Covenant Presbytery met in its 83rd Stated Meeting on Tuesday, May 26, 1998, at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Greenwood, MS. The moderator, RE Jim Alinder, called the meeting to order at 9:30 A.M. and prayed the constituting prayer.
Host pastor TE Randy Thompson led the public worship. The congregation stood and sang Psalm 146, "Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah." Mr. Thompson read from 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 and preached a sermon on that text. The service concluded with the hymn "How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place," and the benediction.
In executive session, Covenant Presbytery heard a letter from the Mississippi Joint Committee on Campus Work.
Presbytery Treasurer Lee Mattox gave a financial report. The balance on hand on January 1, 1998, was
Presbytery accepted the invitation from the Independent Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tennessee, to host the October, 1998 stated meeting of Covenant Presbytery. Presbytery also accepted the invitation from Mary Holmes College, West Point, Mississippi, to host the February, 1999, stated meeting of Covenant Presbytery. [Mary Holmes College is associated with the PC(USA).-Ed.]
Covenant Presbytery voted to invite the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to meet in Memphis, Tennessee, when Covenant Presbytery has received pledges of $15,000.00 for use in hosting the Assembly.
The Moderator was authorized to appoint a special judicial commission composed of three Teaching Elders and three Ruling Elders plus one alternate of each to adjudicate the appeal of and complaint against actions of the Session of the Lawndale Presbyterian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi.
Presbytery postponed a recommendation regarding the appointment of a special judicial commission to adjudicate the complaint against the action of the Session of the First Presbyterian Church, Dyersburg, Tennessee, until the chairman of the Administration Committee has communicated with the complainant and asked if he has or has not withdrawn his complaint. Later in the meeting, Stated Clerk Grover Gunn reported that he had received a fax from the complainant, Mr. Willis Chapman, stating that he was withdrawing his complaint. The Moderator thereupon declared that the complaint was not properly before the court.
The recommendation was approved that the members and churches of Covenant Presbytery favorably consider contributing to a gift for the retiring Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Dr. Paul Gilchrist, as noted in the 4/22/98 letter from the GA Administration Committee which TE Bob Penny read to the court.
A resolution from the First Presbyterian Church, Water Valley, Mississippi, memorializing Elder James Barron Caulfield was adopted and spread upon the pages of the minutes. Mr. Caulfield passed away on January 5, 1998. He had served as Clerk of Session for forty-four years.
TE John Stodghill, Chairman, presented the report
of the Church Care Committee. Presbytery entered executive session
to hear a letter from the Session of the First Presbyterian Church,
Dyersburg, Tennessee, and allowed the two Ruling Elders present
from this church who were not commissioners to the meeting to
remain in the executive session. The Presbytery in executive session
had moved, seconded and passed to approve the following letter
from the Church Care Committee regarding its recent work with
the First Presbyterian Church, Dyersburg, TN, and to enter this
letter into the minutes as a part of Presbytery's public record:
Dear Covenant Presbytery,
The Committee apologizes for appearing to show favoritism in how we scheduled the meeting at
the church. We also did not communicate with both sides to everyone's satisfaction on how the process was going and how it would be reported to Presbytery. Finally, we did not make clear that our counsel was based only on reports given to the subcommittee and that we did not intend to claim we had all the facts. This was intended only for counsel and we asked for Presbytery's approval in executive session because we wished to submit to the brethren and to be as open as possible in our dealings with the church.
We would sincerely ask for forgiveness from the Session of the Dyersburg Church and Covenant Presbytery. We request that this response be sent to all officers of the church in Dyersburg.
We also request prayer from the whole of Covenant Presbytery that we may hereafter be better stewards of the task with which we have been charged.
The Church Care Committee
The pastoral relationship between TE Frederic Mau and the First Presbyterian Church of Dyersburg, Tennessee, was dissolved as of March 15, 1998. Rev. Mau concurs with the action of the congregation. The congregational vote was 65 for accepting the resignation and 31 against accepting the resignation. The following severance was approved by the congregation and accepted by Rev. Mau: full pay for six months from March 15, 1998 whether he accepts another call or finds other employment, such payment to continue on a month-to-month basis for four additional months if he does not receive a call. Further considerations
are: the church will pay the remaining tuition for Rev. Mau's child, pay up to $5,000 for moving expenses if he moves without a call and $600 toward attending an assessment center in May.
The committee recommended that the pastoral relationship between TE D. Gregg Hoffman and the First Presbyterian Church in Clarendon, Arkansas, be dissolved effective March 10, 1998 with the following notation: "Rev. Hoffman in his letter concurring with the action of First Presbyterian Church in accepting his resignation states he resigned because he was instructed to act contrary to his conscience." The Presbytery entered executive session. After the court came out of executive session, the committee recommendation was approved. Presbytery later voted to communicate with Mr. Hoffman concerning the discussion in executive session and the action taken by Presbytery regarding his resignation as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Clarendon, AR; and prayed for him and for the churches in the Presbytery which are undergoing trying times.
Presbytery approved the change in the Call of Rev. Carter Mills to the Covenant Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, from Assistant Pastor to Associate Pastor. Presbytery approved the Call to the Rev. Shane Sunn as Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Oxford, Mississippi.
Presbytery dissolved the pastoral relationship between Rev. Dr. John Stodghill and the Grenada (Mississippi) Presbyterian Church effective May 31, 1998. The Church Care Committee recommended that Presbytery cite the Grenada Presbyterian Church for not having a proper ballot count at the congregational meeting February 22, 1998 to request the dissolution of the pastoral relationship and that the Session of Grenada Presbyterian Church be required to respond to the citation at the next meeting of Presbytery through the Church Care Committee. The motion was made, seconded and passed to amend the recommendation to read that Presbytery cite the Grenada Presbyterian Church with an exception of form for that which is in the original committee recommendation. The amended recommendation passed.
Presbytery rescinded action of the February 1998 stated meeting to transfer a minister to another presbytery, and directed the Church Care Committee to investigate the report concerning that minister found in a communication which had been received. The motion passed, 27-8. [The Presbytery Stated Clerk has indicated that the Committee found no evidence of any chargeable offenses.-Ed.]
Presbytery granted the request of TE Raymond Cross to be Honorably Retired, and ordered that a letter of commendation be read before the court and spread on the Minutes of Covenant Presbytery.
Presbytery dissolved the pastoral relationship between TE Sam Riddell and the Main Street Church, Columbus, Mississippi, effective May 26, 1998. The vote at the Congregational Meeting on May 10, 1998 had been 70 for accepting his resignation, 46 opposed accepting his resignation. TE Riddell is to receive six months salary and benefits and have use of the Manse for six months.
A total of ten churches, whose minutes were scheduled to be reviewed, did not submit their records.
Covenant Presbytery transfered TE Phil Reynolds to Midwest Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as Assistant Pastor of the Saint Andrews Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Auburn, Indiana.
TE Julian Russell gave a report on the Presbytery's inner-city church planting work in Memphis, TN. He gave an encouraging report about the progress being made in the New Beginnings Community Church. The headquarters for this ministry is at the Streets Ministries facility, 769 Vance, Memphis, Tennessee. After passing out newsletters and pamphlets giving more information about the ministry, he invited members of the court to come and see God's work through this ministry. He also challenged the churches to be
involved through prayer, participation, and giving.
Presbytery accepted John Hunt's internship, which was completed in and approved by Susquehanna Valley Presbytery, as meeting Covenant Presbytery's internship requirement for ordination. His candidacy from Susquehanna Valley Presbytery was transferred. Mr. Hunt was approved for ordination as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Water Valley, MS.
Presbytery took Mr. Jeremy Huggins under care as a candidate. He is a member of the Grace Presbyterian Church, Starkville, MS.
Also taken under care was Mr. Roger Fakes, who is a member of the Independent Presbyterian Church (non-PCA), Memphis, TN. His internship was also approved.
TE Randy Thompson, Chairman, presented the report of the Christian Education Committee. He reported that the Spring youth retreat at John Kyle State Park was such a success that the committee is studying having another Spring retreat. He reminded the Presbytery of the need for material for the Presbytery newsletter, The Covenant Reporter. He encouraged churches to put RE Dr. Kenneth Avis, the newsletter editor, on their newsletter and bulletin mailing lists.
TE Bob Penny was approved to labor outside of bounds as the stated supply of Gum Tree Presbyterian Church of Tupelo, Mississippi, an unaffiliated congregation.
The Resolution and Thanks Committee wanted especially to "give thanks to the dear ladies of this church who served us this wonderful meal"; and added: "We 'Yankees' who live north of Grenada know we've been in the Delta today!"