Covenant Presbytery met in its 87th Stated Meeting on Tuesday, October 12, 1999, at Grace Chapel on the campus of Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. David Jussely preached and the Rev. Brad Stewart, Presbytery Moderator, administered the sacrament of communion.
Dr. Guy Richardson, Senior Vice President, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi, welcomed the commissioners and visitors attending the meeting.
The work of various commissions was approved, including: the Minutes of New Beginnings Commission; Minutes of July 26, 1999 meeting of Church Care Committee to dissolve pastoral relationship between TE Carter Mills and the Covenant Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, AR, and to dismiss TE Mills to the Rocky Mountain Presbytery; Minutes of the September 14, 1999 meeting of the Church Care Committee to dissolve the relationship between TE Chris O'Brien and the Grace Presbyterian Church, Jackson, TN, and to dismiss TE O'Brien to the Central Georgia Presbytery.
Presbytery admitted the following commission reports to the record, approved the actions on behalf of presbytery documented in the subject commission reports, and dissolved the subject commissions: Commission to install TE Charles Godwin as associate pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church, Starkville, MS, on 5/30/99; Commission to install TE Jim Danner as senior pastor of Main Street Presbyterian Church, Columbus, MS, on 6/6/99; Commission to install TE Steve Irby as pastor of the Northside Presbyterian Church, Sherwood, AR, on 06/13/99; Commission to install TE Don Locke pastor of the Houston Presbyterian Church, Houston, MS, on 06/27/99.
The Treasurer's report indicated a beginning balance on January 1, 1999, of $57,320.37, and a balance on September 20, 1999, of $30,319.45.
Covenant Presbytery set stipends for 2000 as follows: Stated Clerk: $4,500; Recording Clerk: $2,300; Treasurer: $1,200.
Covenant Presbytery adopted the 2000 Budget. Included in the Budget were $61,000 for the MNA Committee; $14,520 for Administration Committee; $5,500.00 for Christian Education Committee; and $3,100 for other committees, for a total of $84,120.
Presbytery asking for 2000 is $20.12 per communing member. This is the proposed 2000 budget grand
total ($84,120.00) divided by the total number of communicant members in Covenant Presbytery (4,180 as of 12/31/98). TE Randy Thompson, Administration Committee Chairman, exhorted churches to give according to the asking and to plan on giving according to more regular intervals.
Nathan Smith (son of TEDavid Smith) was awarded the Covenant Presbytery College Scholarship for 1999.
Presbytery received with thanksgiving the communication
from Mississippi Valley regarding Covenant Presbytery's previous
communication to them, and recorded their communication in the
minutes, as follows:
June 1, 1999
Dear Fathers and Brothers,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May grace, peace and mercy abound to and abide with you all. I write as the new chairman of the Credentials Committee of Mississippi Valley Presbytery, that committee responsible for the examinations of men for the ministry who are entering into our bounds. On behalf of our presbytery, I am responding to your recent letter of pastoral concern and brotherly exhortation.
May I say at the outset, that our presbytery welcomed your letter and your counsel. We are sincerely touched by your concern for the honor of Christ, the integrity of our church and our good here in the presbytery to the south of you. Thank you for both your spirit and your sound advice. We seek to respond to both in a humble and teachable manner.
This "drift" you refer to is neither imagined nor insignificant, and we in the Mississippi Valley Presbytery sense that same alarming trend. For your encouragement, we would like to inform you of recent actions taken by our presbytery to reverse that trend here in central Mississippi PCA churches.
First, it will encourage you to know that the licensure of the teaching elder whose views on women's ordination were in question has been received back by our presbytery. On February 16, at Providence Church in Clinton, his voluntary surrender of his license to preach was accepted by a vote of 48-11-4. Your letter referenced a "reluctance to hurt feelings," and, in truth, this was a key factor in our struggles. This brother is held in much esteem and affection among our churches. But, in the end, the truth of God's Word and faithfulness to our doctrinal standards overruled such personal feelings.
Your list of issues with which this presbytery has struggled is accurate. However, I am duty bound to inform you that we in the Mississippi Valley Presbytery have in fact instructed men not to teach or inculcate exceptions to either our standards or to PCA position papers. You are also correct to remind us of our continuing struggle with the Days of Creation issue. But we are not alone in this struggle. Our denominational seminary has raised this issue, not RTS in Jackson. And we, like you, are part of a connectional church. Therefore we have chosen to wait for the position papers of the General Assembly study committee to instruct us in what to do. I might add that two stellar theologians from our area are on that study committee-Dr. J. Ligon Duncan of our presbytery and Dr. Duncan Rankin of RTS-Jackson, a member of Calvary Presbytery.
Additionally, you will be encouraged to know that the past chairman of the Credentials Committee, TE Jim Landrum, has led us to develop a list of "hot issues." We are now in the process of preparing guidelines and parameters in those issues that will help our presbytery be more circumspect in its examinations. Our Credentials Committee has purposed to be more active in examining, tutoring and screening men to be brought before our presbytery.
We are encouraged that your men have taken the lead in dealing with all these issues Biblically and confessionally. As the chairman of our examining committee, I would welcome any advice or guidance you might offer us. Such are the strengths and joys of being a connectional church-your strengths can compensate for our weaknesses.
We covet your prayers. We need them. The unique challenges of being in a presbytery with a seminary are ever before us. Diverse faculty, new ideas in theology, constant exploration of ecclesiastical issues, and the tension between historic faith and ongoing reformation pose no small problem to us here in central Mississippi.
Rest assured of our unashamed love for Christ, our devotion to the Westminster Standards, and our earnest desire to be true to the one, true Gospel in all things.
Please feel free to write to any of us on the Credentials Committee concerning your concerns or your advice. For your information, I provide for you the following contacts on our Credentials Committee: Mike Ross (chairman, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Jackson), J. Ligon Duncan (First Church, Jackson), Corey Pelton (RUF-Belhaven), Derek Thomas (RTS, Jackson), Bebo Elkin (RUF-Jackson), Carl Kalberkamp (Pear Orchard Church, Ridgeland), Wesley Baker (Learned Church, Learned) or Roger Collins (Stated Clerk, Grace Church, Jackson).
Again, thank you for your precious concern for our church, your patience in dealing with us, and your passion for Christ and our most holy religion. We remain your brothers in that same faith "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Michael F. Ross
Chairman, Credentials Committee
The moderator instructed the Stated Clerk to communicate
to Mississippi Valley Presbytery the court's thankful reception
of their communication. Covenant Presbytery later responded with
Fathers and Brethren of Mississippi Valley Presbytery,
Your communication of June 1st has been received and brought to the Presbytery by the Administration Committee. It was with trembling hands and a humble attitude that we sent our letter of pastoral concern to you. Your response has greatly relieved us, not only because of its wholesome tone, but for the message contained therein. Your godly spirit and humble manner have both gladdened and convicted us. Your fervent dedication to the faith once delivered to the saints instructs us. We are full of joy for the encouragement you have given us. May we together join in prayer to our sovereign God that He might strengthen our hands in our calling. May he send times of refreshing to our church to His glory and honor.
A memorial for Elder James Loyt Gray of the Oak Ridge Presbyterian Church, Water Valley, Mississippi, was spread on the record.
TE Fred Showers presented the report of the Mission to North America Committee. He reported that the MNA Committee had established a Church Planting Subcommittee (CPSC) as follows: The Church Planting Subcommittee (CPSC) is a subcommittee of the MNA Committee of Covenant Presbyterian Church whose purpose it is to expedite the MA Committees efforts in church planting. The CPSC consists of at least three teaching elders and two ruling elders appointed by the MNA Committee. Members do not have to be members of the MNA Committee. Members must have experience in church planting or a passion for seeing God's church extended throughout Covenant Presbytery and beyond. The CPSC will elect a chairman and secretary annually. The CPSC will advise the MNA Committee, and under the Committee's authority and supervision, oversee and administer church planting within Covenant Presbytery. These duties will include development and implementation of a comprehensive plan for church planting, encompassing perspective target sites, recruitment of church planters, propagating a vision for church planting within Covenant Presbytery, and securing funds necessary to accomplish the plan.
Presbytery recognized the Hot Springs church plant in Arkansas as a mission of Covenant Presbytery from the Hot Springs Congregation of Covenant Presbyterian Church with the concurrence of the Session of
Covenant Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, and authorized the Covenant Session of Little Rock to serve as the overseer of this work. Mr. Showers reported that the MNA Committee is evaluating the possibility of planting a new church in the Jonesboro, Arkansas, area. A search for a possible church planter along with possible financial and other help has begun.
The Chairman directed commissioners' attention to the report of Reformed University Ministries contained in the meeting information packet. The Presbytery approved the following recommendations found at the end of the report: That churches be encouraged to have campus ministers speak to their congregations so that people can see that God is using Reformed University Ministries to transform lives. That churches be reminded that approximately 20% of the funds for campus work comes from presbyteries, and the remaining portion must come from the benevolent giving of local churches and gifts from individuals. The continuance of the ministry and any expansion is dependent upon gifts from churches and
individuals. That churches be encouraged to pray regularly on behalf of the campus ministry, not only remembering the campus ministers, their families, and the students involved, but also the ministry's efforts to reach those who are lost. Particularly remember in prayer the strategic opportunity that the campus ministry has to reach those international students studying in the United States on our university campuses. That prayer be offered for Rod Mays as he assumes the position of Coordinator for the GA/MNA Subcommittee on Campus Ministries. Pray also for smooth transitions in the staff changes that will be taking place this year on our Mississippi and West Tennessee campuses. That praise and thanksgiving be offered to God for His blessings on the work of Reformed University Ministries in reaching students for Christ and equipping them to serve Him while on the campus and throughout their lives.
The Chairman also encouraged the commissioners to remember the New Beginnings Community Church in inner-city Memphis, Tennessee, and directed their attention to the financial report concerning that work.
Presbytery appointed a commission to examine the Independent Presbyterian Church Session (per BCO 13-8), and then receive the church into Presbytery.
TE Charles Godwin, Chairman, presented the report of the Christian Education Committee. He reported that the committee decided not to sponsor any area seminars at this time. The committee recommends in-house teacher training by utilizing church members who are excellent teachers. The committee also recommends to member churches the usage of EQUIP magazine for information on various training opportunities. The Chairman reported that camp support monies had been distributed to several member churches per request. The Presbytery voted to distribute extra Committee Project and Retreat monies for additional support to needy churches if requested.
TE Ricky Jones, chairman of the Covenant Presbytery MTW Committee, introduced Mr. David Bergmark, who is a MTW IMPACT missionary to Sweden. Mr. Bergmark presented the need for establishing reformed churches in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. He encouraged the churches to pray and support the MTW church planting work there.
TE Les Newsom, Chairman, presented the report of the Credentials Committee. TE Robert Douglas Thacker, a member of Mississippi Valley Presbytery, was examined and transferred in order to become Assistant Pastor in the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Greenwood, MS.
The following Presbytery Officers were elected for the year 2000: Jim Alinder, Moderator; James Codling, Parliamentarian; David M. Smith, Recording Clerk; Grover E. Gunn III, Stated Clerk; W. Lee Mattox, Treasurer; Brad Stewart, Vice-Moderator.
Presbytery voted by the necessary two-thirds majority (23-1-12) to divest TE Lawrence Rountree without censure in accordance with BCO 34-10.
The court approved the internship of Mr. David Skinner.
In expressing thanks to Reformed Seminary for its hospitality, the Presbytery especially noted the catfish dinner that had been served.