In October, a meeting was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Johnson City, TN, to discuss the direction of home missions in Westminster Presbytery. The pastor of the host church, Ben Konopa, described the meeting as an "informational meeting," in preparation for the debate scheduled for the January stated meeting of Presbytery as to "whether or not we want to use men who have been through the Assessment Center."
Mr. Konopa said that "there is no organization that sponsored" the meeting. He indicated that among the attenders were Dr. Steve Meyerhoff, Pastor of Memorial Presbyterian, Elizabethton, TN, along with elders from that church; as well as several other ministers and elders whom Mr. Konopa listed. Mr. Konopa was not sure who was invited.
Dr. Meyerhoff was mentioned by several of the participants as having invited them to attend. When contacted by telephone, he had no comment as to who sponsored the meeting. He was asked a list of questions, including: Who sponsored the meeting?, Who was invited and why?, What was the purpose of the meeting?, Is it the desire of the sponsors to change the home missions policy of Westminster Presbytery?, and If so, why and how? To this series of questions, he responded, "I have no comment."
One of the other ministers present at the meeting indicated that the purpose of the meeting was two-fold. The bulk of the time was spent on discussing the Assessment Center, including receiving information about from Dr. Cortez Cooper, Coordinator for Mission to North America. But another purpose was to talk about the possibility of some churches joining Tennessee Valley Presbytery, which adjoins Westminster Presbytery. This minister stated that while Dr. Cooper was asked about the potential switching of presbyteries, the MNA Coordinator expressed no opinion regarding the possibility. [One of the methods used during the Old Side/New Side split of the 18th century was to have ministers and churches belong to the presbytery of their choice; the result of what was called "elective affinity" was the existence of presbyteries whose boundaries overlapped. In the 1990s, some conservatives in the Christian Reformed Church, in an attempt to stay within the CRC, proposed the establishment of one or more theologically-oriented classes (equivalent to presbyteries). The CRC Synod voted down the proposal.-Ed.]
Westminster Presbytery has long been regarded as
the most conservative in the PCA. From several sources, it appears
that the Presbytery has witnessed increased tension between those
favoring a stricter understanding of the church's Constitution,
and others who would favor a looser understanding. Several of
those holding to a strict view have been conducting public meetings
in order to discuss their concerns and possible actions.
On November 24, 1998, TE Render Caines, Stated Clerk of Tennessee Valley Presbytery, sent an email to members of that Presbytery, inviting them to an informal meeting with representatives of several PCA churches in Northeast Tennessee which are members of Westminster Presbytery. Mr. Caines wrote that Steve Meyerhoff had asked him "to consider setting up" this meeting. He continues: "A number of these churches are interested in transferring from the Westminster Presbytery to the TVP. Since some of us may be 'suspicious' of them, and vice versa, I thought that the best way to initially deal with this situation would be to have an informal meeting." According to the message, Associate Pastor Roy Zinn of the Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville arranged for the meeting to take place there on Tuesday morning, December 15, from 10:00 AM until noon.