania and a pastor from upstate New York.
Along the way we used two bells dedicated and given to Global Leadership Dynamics by a friend in the tradition of the “wakey-wakey” evangelists who would ring bells and preach the Gospel a hundred years ago in England and Scotland. The Lord also told me to wear my red pastoral stole that day. Later, I understood why when so many progressive commissioners wore hand-knit rainbow scarves throughout the week in support of redefining marriage. During the walk I realized my stole symbolically replaced these “ideological” stoles with the true yoke of Christ. On the afternoon of Friday, July 6, we were all stunned when the vote on marriage came in at 52% against and 48% for changing the definition of marriage to “two persons.” The moment was so stunning and powerful – it seemed as if Jesus had literally stepped into the convention center and said, “Peace Be Still.” I repented for not believing that God would answer our prayers to protect the traditional definition of marriage. Before the vote most of us assumed the battle was over. Yet, He did answer when we called.
The Way Forward
Whether you are a member of a PC(USA) congregation, have left the PCUSA or are planning to leave, I believe it is important to acknowledge that the Lord intervened in this 220th General Assembly to give the largest Presbyterian body in the nation two more years for prayer, discernment and action. In any hard battle, time to rest and think about the way forward is a gift from God. The Episcopal Church in America has not received such a reprieve and is now suffering great institutional upheaval. Just look at the following article about the recent struggles in The Episcopal Church.
In April, 2012, I was received by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as a “reformed transfer” from the Presbyterian Church USA. I am very thankful for my new denominational home where I now serve as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the category of “Evangelist.” The EPC is focused on the worship of Jesus Christ, the sending of missionaries to some of the hardest regions of the world and church-planting as one of the most effective ways to evangelize the US. I prayed about this decision for over a year before I received the green light. It was the right decision for me as I now lead Global Leadership Dynamics. I am grateful to be in a denomination where we are not battling over the authority of God’s Word. Rather in the EPC, a much smaller Presbyterian denomination founded in 1981 and composed of about 400 congregations coast to coast and a few overseas, our focus is the unified exaltation and worship of Jesus Christ, the spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth and encouraging one another in “Truth and Love.”
I am very happy to have transferred into the EPC. At the same time, I still love and grieve for the PC(USA) which nurtured my faith until I confessed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of 21 at the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. The PC(USA) also trained me while I prepared for ordination as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in 1997. In 1998, my wife Kay and I were commissioned and sent to Northern Japan as Mission Co-Workers of the General Assembly of the PC(USA) where we served for nearly nine years. And recently, for five years, I served as a pastor and the National Director of Multicultural Alpha for The Alpha Course, based at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, a PC(USA) congregation. Thus, I will continue to love, pray for and support my brothers and sisters in the PC(USA) as they struggle with a constant assault against Biblical truth and practice.
Prayer Works – Time to Wake Up!!
What I ultimately learned through this recent prayer assignment is that God DOES answer our prayers even when things seem hopeless. It is TIME for the Church to awaken and fight the battle of moral ambiguity that is promoted by a predominantly liberal media. This assault is set on removing sin from our vocabulary and divorcing our faith and practice from Biblical truth.
My direct descendant John Joachim Zubly was an immigrant from St. Gall, Switzerland who after being ordained in London by the German Reformed Church in July, 1744, sailed for South Carolina to minister at the request of Reformed Swiss and German settlers in South Carolina and Georgia. Later, Rev. Dr. John J. Zubly served as the first pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia. This congregation still worships today and is staffed by pastors of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Zubly also served as the delegate from Georgia to the Second Continental Congress in 1775. On November 11, 1770, Dr. Zubly preached a memorial service for the great evangelist George Whitefeld who died on September 30 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. My point in sharing this information is to demonstrate that Presbyterians have been part of the American experiment from the beginning. It does not matter what branch of Presbyterianism we belong to. What should unite us as Presbyterians is a commitment to the Word of God as the complete authority for faith and life, the Reformed theological tradition and Presbyterian polity. For me, leaving the PC(USA) to join the EPC allowed me to be a teaching elder in a denomination with an orthodox theological stance shared by my ancestor Rev. Dr. John J. Zubly. I am proud to be part of this theological tradition that has formed and guided our great nation.
A Time to Pray for Awakening
I encourage you to pray NOW for men and women of good courage to stand in unity for Jesus Christ. Let’s pray the Church will arise to pray in a Third Great Awakening at this critical juncture in our nation’s history.
This Fall, Global Leadership Dynamics is leading a series of prayer events called Citywide Prayer for Christ in collaboration with regional teams of Alpha USA, PRMI and local churches. We will hold our fourth Citywide Prayer Event in Charleston, South Carolina on August 23 at Second Presbyterian Church, PC(USA); another event in Asheville, NC on September 23 at Cornerstone Church CMA and then Charlotte on September 27th. Location TBA. At the same time, we are planning more events this Fall in East Coast cities.
In May, I led the third Citywide Prayer for Christ event in Charleston, SC. As we began to prayer for our nation, the Lord suddenly instructed me to lead the people to pray for the nation by worshipping Him rather than spoken prayer. During this time of powerful unison worship, the Holy Spirit filled the sanctuary with His powerful presence and many prayers were lifted to God for the United States and its leaders through our praises. I think many would agree that our nation is in need of a Third Great Awakening. And there are signs of its beginning in the growing prayer movement in the United States. Would you be willing to become an intercessor to “stand in the gap” for a Third Great Awakening in the United States? One way to begin is to join intercessors from PRMI, the parent ministry of GLD, as they focus on prayer for the upcoming Citywide Prayer for Christ events in Charleston, Asheville and Charlotte sponsored by regional Alpha teams, GLD and PRMI. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 323-707-3984 if you would like to join the effort.
Thanks for reading and please join the effort to pray for the Third Great Awakening in the United States whether you are Presbyterian or not!
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