New Area Coordinators, New Financial Policy for RUM
College Park, Georgia (October 8, 1999)-Reformed University Ministries (RUM), the campus outreach arm of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), today announced new area coordinators and a new financial policy for its campus workers. The changes were announced at the October stated meeting of Mission to North America (MNA) Committee, which has oversight of RUM.
The Rev. Ron Rowe, presently Pastor of First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Beaumont, Texas, was named area coordinator for the Southwest; and the Rev. Tom Cannon, who has been working as an RUM campus minister at New York University, was named area coordinator for the Northeast.
The new financial policy was designed to stimulate the affiliate committees to assume a proactive stance with regard to deficits in the financial accounts of campus ministers and other workers. The policy stipulates that when a staff person's account falls behind by the equivalent of two months salary, a spending freeze will be implemented, affecting program expenses and possibly the payment of that person's annuities. From the time a spending freeze is mandated, the person will have three months in which to erase the deficit.
In other action, MNA approved adding the area of Western Carolina Presbytery to the South Carolina campus committee, and changing the name to the Carolina Joint Committee, pending the approval of the three South Carolina presbyteries (Calvary, Fellowship, and Palmetto). The International Student Christian Fellowship (ISCF), which has ministered under MNA's auspices to international students on American campuses, also is undergoing a name change: ISCF will now be known as Reformed University Ministries International. All ministers working in this ministry are to be within the bounds of the appropriate presbytery and report to the appropriate presbytery committee.
These changes come in the midst of success and expansion for RUM. In a report to MNA, the Rev. Dr. Rod Mays, MNA's Coordinator for Campus Ministry, stated that approximately 9,000 students were being reached through denominational campus ministries in Fall 1999. New schools added this year include Appalachian State University, Florida Southern College, Lehigh University, Louisiana State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Rice University, and the University of Georgia. For the year 2000, RUM is targeting Furman University, the University of Nebraska, Emory University, the University of Arizona, North Carolina State University, and the University of Maryland. Other schools slated for outreach by 2001 include the College of William & Mary, the University of Oregon, and either Wake Forest University or the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; with possibilities on the campuses of Washington & Lee University, the University of California at San Diego, UCLA, and UNLV. Other announced goals over the next several years involve the creation of a database of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) alumni for the purpose of development; the hiring of a Director of Development; reaching a final conclusion as to whether RUM should be a separate denominational permanent committee; establishing a strategic alliance with Mission to the World; concentrating efforts in North Carolina and Virginia; establishing more female staff positions; and hiring and mentoring an Assistant Coordinator.
MNA Approves RUM to Withdraw from IAR Health Insurance Plan
College Park, Georgia (October 8, 1999)-At its fall stated meeting, the home missions committee of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) gave its approval to a proposal whereby the denominational campus ministers will withdraw from the denominational health care plan. The proposal came from Reformed University Ministries (RUM), the campus ministry which operates under Mission to North America (MNA) Committee.
RUM campus ministers and staff have participated in the health insurance plan provided through the denominational Insurance, Annuities, and Relief (IAR) agency. The new health insurance plan, which will be written with Preferred Health Alliance, Inc., is to become effective on January 1, 2000. Preferred Health Alliance is affiliated with Hal Shepherd, a PCA ruling elder from Birmingham, Alabama, who is an IAR trustee (Class of 2001).
Presenting the proposal of RUM was the Rev. Ron Rowe of Beaumont, Texas. On the plus side for making the switch were several factors: the new plan would involve 100 percent coverage with a small co-pay, in contrast with the 70 percent coverage if the insured does not reside in an area specifically covered by the present company; Preferred is 5 percent less expensive than the current PCA plan; and there is no geographical differential in terms of premiums. There were at least two negative considerations. First, IAR Director Jim Hughes had indicated that the withdrawal of the 70 to 75 participants would have a negative impact, as it would continue a downward trend in participation in the IAR plan. Since 1989, participation has gone from 2300 to 884; the precipitous drop being due at least partially to the withdrawal of two large congregations from the plan. Secondly, if RUM wanted to get back into the IAR plan, it would be able to do so only in December of any given year, and then it might not be able to do so at all (if, for example, claims by campus ministers were exorbitant).
Despite the potential negative impact on the denominational health insurance plan, Mr. Rowe stated that there were no hard feelings on the part of IAR, as that agency realizes the feelings of the campus ministers. He also stated that the premiums for the IAR plan probably will increase by 20 percent in 2001.
The Campus Ministry Coordinator, Rod Mays, spoke strongly in favor of the proposed plan. He stated that the matter of health insurance is "a real thorny issue for a lot of our campus ministers," and he gave specific instances of the difficulty some campus ministers and their families have had in terms of high premiums and insufficient coverage.
Dr. Charles McGowan, a co-opted member of the MNA Committee, noted that IAR increasingly is being left with the upper age group. This, of course, will lead to even higher premiums, in that older people tend to need more medical care. He suggested that there is a moral responsibility to ensure that the church cares for the older members.
Archie Parrish: In Quest of Church Vitality
College Park, Georgia (October 7, 1999)-The Rev. Archie Parrish is a man on a quest. His holy pilgrimage is on behalf of a revitalization of the visible church.
Employed by Mission to North America (MNA), the home missions arm of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Mr. Parrish's burning passion is to see vital churches-that is, churches that are alive with the Spirit of God.
At the October stated meeting of MNA, the denominational staffer noted that in the last decade 600 PCA churches-just under half the total number-have had no growth through conversions. In the past, eight out of ten new church plants have stalled out in five years, and within seven years typically begin to decline.
Moreover, the visible church overall is at a very low point. George Barna, the PCA elder who tracks trends, says that the church is at its nadir.
But for Archie Parrish, these statistics and trends represent a challenge rather than an insurmountable obstacle. And he has an ambitious program and plans with a view toward watching for revival and making for more vital churches.
He has helped to oversee 63 schools of prayer training events, and in 2000, will begin to train Presbytery leadership to go back and train their people. However, in order to continue this local church training work, there is a need for twenty to twenty-five regional leaders/teachers.
Covenant fellowships have sprung up, with the study of Jonathan Edwards being a chief focus. Indeed, Mr. Parrish has culled the writings of the famed eighteenth century preacher in order to utilize many of his insights and make them more understandable to an audience on the verge of the twenty-first century.
In the PCA, there is a continued interest in a spiritual awakening. The Second Convocation on Revival and Reformation, held in Jackson, Mississippi, had about 100 in attendance. About sixty percent of those had attended the first such conference, showing the ongoing interest in those subjects which are so closely related to revitalization.
Mr. Parrish mentioned other things he wishes to see more fully developed: days of prayer and fasting within Presbyteries; ministers ministering to other ministers; and consulting services.
He believes that the "From Embers to a Flame" conference is the primary resource in the goal of correcting the loss of vitality. The first five occasions of this conference have been held at Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, North Carolina, where Pastor Harry Reeder has been the pioneer in the implementation of them. Now that Mr. Reeder has moved from the pastorate at Christ Covenant to the pastorate at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, the next conference will be held at that congregation. In past years, there was a cap of 100 first-time attendees who could be accommodated. Meeting at the larger facility in Alabama means that the limit can be taken off the number who can attend the first level.
According to Mr. John Jardine, Chairman of the MNA Subcommittee on Church Vitality, several pastors in his presbytery (Heritage) have effectively turned around their congregations after going to this conference. On the other hand, others have faced incredible persecution and Satanic assault in their efforts toward reform.
Unlike the stereotypical church bureaucracy, Church Vitality works through the grass roots. Mr. Parrish stated, "We are almost totally decentralized." Moreover, his approach to ministry is "to find cases where churches are reaching their areas with the gospel, to see what they can share with the church-at-large."
Archie Parrish travels far and wide in his quest. And he has deliberately sought out smaller churches and less-populated areas, believing that when the expected revival comes, it will come in unexpected places and probably through some very ordinary people and pastors.
In the meantime, the Church Vitality ministry has been underfunded. The members of MNA who are on this subcommittee expressed their desire that the office be adequately funded, and plans were presented to that end to the subcommittee dealing with MNA finances. The hope eventually is to provide a consultative and evaluative service, similar to the Assessment Center for church planters. Its goal will be to identify and equip those particularly gifted in the area of church revitalization.
[Editor's Note: Archie Parrish's ministry has been running a financial deficit. Those wishing to help erase this deficit may send their moneys to MNA, 1852 Century Place, Atlanta, Georgia 30345, and designate the funds to Church Vitality.]
Looking for Some Good Men
Dave Peterson Seeks to Recruit More Chaplains
College Park, Georgia (October 7, 1999)-He's looking for some good men to serve as soldiers of Christ's army in the United States armed forces. His name is David P. Peterson, and he wants YOU!
A young fifty-eight year old from South Dakota, Dave Peterson served for thirty years as a chaplain in the United States Army. Perhaps the highlight of his military career came when he was the head chaplain for Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
Upon his retirement from the Army in 1995, Chaplain Peterson became the Executive Director of the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRJC), as well as the Coordinator for Chaplain Ministry for Mission to North America (MNA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Since that time, his enthusiastic support for this ministry has led to the development of a Chaplain Guardian Corps (CGC) program, and to the production of a fifteen minute video which enables viewers to understand better the life of a chaplain. Both of these tools have been effective in drumming up support for chaplains' ministries.
One of his major tasks is to recruit additional chaplains. Although recruiting is going quite well, that doesn't mean that he wants to slacken the pace of recruiting more men trained in the Reformed faith. The PRJC sponsors the military chaplains of several denominations: the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), and the Korean Presbyterian Church in America (KPCA). Denominations are no longer given a quota. Quotas are based on Faith Groups. Consequently, the PCA has not been given a particular number. As a result, all branches have requested additional chaplains from the denomination. In particular, he is looking for more chaplains willing to serve in the Navy and Air Force.
One of the PCA ministers who already serves as a Navy chaplain is Ron Swafford, the head chaplain for the United States Coast Guard. From his base in Alameda, California, he overseas all the Coast Guard chaplains for the Pacific Rim.
Chaplains from the PCA and other Reformed denominations have tended to be of a high caliber. This is especially useful in dealing with the high-stress position of military chaplaincy.
On occasion, there is pressure on chaplains to conform to the dictates of "political correctness." Being a Reformed chaplain can sometimes bring official opposition. Chaplain Peterson strongly urges those endorsed by the PRJC to "be up front right away" with the commanding officer and the supervising chaplain on all doctrinal issues, so as to eliminate any surprises. Chaplains are endorsed to represent a denomination theologically, and therefore they are expected not to deviate from their church's doctrine. "We've had a couple of chaplains get in trouble, but not to my knowledge has anyone caved," says David Peterson.
Another challenge, which has become increasingly acute over the past decade or so, is the pluralism of military chaplaincy. Now, the United States Army has even endorsed witches, or WICCANS.
According to Chaplain Peterson, this endorsement is in line with the interpretation of the United States Constitution which the courts have employed. "The way they interpret the Constitution," he declares, "if they kick out the WICCANS they could use the same argument to kick out the PCA."
But this situation is not one of despair for him, but one of opportunity. The openness of the military to admitting chaplains who are WICCANS or from various other "alternative" religions is "all the more reason why we need to send in good, well-read, strong PCA chaplains."
It is for that reason that Chaplain Peterson wants to share with his denomination "the joys and challenges of this ministry." He is trying to get three churches to sponsor a single chaplain, by undergirding him with prayer support and by giving money to enable that man to purchase literature and supplies.
Chaplain Peterson is also looking for 320 sponsors for the support of his office. He travels all over the world, speaking words of encouragement to current chaplains and their families. He is hoping for 300 churches or individuals to give just $300/year, for another ten to give $1000/year, and for another ten to give $2000/year. The resulting $120,000 would cover the expenses of himself and another retired chaplain who engage in this ministry.
Dave Peterson strongly urges young ministers to consider the opportunity of being a military chaplain. "Chaplains do not minister in an environment that is problemless. Like all ministries there are challenges and trials. On the other hand, ministry opportunities (evangelism, discipling, pastoring, counseling, Bible studies, youth ministries) for the chaplains are endless. In nearly all cases, commanders value the unit chaplain and his ministry. This is a great opportunity for the PCA."
What About Women in Combat?
Many of the chaplains from the Presbyterian Church in America and other conservative denominations are having to face the issue of women in combat. Two of the constituents of the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel, the PCA and the OPC, have appointed study committees to investigate the propriety of the practice.
Dave Peterson says that, depending on the final wording, he believes that he will be able to support the preliminary finding of the PCA study committee, that women in combat is not a good idea. "I am still in the learning mode," he said. "I am being taught on this issue." He added: "Personally, I tend to believe that women in combat puts the military in a compromising position."
One particular concern he has is whether the committee would conclude that the impropriety of female combatants would imply that they could not be ministered to. "If they interpreted it as, Chaplains could not minister to women in combat, then it could be interpreted as not being able to minister to everyone in that unit."
When asked if there has been a change in attitude among military personnel over the acceptability of women in combat, the chaplain opined: "I don't think there's been a change in attitude except for the leadership. Quite often, in this day and age, due to career pressures, the leadership does what it believes is politically correct."
[The PCA's Ad-Interim Committee on Women in Combat is in need of financial contributions. Monies designated for this purpose may be sent to the Administrative Committee, 1852 Century Place, Atlanta, Georgia 30345.]
MNA Proclaims Its Use of Executive Session to be Proper
By Bob Shapiro
At its October 1999 stated meeting, the Mission to North America (MNA) Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America dealt with its use of executive session. By a near unanimous vote, the Committee declared that there was nothing improper with what it has done in the matter.
Raising the issue was a letter from Frank J. Smith, Editor of Presbyterian International News Service (PINS), which he presented orally and in writing to the Committee on the first day of the two day meeting. The Third General Assembly (1975) mandated that any member of the denomination may, with ten days notice, appear before the church's permanent committees; and Dr. Smith, a member of Northeast Presbytery, exercised that prerogative. He was told to keep his remarks to five minutes, not to deviate from his announced subject, and that the Secretary, Roland Barnes, would be keeping track of the time.
Smith expressed three basic concerns. First, the Committee's use of executive session at the previous two stated meetings violated the spirit of openness presumed by the Third Assembly action. Second, he reminded the Committee that "on both occasions, when the MNA Committee has entered executive session, it has allowed some non-members to remain in the room, while excluding other members of the PCA." In his opinion, "this procedure strikes at the heart of representative government." He further stated: "Members of denominational committees have been elected by the General Assembly as its representatives. The expectation is that these men, and they only, have been entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out the mandates of the court, including the handling of matters too sensitive to be spread widely. . . . I do not believe that . . . the RAO [Rules of Assembly Operations] was designed to allow the appointment of subcommittees whose membership, though un-elected by the Assembly, has open access to all of the sensitive information of the Permanent Committee."
Smith declared that "the extension of executive privilege to people who have not been elected by the General Assembly for this particular task, makes the Assembly election virtually meaningless. It is one thing to recruit ruling and teaching elders who can give timely advice to aid the Committee in its work. It is quite another for non-elected people to participate actively in Committee discussions, and to be privy to the same confidential information (both that which is revealed in executive session and that which is written in the handbooks available for use by the Permanent Committee members at each stated meeting). At that point, the only essential difference between a member of the Permanent Committee and a co-opted member is that the latter does not technically have a vote. But in all other respects, the co-opted member has become a member of the Committee."
Third, he maintained that the minutes of the October 1998 stated meeting were inaccurate, in that they did record the motion as passed, and in that they do not reflect the fact that co-opted members and staffers-including women-were allowed to remain when other members of the denomination were asked to leave.
Towards the end of the meeting on October 8th, Chairman Phil Douglass presented a proposed response to the concern-a response which he, Coordinator Jim Bland and Associate Coordinator Fred Marsh had prepared. The document quoted from Roberts' Rules regarding executive session, and then concluded: "The committee has determined that the actions in question are in compliance with Robert's Rules of Order."
The Committee, however, did not automatically adopt the response. Howard ("Q.") Davis, a newly elected member of MNA, asked, "Why is there any reason to answer Frank Smith's letter?", adding that he did not believe that Dr. Smith was necessarily looking for a response. Dr. Bill Iverson, another Committee member and a ministerial advisor to the news service, said, "I like what Frank does, he makes us think about these things."
Committee member Mike Khandjian offered his opinion by saying, "I think it's a huge waste of time." Turning to the PINS Editor, Mr. Khandjian expressed his love for him and that he expected to see him in heaven. But he also stated, "I hope we don't go through [this type of discussion] all the time." He later opined, "I do think there are some very serious issues raised," but concluded that "there is no merit to the complaint." Mr. Davis moved a substitute that the Committee simply receive the letter and not give any particular answer. In support of his substitute motion, the Mississippi attorney said, "I don't think the response deals with the complaint. We all know what Roberts' Rules of Order say." The substitute lost, 5-6, and then the response was approved, 9-1.