Peace Presbyterian Church, Cary, NC, hosted the summer Stated Meeting of Eastern Carolina Presbytery. The Moderator, RE Jeff Smith of Church of the Good Shepherd, presided. TE Steve Bostrom of the host church led the worship and TE Byron Curtis preached from 1 Corinthians 3:1-17.
TE Greg Norfleet reported on the time of fellowship and prayer the previous evening. He stated that following general discussion the men then read through Ephesians chapter by chapter interspersed with prayer for the Presbytery's churches.
Prayer was offered for RE Bill Reynolds who had a massive heart attack 3 weeks ago and an emergency triple bypass.
Mr. Dale Buettner was received as a ministerial candidate. Presbytery approved his Internship Plan, and made that plan effective retroactive to February 11, 1998.
Presbytery certified that Covenant Theological Seminary should award $2028.20 as a scholarship to Mr. Don Sampson.
Presbytery approved TE Arnold Johnson's resignation from the pastorate at Harvest Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, NC. There is now no Session, as there is only one ruling elder. Under the MNA report, it was moved and seconded to return the Harvest Church to mission status (BCO 5-1), and to appoint a commission of presbytery to serve as temporary session, with the quorum set at 1 TE and 1 RE. The Moderator ruled the amended motion out of order, based on BCO 13-10. His ruling was challenged, and the court did not sustain the chair. By substitute motion, Presbytery erected "a committee to give counsel to the RE at Harvest (BCO 12-1)." [Editor's Note: The question with which Eastern Carolina was wrestling was the status of a church which no longer has a session. BCO 5 says that a mission church is distinguished from an organized church in that the former has no permanent government. BCO 13-10 lists the powers of a presbytery, which include the dissolving of a congregation; such dissolution is not automatic-that is, it must be by a particular action by presbytery; and, whenever done without consent of the congregation, is a judicial-type act. BCO 12-1 specifically provides for the situation in which there is only one ruling elder: he does not constitute a session, but he may grant letters of dismissal, he is to represent the church at presbytery, and he should report to presbytery any matter needing the attention of a church court. The enumerated duties of a lone ruling elder establish the fact that the loss of a session does not mean that an organized church automatically devolves to mission status.-Ed.]
TE Ric Cannada of Central Georgia Presbytery represented Reformed Theological Seminary at Charlotte and gave a fifteen minute report. Fifteen minutes before lunch, the Presbytery gathered into groups of three or four for prayer.
Presbytery approved the call of TE Arnold Johnson to a full-time salaried position as Volunteer Coordinator/Spiritual Bereavement Counselor for the County of Onslow, Onslow Home and Hospice.
It was moved and seconded to "adopt a policy of not receiving any men for licensure, ordination or installation to the ministry into the presbytery who take exceptions to the Standards, while the presbytery is continuing its efforts to promote mutual respect, love and oneness of mind." The motion failed. The Moderator led the presbytery in prayer.
It was moved and seconded "to renew our request to the permanent Administration Committee of the General Assembly asking for a policy statement regarding services provided to congregations which do not support financially the COA of the GA." The motion failed, 11-11.
TE Bill Marshall "reported he labors with a small congregation earnestly desiring the whole counsel of God's Word and concerned for the state of the world and the nation. Some visitors come but they rarely come back probably due to the difference of their simple worship service. He works full time and finds the greatest struggle to be to get up early for time for private worship. There seems to be a man whom God may be raising up as an elder. It has been a blessing to read Watson's A Crook in the Lot. Pray that God would enable His people to hold on to the glorious gospel. RE Paul Wright (White Oak) prayed for TE Marshall."
"TE James O'brien reported he has had a change of view specifically that he now believes exclusive psalmody is a Biblical requirement. Further he noted his sadness in not being able to sing with the brothers today as we have sung hymns and not psalms. Emmanuel Ministries is hard going due to time constraints of vocational labor and preaching at Trinity Church [Wilmington, NC]. He recently delivered two lectures on Presbyterian Church History. They will be moving to Wilmington, NC to be Stated Supply there pending approval of presbytery. RE Karl Trowler (Calvary) prayed for TE O'Brien."
"TE Steve Irby reported he has now been married for 31 years and has 2 sons laboring as attorneys. Neither has yet married. His church is independent, located in Jacksonville, NC, a city with 80,000 military personnel and 20,000 locals. New ministry for college and careers has been started by a Marine and is off to a good start. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work revival. The folks in the congregation love one another and show it. TE Bill Marshall prayed for TE Irby."
RE Robert Brown of White Oak Presbyterian Church, Fremont, NC, presented the Administration Committee report. Presbytery voted to add the local presbyteries of NAPARC to the distribution list of one copy of the Docket, Minutes and the Annual Directory.
It was moved, seconded, and carried that "only items acted upon by Presbytery may be distributed beyond ECP." It was moved, seconded, and carried that "we agree with the Administration Committee recommendation that ECP must determine the inclusion or removal of the Presbyterian International News Service (PINS) from its distribution list."
Presbytery approved the minutes of several churches with a number of exceptions of substance. Among those exceptions are the following: "Names of members removed from rolls not listed"; "Name of member being tried as a case without process is not identified in the Minutes"; "Minutes of 2/12/97 not submitted for review"; "No record of congregational meeting called for 3/2/97 being held"; "No record of Lord's Supper being observed at times designated by the Session"; "No record of Lord's Supper being conducted"; "No record of delegates nominated to attend ECP"; "No record of Lord's Supper being conducted in 1997"; "No record of Lord's Supper being observed"; "No Session minutes for a 4th quarter 1997 meeting"; "Number of officers to be elected was not determined by the congregation"; and "Many minutes were not approved by the next meeting. This repeats an exception of form of the review of the 1997 minutes." The minutes of Wayside Church were not approved, noting the following exception of substance: "No Session Minutes for 1997 were received for review nor were any Session Minutes for 1996 received last year for review."
"RE Brown reminded the presbytery that exceptions of substance must be answered by session action and recorded in the Minutes."
The court noted that MNA "had not spent a significant portion of its budget which had been raised through designated giving. Subsequently, "there was significant discussion as to whether or not MNA still had those surplus funds for its use or did they become the general funds of the presbytery. Some noted that to use designated funds for any project other that what was designated, though legal by IRS interpretation, it none the less constituted a moral deceit." Presbytery voted "to refer the issue of designated offerings remaining with the designated project if in surplus, to the Administration Committee."
By a 13-10 vote, the Administration Committee was ordered to bring in a proposal which would bring the Manual of Operations into accord with the ECP-MNA Ministry Prospectus adopted on April 20, 1996 and with a previous mandate, adopted on October 19, 1996.
In dealing with the budget, it was moved and seconded "to amend the budget by removing $10,000 for RUF start up [at North Carolina State University], and adding $10,000 for revitalizing our struggling churches." A substitute was moved and seconded, to designate $5,000 for RUF start up and $5,000 for revitalizing our struggling churches. Another substitute motion proposed that "we approve the proposed budget pending a report from MNA regarding revitalization." Both substitute motions and the amendment failed, thus bringing the court back to the original motion, "to approve the budget proposed by the COA." Presbytery then tabled the motion regarding budget approval.
The court then took up the matter of exceptions to the church's Standards taken by TE Byron Curtis, a Bible professor at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA. Ascension Presbytery has in the past declined to receive Mr. Curtis into its membership. It was moved and seconded that Mr. Curtis "be prohibited from teaching his exceptions." The motion failed.
"TE Byron Curtis was asked to specify his exceptions which he now takes and affirmed the following exceptions: ' (1) my doubt concerning six literal days of creation; (2) whether all recreations and all thoughts of other matters are forbidden on the Sabbath; (3) my affirmation of general cessationism rather than absolute cessationism; and, (4) the possibility that the Bible permits women to be deacons; and (5) . . . the issue of imaginings of the physical appearance of Christ, or the possibility of depicting his physical appearance. . . .'"
Presbytery approved TE James O'brien as Stated Supply for one year at Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, NC; TE Norm Evans as Stated Supply for one year at Wayside Presbyterian Church; and TE Lewis Baker as Stated Supply at Antioch Presbyterian Church, Goldsboro, NC, through October 31, 1998. Mr. Baker had been the Pastor at Antioch for 35 years, starting in 1963.
RE Karl Trowler of Calvary Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, reported that he enjoyed his first General Assembly and commented on some of the meeting's highlights.