Jackson, TN (October 7, 1997)-Grace Presbyterian Church hosted the 81st Stated Meeting of Grace Presbytery. The Moderator, TE Brad Stewart, called the meeting to order and opened with prayer.
During the approval of the minutes of the 80th Stated Meeting, held on May 27, 1997, the Presbytery moved into executive session "for the purpose of approving the minutes of the executive session of the court" on that date. "At this point in the proceedings the court prepared to enter executive session by clearing the meeting area of all those who were not commissioners, and the sound system was secured to assure confidentiality."
A 1998 budget totaling $90,430.00 was adopted. (The 1997 budget was $81,220.00.) The asking for the Presbytery is $21.54 per communicant member.
Presbytery approved the call of Reformed Presbyterian Church, Pontotoc, MS, to Rev. Jack Wilkerson.
It was reported that the Ragland Memorial Presbyterian Church of Forrest City, AR, had voted unanimously on July 20, 1997, to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in America .
The court wrote a letter to TE Lawrence Rountree, "advising him to be divested of office without censure."
TE Tim Fortner (Pastor, Lawndale Presbyterian Church, Tupelo, MS) introduced Mr. Bruce Green who is on staff of the American Family Association in Tupelo and a member of the Lawndale Church. A former arbitrator with the Institute for Christian Conciliation, he highly recommended the ministry of that organization, including in the areas of arbitration and mediation. Under New Business at the end of the meeting, the Presbytery voted to "take the Peacemaker's Pledge and become affiliated with the Institute for Christian Conciliation." The Pledge is as follows:
"As people reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we believe that we are called to respond to conflict in a way that is remarkably different from the way the world deals with conflict. We also believe that conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ. Therefore, in response to God's love and in reliance upon His grace, we commit ourselves to respond to conflict according to the following principles.
"Instead of focusing on our own desires or dwelling on what others may do, we will seek to please and honor God-by depending on His wisdom, power, and love; by faithfully obeying His commands; and by seeking to maintain a loving, merciful, and forgiving attitude.
"Instead of attacking others or dwelling on their wrongs, we will take responsibility for our own contribution to conflicts-confessing our sins, asking God to help us change any attitudes and habits that lead to conflict, and seeking to repair any harm we have caused.
"Instead of pretending that conflict doesn't exist or talking about others behind their backs, we will choose to overlook minor offenses, or we will talk directly and graciously with those whose offenses seem too serious to overlook. When a conflict with another Christian cannot be resolved, we will ask others in the body of Christ to help us settle the matter in a biblical manner.
"Instead of accepting premature compromise or allowing relationships to wither, we will actively pursue genuine peace and reconciliation-forgiving others as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven us, and seeking just and mutually beneficial solutions to our differences.
"By God's grace, we will apply these principles as a matter of stewardship, realizing that conflict is an assignment, not an accident. We will remember that success, in God's eyes, is not a matter of specific results but of faithful, dependent obedience. And we will pray that our service as peacemakers brings praise to our Lord and leads others to know His infinite love."
At 11:30 AM, TE Les Newsom led a worship service, including preaching a sermon from I Timothy 1:13-19. TE Chris O'Brien administered the sacrament of communion. The court recessed at noon for lunch.
After lunch, Dr.Robert Palmer of the denominational Christian Education and Publications (CE&P) Committee "informed the court of his responsibilities in contacting, supporting, and equipping local churches in the area of Christian discipleship. He reviewed the services and resources offered to local churches by CE&P and encouraged local churches to take advantage of all that is offered."
Presbytery divided itself into two committees to hear the ordination sermons of Mr. Robbie Hinton and Mr. Jay Outen. They were later examined and approved. Mr. Hinton was called as campus minister at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Rev. Julian Russell was received from an independent Baptist denomination to plant an inner-city PCA church in Memphis, TN. Presbytery gave a one-time gift of $20,000 from the Church Planting Fund of Presbytery for this mission work.
Mr. Scott Haley was examined and enrolled as a candidate for the ministry.
Mr. Ed Murrey, who was examined for licensure at the May 1997 meeting, had had his examination in theology postponed until the present meeting. TE Grover Gunn has been his mentor for the past several months. Mr. Murrey informed the court that he had now come to the following theological views: "Mr. Murrey stated that he was opposed to using any image of Jesus in the worship of God. He stated that he was in agreement with the Westminster Confession of Faith on this issue citing the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4). Mr. Murrey stated that dancing has a place in the life of the Christian, but that it does not have a place in formal corporate worship. Mr. Murrey stated that drama has a place in the church and in the life of the Christian, but that it does not have a place in the formal corporate worship of the church. Mr. Murrey stated that he has come to agree with the position of Wayne Grudem on the continuance of extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, especially with regard to prophecy. Mr. Murrey stated that he uses a prayer language in his private prayer. He stated that he believes in a closed canon and does not believe in continuing revelation. The Presbytery questioned Mr. Murrey further on his positions on these issues. When asked about the prophecy of Agabus in Acts 21:11, Mr. Murrey stated that this prophecy contains error and is an example of the fallible nature of new testament prophecy, which continues in this age. Mr. Murrey views continuing prophecy not as binding special revelation but as spontaneous insight." The court went into executive session to consider whether to sustain the theological exam. Coming out of executive session, the court gave the following report: "the motion to sustain Mr. Murrey's examination in theology failed because the Presbytery regards his view of prophecy as a form of continuing revelation and therefore out of accords with the confessional standards of the Presbyterian Church in America."
Dave Elliott's license to preach was renewed retroactive to February 1997. Presbytery approved TE John Wingard being Stated Supply at New Life Reformed Presbyterian Church, Munford, TN, for another year; and TE James Hayes being Stated Supply at Hickory Withe (TN) Presbyterian Church.
TE Randy Thompson reported that the Northeast Mississippi Christian Education seminar has been postponed indefinitely. All camp money this year will be used for scholarships to approved summer youth camps; "any budgeted camp money not used by the time of the October 1998 stated meeting would go to the Reformed Youth Movement." The Winter Youth Rally, approved in principle at the May 1997 Stated Meeting, was delayed until the winter of 1999. A 1998 winter youth retreat will be held at John Kyle State Park.
TE Richard Rieves, Chairman of the Presbytery Mission to North America Committee, called on TE Jeffrey Lancaster to give a report on the prison ministry, Beginning Again in Christ (BAIC). Mr. Lancaster reported on the necessity of the ministry, as well as the fact that it is suffering financially.
Presbytery authorized the commission overseeing Christ Presbyterian Mission, Oxford, MS, to organize the church before the next stated meeting of Presbytery. River Valley Covenant Fellowship Mission, Russellville, AR, was, per its request, placed under the care of the Session of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Little Rock. Presbytery approved that same Session establishing a daughter church in Hot Springs, AR, using pastoral staff from Covenant Church to conduct a service each Lord's Day "at 8:00 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. or some other time that does not conflict with activities in Little Rock." The search for a church planter is underway.
TE Grover Gunn, Stated Clerk
PO Box 201
Carrollton, MS 38917