Statement from Presbyterian Clergy re: Attack on Progressive Christianity

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Banner in front of Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church

One of the churches in what John Shore has called the Fountain Hills “Gang of 8” is Presbyterian, pastored by Bill Good. A number of fellow Presbyterian pastors in the Grand Canyon Presbytery (PCUSA) have not taken kindly to being associated with what they call views that “do not represent our views, the views of the Christian congregations we serve, nor the views of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”  They’ve released a statement that is already gaining national attention and signatures from around the world.

For more info on this campaign against “progressive Christianity” and neighboring church, The Fountains United Methodist, see local stories about it here and here; along with national coverage: Christianity Today, and The Huffington Post).

Below is the statement of the Presbyterian pastors (who invite others to sign on). Presbyterian pastors can contact Eric Lederman directly through his website to add your name.

A RESPONSE TO REV. BILL GOOD AND THE CHURCHES OF FOUNTAIN HILLS
ATTACKING PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANS

Recently eight churches in Fountain Hills, Arizona, posted banners announcing a collective sermon series entitled “’Progressive’ Christianity: Fact or Fiction.” The Rev. Bill Good of Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church, and president of the local clergy association, mischaracterized in his first sermon a distinction between “Progressive Christianity” and what he called “Biblical Christianity,” insinuating that Progressive Christianity is not Biblical nor a valid expression of Christian faith. We respectfully reject this false dichotomy and claim what is often labeled as Progressive Christianity to be a faithful expression of Christian faith in the spirit of Jesus Christ who crossed cultural boundaries and challenged traditional norms for the sake of God’s love, especially for the poor, oppressed, and socially marginalized. The entire spirit of this campaign is not in keeping with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

As clergy members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the same denomination as Rev. Good, we, the undersigned of this statement, celebrate the vast diversity of expressions of Christian faith present in the Body of Christ—the Church universal—and further state that Rev. Good’s views do not represent our views, the views of the Christian congregations we serve, nor the views of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a Christian denomination and has been, and continues to be, a classically liberal denomination of Christian faith that attempts to honor diversity of opinion and faith, even protecting the voices of minority positions, while still keeping to the essentials of Christian faith. We are hesitant to define these essentials, understanding that we will make mistakes and are still growing in our understanding of God’s will. We tend to be cautious around any dogmatic statements or claims of absolute truth because God is infinite and cannot be contained by the limits of human understanding and language. Each statement that is made, however, combined with the many statements and understandings offered throughout our historical tradition, offer glimpses of truth that help us discern God’s will for our lives today and for the positive and faithful transformation of the world according to God’s creative love and grace, as revealed through Jesus Christ.

The Hebrew Scriptures teach us to “not bear false witness against our neighbor” (Exodus 20.16). We believe Rev. Good and his colleagues are preaching a distorted view of progressive Christianity to serve their own purposes rather than God’s. In our Gospels, Jesus teaches us to “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7.12). A major thread that runs throughout the Bible, and summarized by Jesus, is that we are called to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. An important aspect of this love is the respect of self and others, especially those with whom we might disagree (Matthew 5.44). We believe Rev. Good’s intentions violate God’s standards of love and seek to tear down rather than build up the Body of Christ.

We celebrate and appreciate a healthy tension between conservative, progressive, and other understandings of God, Jesus, and the Bible, even though we may disagree on many things. We believe we are all better together than apart, and seek to build bridges of understanding and mutual respect. Each perspective presents opportunities and challenges that hold us all accountable to the Spirit of God and the central Biblical call to healthy, mutual and faithful relationships. But we cannot support, condone, nor keep silent about anyone who claims Christian identity and then openly attacks the peace, unity, and purity of the Body of Christ by calling some within it “not really Christian.”

We consider Rev. Good a colleague and a brother in Christ, along with the other clergy participating in this action. We are deeply saddened by the tone and language being used in this campaign, and are especially concerned as the campaign seems to be directed at one particular neighboring congregation: The Fountains United Methodist Church and its pastor, the Rev. David Felten. We believe Rev. Good’s actions are not in keeping with Jesus’ teachings, nor the teachings of our Scriptures. We implore Rev. Good and his colleagues to stop this divisive behavior. We stand in solidarity with Rev. Felten and our sisters and brothers at The Fountains, and hold them all in prayer. We also hold in prayer Rev. Good, our sisters and brothers in the congregation he serves, and the other clergy and congregations participating, trusting that somehow God’s love will win in the end for all of our sakes.

We implore Rev. Good and his colleagues to stop these attacks, take down their banners, and, in the spirit of Jesus Christ, seek to be in conversation and dialogue to seek deeper understanding and respect, rather than resorting to overly simplistic attacks that further drive a wedge into the heart of the Body of Christ—seeking understanding over division; seeking to love rather than hate; seeking to build up rather than tear down.

Sincerely, your sisters and brothers in Christ,

  1. The Rev. Eric O. Ledermann, University Presbyterian Church, Tempe, Arizona
  2. The Rev. Peggy Roberts, Presbytery of Grand Canyon at-large, Phoenix, Arizona
  3. The Rev. Linda Worsnop, Palo Christi Presbyterian Church, Paradise Valley, Arizona
  4. The Rev. Leslie Vogel, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Mission Co-worker, Phoenix, Arizona/Guatemala
  5. The Rev. José Olagues, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Honorably Retried, Phoenix, Arizona
  6. The Rev. Cynthia A. Jennison, Memorial Presbyterian Church, Phoenix, Arizona
  7. The Rev. Sue Wintz, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Board Certified Chaplain, Mesa, Arizona
  8. The Rev. Dr. Arthur J. Campbell, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Honorably Retired, Chandler, Arizona
  9. The Rev. Larry Corbett, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, at-large Interim, Estes Park, Colorado
  10. The Rev. Deanne Hodgson, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Honorably Retired, Phoenix, Arizona
  11. The Rev. Ken Moe, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Honorably Retired, Mesa, Arizona
  12. The Rev. Shelly Moe, Celebration of Life Presbyterian Church, Mesa, Arizona
  13. The Rev. Martha Sadongei, Central Presbyterian Church, Phoenix, Arizona
  14. The Rev. Doug Baer, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Honorably Retired, Phoenix, Arizona
  15. The Rev. Tully M. Fletcher IV, Orangewood Presbyterian Church, Phoenix, Arizona
  16. The Rev. Terry Palmer, Gilbert Presbyterian Church, Gilbert, Arizona
  17. The Rev. Richard Nielsen, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Honorably Retired, Scottsdale, Arizona
  18. The Rev. David Hicks, First Presbyterian Church, Yuma, Arizona
  19. The Rev. Janet Arbesman, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Member at Large, Carefree, Arizona
  20. The Rev. Mae Hicks, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Honorably Retired, Phoenix, Arizona
  21. The Rev. Stan Martin, Mission del Sol Presbyterian Church, Tempe, Arizona
  22. The Rev. Joe Keesecker, Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Honorably Retired, Phoenix, Arizona

Other Signatories from outside the Presbytery of Grand Canyon:

  1. The Rev. Kristina Hine, Presbytery of Riverside, Member at Large (serving in Ayr, Scotland)
  2. The Rev. Rob Smith, Spirit of Life Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of the Twin Cities, Apple Valley, MN
  3. The Rev. Ben Daniel, Montclair Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of San Francisco, Oakland, CA
  4. The Rev. Beth Appel, Presbytery of Southern New England, Providence, RI
  5. The Rev. Dr. Antonio (Tony) Aja, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe Presbytery, Santa Fe, NM
  6. The Rev. Deborah Matthews, Presbytery of Chicago, Westmont, IL
  7. Sr. Therese Parkin, COS, Guardian of the Community of Solitude, Rotora, New Zealand
  8. The Rev. Dr. Tom Eggebeen, Presbytery the Pacific, Honorably Retired, Los Angeles, CA
  9. The Rev. Eliana Maxim, Presbytery of Seattle, Seattle, WA
  10. The Rev. David Choate, Presbytery of Cincinnati, Member at Large, Cincinnati, OH
  11. The Rev. Pete Jones, Pisgah Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of the Peaks, Versailles, KY
  12. The Rev. Dwain Lee, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse, Auburn, NY
  13. The Rev. Mark Sandlin, Presbytery of Salem, Greensboro, NC
  14. The Rev. Timothy Blodgett, Connecting Point Presbyterian Church, Indian Nations Presbytery, Oklahoma City, OK
  15. The Rev. Landon Whitsitt, Synod of Mid-America, Kansas City, MO
  16. Reed Miller, State College Presbyterian Church, State College, PA
  17. The Rev. Elaine Murray Dreeben, Canyon Lake Presbyterian Church, Mission Presbytery, San Antonio, TX
  18. CRE John Harrison, Fairfield Highlands Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, Midfield, AL
  19. The Rev. Dr. Joanne C. Sizoo, Grace Presbyterian Church, Providence Presbytery, Fort Mill, SC
  20. RE Diana R. Sanderson, Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Western North Carolina, Swannanoa, NC
  21. RE Clancy Cherry, First Presbyterian Church, Albany Presbytery, Albany, NY
  22. The Rev. Tom Paine, Parkway Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of South Louisiana, Metairie, LA
  23. The Rev. Alice Geils Nord, New Hope Presbytery, Honorably Retired, Mebane, NC
  24. The Rev. Benie Nord, New Hope Presbytery, Honorably Retired, Mebane, NC
  25. The Rev. Dr. Paul Alcorn, Bedford Presbyterian Church, Hudson River Presbytery, Bedford, NY
  26. The Rev. Adam Walker Cleaveland, Winnetka Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Chicago, Winnetka, IL
  27. The Rev. John Edward Harris, Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery, Cadiz, OH
  28. Michael Demeule, Seriously considering joining the PC(USA), Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  29. The Rev. Julie A. Jensen, Cherokee Presbytery, Cartersville, GA
  30. The Rev. Elizabeth Kanerva, Glendale Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, St. Louis, MO
  31. Commissioned Ruling Elder Barbara Vaughan, Berkley-Hillside Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Chicago, Hillside, IL
  32. The Rev. Kim Trimboli, West Berlin Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Scioto Valley, Hillard, OH
  33. The Rev. Dr. Sydney V. ‘Skip’ Jackson, Indianola Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Scioto Valley, Columbus, OH
  34. The Rev. Zachary Morton, New Church Development, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, Suwanee, GA
  35. Charles Toy, co-found of “The Christian Left,” Portland, OR
  36. The Rev. Brian Shivers, Second Presbyterian Church, White Water Valley Presbytery, Indianapolis, IN
  37. The Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer Oget, PhD, Assoc. Professor of New Testament, The Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, GA, soon to be at Austin Theological Seminary, Austin, TX
  38. The Rev. Frances Hayes, Littlefield Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Detroit, Dearborn, MI
  39. The Rev. Lucus Levy Keppel, Ancho and Corona Presbyterian Churches, Presbytery of Sierra Lanca, Corona, NM
  40. RE Keith Barber, First Presbyterian Church, Albany Presbytery, Albany, NY
  41. The Rev. Dr. Charles R. Traylor, Transitional Executive Pastor, Presbytery of Central Nebraska, Kearney, NE
  42. Matt Bowman, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky, Louisville, KY
  43. RE John Hannan, Presbytery of West Virginia, Winfield, WV
  44. RE Ken Whitehurst, Moderator-elect, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, Atlanta, GA
  45. RE Brenda Crespo, First Presbyterian Church of Perth Amboy, Presbytery of Elizabeth, Metuchen, NJ
  46. The Rev. Dr. Judye Pistole, First Presbyterian Church, Cimarron Presbytery, Alva, OK
  47. The Rev. Dr. Timothy J. Luoma, First Presbyterian Church, Vice Moderator of Presbytery of Scioto Valley, Gallipolis, OH
  48. David Silcox, The Southeast Project, Indianapolis, IN
  49. The Rev. Dr. Donald Blosser, PhD, Professor of New Testament (retired), Goshen College, Mennonite Church, Goshen, IN
  50. The Rev. Alisa Secrest, First Presbyterian Church of Deerfield, Chicago Presbytery, Deerfield, IL
  51. The Rev. Sam Hamilton-Poore, Collegiate Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of North Central Iowa, Ames, IA
  52. Mary Beth Buffum, Cedar Hills United Church of Christ, Portland, OR
  53. The Rev. Tricia Dykers Koenig, National Organizer, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, Presbytery of the Western Reserve, Cleveland Heights, OH
  54. RE Myra Joyce, Riverdale Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of New York City, Bronx, NY
  55. The Rev. Eslianne Adkins Braunstein, Western Presbyterian Church, National Capitol Presbytery, Washington, DC
  56. CRE Gary Smith, Presbytery of Central Nebraska, Kearny, NE
  57. The Rev. Constance McIntosh, First Presbyterian Church of Welsh, Presbytery of South Louisiana, Welsh, LA
  58. The Rev. C. Michael Kuner, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, presbytery of Northern Kansas, Topeka, KS
  59. The Rev. Bill Schram, Albany Presbytery, Northville, NY
  60. The Rev. Matt Curry, Central Presbyterian Church, Grace Presbytery, Waxahachie, TX
  61. The Rev. Rachael Whaley Pate, Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, Decatur, GA
  62. The Rev. Susan Joseph Rack, Christ Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Elizabeth, Martinsville, NJ
  63. The Rev. Bart Smith, St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of de Cristo, Tucson, AZ
  64. The Rev. W. Scott Harbison, St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of New Covenant, Houston, TX
  65. The Rev. Sarah Ross, First Presbyterian Church, Maumee Valley Presbytery, Adiran, MI
  66. The Rev. Loretta F. Ross, The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer, Presbytery of Northern Kansas, Topeka, KS
  67. The Rev. Kimberly P. Chastain, United Presbyterian Church of Binghamton, Susquehanna Valley Presbytery, Binghamton, NY
  68. The Rev. Paul F. Rack, Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Elizabeth, Plainfield, NJ
  69. The Rev. Dr. Kyle M. Walker, Faith Presbyterian Church, Mission Presbytery, Austin, TX
  70. The Rev. Norma Prina Murphy, Hammond Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Northern New York, Hammond, NY
  71. RE Kathryn Quickert, Bethany Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of San Francisco, San Bruno, CA
  72. RE Kelly M. Godfrey, Trinity Presbyterian Church, John Calvin Presbytery, Shell Knob, MO
  73. The Rev. Charles Freeman, Grace Presbyterian Church, St. Augustine Presbytery, Gainesville, FL
  74. The Rev. Betsy Turner, Luther Hays Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, Mansfield, GA
  75. The Rev. Reford B. Nash, Eastminster Presbytery, Honorably Retired, Mineral Ridge, OH
  76. The Rev. John Caster, Presbytery of Cincinnati, Honorably Retired, Cincinnati, OH
  77. The Rev. Karen G. Bear Ride, Presbytery of the Pacific, Claremont, CA
  78. The Rev. Dr. Kim L. Nelson, First Presbyterian Church, Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery, Cape Girardeau, MO
  79. The Rev. Jennifer McCann Spivey, Chaplain, Presbytery of Eastern Virginia, Virginia Beach, VA
  80. Jeanne Lowrey, Connecting Point Presbyterian Church, Indian Nations Presbytery, Oklahoma City, OK
  81. The Rev. René Brandt, Presbytery of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  82. The Rev. Tom Barnicott, First Bethel United Methodist Church, Bethel Park, PA
  83. Steven Gilbert, Calvary Presbyterian Church, West Jersey Presbytery, Riverton, NJ
  84. The Rev. Michael Moore, First Presbyterian Church, Florida Presbytery, DeFuniak Springs, FL
  85. The Rev. Susan Carter Wiggins, First Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, AR
  86. The Rev. Ruth Billington, Presbytery of Plains and Peaks, Honorably Retired, Fort Collins, CO
  87. The Rev. Michael Hafele, Riverdale Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of New York City, Bronx, NY
  88. The Rev. Kate McGee, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Grace Presbytery, Arlington, TX
  89. RE Kathy Randall, First Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Southern Kansas, Newton, KS
  90. The Rev. Dennie Carcelli, Presbytery of Seattle, Honorably Retired, Seattle, WA
  91. RE Pete H. Wells, First Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Eastern Oregon, Pendleton, OR
  92. RE Stacy Clopton Yates, St. Luke Presbyterian Church, Palo Duro Presbytery, Amarillo, TX
  93. The Rev. Dr. Marsha Cutting, PhD, Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church, Seattle Presbytery, Honorably Retired, Seattle, WA
  94. Sharon Dowling, First Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Northern New England, Antrim, NH
  95. The Rev. Dr. Andrew L. Cullen, Heartland Presbytery, Honorably Retired, Kansas City, MO
  96. Roberta Henry, Bethany Presbyterian Church, San Francisco Presbytery, San Bruno, CA
  97. The Rev. Dr. Deana J. Reed, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of the Redwoods, Napa, CA
  98. The Rev. William Norman, St. John’s United Church of Christ, Presbytery of Sacramento, Woodland, CA
  99. The Rev. Marsha McFadden Quick, United Church of Christ, Southern California Nevada Conference, Los Angeles, CA
  100. The Rev. Mari Lyn Jones, Butler Presbyterian Church, Heartland Presbytery, Butler, MO
  101. The Rev. Carla Libby Gentry, Belton Presbyterian Church, Heartland Presbytery, Belton, MO
  102. The Rev. Lorelei Kay, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe Presbytery, Gallup, NM

RE=Ruling Elder in the PC(USA)
CRE=Commissioned Ruling Elder in the PC(USA)

Since this first posted, we have received the above signatories. The response has been overwhelming.

Updated as of May 22, 2015 at 11:40 p.m. MST.

Our hope is to respond directly to the allegations made by the churches in Fountain Hills, stand in solidarity with Rev. Felten and his congregation, and, at the same time, express our deep hope for true dialogue and seeking understanding. These divisive tactics only tear us apart. God, in Christ, has sought to pull us together. I pray that may still be possible.

If you would like to be added to the list, whether or not you are a member of the Presbytery of Grand Canyon, CLICK HERE to go to a page with instructions on being included as a signatory.

Click HERE to go to Ledermann’s blog for an up-to-date list of the signers

Click HERE to read the statement of Brad Munroe, Presbytery Pastor