Germantown, TN (May 27, 1997)--Covenant Presbytery met in its 80th Stated
Meeting at the Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church. The moderator, RE Buck Falls, could not attend the meeting due to sickness. In his place, TE Claude McRoberts. The Moderator Nominee from the previous stated meeting, TE Les Newsom, was elected by acclamation.
Presbytery approved the following commission reports and dismissed the commissions with thanks: Commission to ordain and install Mr. Greg Hoffman as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Clarendon, AR, on 02/16/97; Commission to ordain and install Mr. James Calderazzo as Assistant Pastor of Main Street Presbyterian Church, Columbus, MS, on 03/02/97.
TE Laurie Jones, Chairman, gave the Administration Committee report which was distributed to the members of the presbytery. Presbytery approved inviting Mr. Bruce Green, as representative of the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC), to the October stated meeting of Covenant Presbytery to present the ministry of the Institute for Christian Conciliation and to answer any questions related to Covenant Presbytery being associated with the ICC passed.
The policy on distributing minutes of Presbytery was approved as follows: "The approved minutes of Covenant Presbytery are a public record. A copy will be mailed to anyone who asks for one with the exception of executive session minutes.
"Executive session minutes will be sent to the GA Committee on Review of Presbytery Records. Any request to receive a copy of executive session minutes will be referred to the Administration Committee.
"The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly may be included on the mailing list to receive copies of the unapproved minutes to provide him with a timely report of presbytery's actions.
"Unapproved minutes may be sent to someone such as another stated clerk who is interested only in gleaning ideas on how to publish minutes.
"Appendices normally will not be mailed out with the minutes. The appendix may include items such as committee reports, treasurer's reports, and details of calls. Details of a call will be sent to anyone in Covenant Presbytery who requests to see them. Requests for the details of a call from anyone outside of
Covenant Presbytery will be referred to the Administration Committee.
Covenant Presbytery voted to pay expenses for travel and one night's lodging for TE Wayne Herring to meet with the MNA Study Committee in Colorado Springs as the representative of Covenant Presbytery regarding Reformed University Ministries.
The Committee recommended that Covenant Presbytery answer in the negative the
resolution from TE Wayne Herring that every other stated Presbytery meeting be held in Memphis,
Tennessee. The recommendation failed. It was made, seconded and carried that every other stated
Presbytery meeting be held in the Memphis, TN, metropolitan area.
A resolution from Houston (MS) Presbyterian Church regarding the death of Ruling Elder Thomas Baker Davis was spread on the record.
Presbytery voted, by requisite ¾ vote, that the previous activities of Mr. Clay Harrington, along
with those he has completed since his internship began at the October 1996 meeting of Presbytery,
be accepted as fulfilling his internship requirements, and that his internship be approved
under the equivalence option. The candidacy and internship of Mr. Robbie Hinton was approved, pending receipt of same from Mississippi Valley Presbytery. Mr. Scott Haley was scheduled to be examined and enrolled as a candidate of Covenant Presbytery, but was unable to attend due to his father's critical illness. Prayer was offered for his father, Johnny, and family asking for God's grace and mercy in their time of need.
Mr. Clay Holland wastaken under care of Covenant Presbytery as a candidate for the gospel ministry
pending receipt of the required endorsement of his Session at Christ Presbyterian Church, Oxford,
Mississippi, and verification of his membership in that congregation for at least six months.
TE Gary McMillan presented the Christian Education report. He encouraged churches to
support and participate in the summer youth camps. He also said that money was available for those
who needed financial assistance in attending the Reformed Youth Movement in July. Presbytery voted to sponsor a Youth Rally in February, 1998, in Oxford, MS, in conjunction with RYM.
TE John Stodghill presented the Church Care Committee report. Changes in Terms of Call to
TE William Spink, TE Grover Gunn, and TE Ford Williams were approved. Presbytery approved the action of the Church Care Committee in transferring TE William Shows to Mid-America Presbytery effective April 22, 1997, and in transferring TE Jim Perry to Warrior Presbytery effective May 16, 1997.
The committee recommended that Covenant Presbytery deny the request from TE Lawrence C. Rountree to labor out of bounds. TE Stodghill informed the Presbytery that a letter has been received from Rev. Robert C. Bishop, the pastor of the church which TE Rountree attends, informing the Presbytery that TE Rountree has placed himself under the care of that Session. Rev. Bishop is chairman of the Candidates and Credentials Committee of South Texas Presbytery. Rev. Bishop asked that the committee reconsider its
recommendation. A substitute motion was made and seconded that the Presbytery withold action on the request of Mr. Rountree until such time as the Church Care Committee can communicate to South Texas
Presbytery Covenant Presbytery's concerns and return to Covenant Presbytery with a recommendation based on the communication. The substitute was made the main motion and then passed.
Presbytery approved Mr. Ed Murray as Student Supply of the Oak Ridge Presbyterian
Church of Water Valley, MS, pending his licensure. (See action below.)
The committee recommended that Covenant Presbytery grant permission to TE Toby
Yelverton to apply for exemption from self-employment tax as per Internal Revenue Code 1402
(e). By substitute motion, Presbytery received as information TE Toby Yelverton's written intent to file for exemption from self-employment tax as per Internal Revenue Code 1402(e).
Presbytery granted to David E. Hamilton Honorably Retired status, and spread a resolution on the minutes. The resolution noted his missionary and other church service, and his family, including his wife and four daughters, "all of whom are now in Christian service and walking with the Lord."
The minutes of various sessions were approved. It was noted that Ragland Memorial,
Forrest City, AR, has only one elder and therefore does not have a Session, thus there are no
Sessional Records. The Forrest City Commission was dissolved and the Church Care Committee
constituted as a commission to address the needs of the Ragland Memorial Church.
Presbytery dissolved the pastoral relationship between TE James Holland and
the Covenant Presbyterian Church, Greenville, MS, effective May 25, 1997, and to
dismiss TE Holland to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in order to accept a call as an
evangelist. Presbytery dissolved the pastoral relationship between TE Cecil Wells and
the Hickory Withe Presbyterian Church, effective April 27, 1997.
Presbytery removed the name of Mr. Ken Thurman from the roll of licentiates in
accordance with BCO 19-6. Mr. Thurman was licensed in May 1993 and is no longer living or
preaching within the geographic bounds of Covenant Presbytery.
The Moderator was authorized to appoint a commission to act on behalf of Covenant Presbytery in addressing the request by TE John Ford, to dissolve the pastoral relationship between TE Ford and the
First Presbyterian Church of Water Valley, MS. It was noted that the Session of First Presbyterian
has called congregational meeting to meet on June 15, 1997, to vote on concurring with TE Ford's
request that the pastoral relationship be dissolved. The Session has requested that this
commission be appointed. TE Ford's resignation is uncontested at this time.
Presbytery endorsed TE Carter Mills for the Chaplain Candidate Program of the Air National Guard and appointed him to the work of an Evangelist (BCO 8-6) pending his commission.
TE Brad Stewart presented the Credentials Committee report. TE Don Locke of
Louisiana Presbytery, was introduced to the Presbytery. The court granted "...full concurrence..."
to Mr. Locke in his labors within the geographic bounds of Covenant Presbytery at American Family
Radio in accordance with BCO 13-2. Louisiana Presbytery has also expressed its concurrence.
TE Fred Showers and TE Ed Norton were examined for admission into Covenant Presbytery, and received. Mr. Showers has been called as pastor of Covenant Life Presbyterian Church, Saltillo, MS, and Mr. Norton as a member of the ministerial staff at Independent Presbyterian Church, Memphis.
Presbytery appointed a commission to ordain and install Mr. Clay Harrington, who has also been called to Independent Presbyterian Church.
Presbytery proceded to examine Mr. Ed Murray for licensure. During the exam on Biblical
doctrine, "Mr. Murray stated that all gifts which are revelatory or sign gifts have ceased with the apostles and the prophets. Citing 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, he stated that he is continuing to study whether gifts which have ceased in a revelatory way continue for the purpose of edification. He asked for more time to
study this issue especially relating to private prayer language. He stated that he has on occasion spoken in an unknown tongue during prayer, but not on a regular basis. It was pointed out to Mr. Murray that acceptable prayer, according to the Westminster Confession Chapter 21, Section III, is to be offered with understanding, and if vocal, in a known tongue. Mr. Murray stated that he would have to acknowledge that he takes exception to the Confession on this point. He stated that in this praying to God in an unknown tongue God is not speaking vocally to him or through him; rather, he is speaking to God out of his innermost being. He affirmed that he would not teach on this issue since he was still studying its validity and that
he was willing to be instructed in this matter if the court so chooses.
"Mr. Murray stated that he had changed his position on the use of images of Christ in the local church since his examination by the committee. He is now opposed to the use of images of Christ in the church.
"Mr. Murray stated that he had changed his position on the place of dance in corporate worship since his examination by the committee. While he believes that dance is a means of worshiping God based on the teaching of the Psalms and other Old Testament references, he does not believe that the corporate worship on the Lord's Day is the proper time for dance. He gave the performances of Ballet Magnificat as an
example of using dance properly to worship God."
The court voted to deliberate the examination of Mr. Murray in executive session after questioning in all areas of Mr. Murray's examination ceased, but to allow "candidates currently under the care of Covenant Presbytery . . . to remain with the court during the executive session for the purpose of
learning and instruction." The Bible content and PCA polity portions of Mr. Murray's exam were sustained.
In executive session, the court debated Mr. Murray's theology exam. The court came out of executive session, and the following decision was read to Mr. Murray by the moderator:
"The court has decided that we postpone the completion of the examination of Mr. Murray in doctrine until the October, 1997, stated meeting of Covenant Presbytery and that Covenant Presbytery allow Mr. Murray to fill the pulpit at Oak Ridge Presbyterian Church, Water Valley, as an occasional preacher until the October 1997 meeting with the understanding that he not preach on prayer language or dance in worship and that he continue to study the issues of prayer language and dance in worship. TE Grover Gunn is appointed as mentor for Mr. Murray in these areas of study."
TE Shane Sunn presented the MNA Committee report. He informed the Presbytery that the PCA MNA Study Committee on Reformed University Ministries had sent response to Covenant Presbytery regarding its overture to the 25th GA. Presbytery received the response as information, thus spreading it on the minutes; and Mr.Sunn read the response to the court The letter, from TE Wilson Benton and TE John Robertson, said that "[I]n a Christian fraternal attitude, the Study Committee requested that a letter of concern be sent to all of you regarding any misunderstanding of our desire for your input, advice and counsel." It continued: "Please know that we very much desire open dialogue and fair debate on the issues before us regarding the best structure and organization for Reformed University Ministries. . . . We, as you, wish to hold this ministry intact and to see it go further for the glory of our Savior and the expansion of His kingdom." After stating that "RUM is at a crossroad in its history," the communique stated that no vote on the motion for restructuring had been taken at the October 2, 1996, meeting in Atlanta. The letter was written "to assure you that we do want the best input and wisdom available. No votes have been taken on any proposal! There has not been a straw vote, nor has their been a preliminary vote of any kind to our knowledge. As these matters came up we simply realized that there were 'other players' and other interests which had to be heard before any proposal could be adequately considered."
Mr. Mike Boyett, the new representative of BAIC (Born Again in Christ, the prison ministry), gave a report.
Presbytery established a commission authorized to do what is necessary to organize St. Andrews Mission as a particular church when the time is appropriate.