The Presbyterian Church (USA) conducted a survey of currently serving elders, other members, and clergy between 2009-2011. Survey participants were asked to agree or disagree to the following statement, “Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.”
The results were shared at Trinity’s congregational meeting in November, during an impassioned defense of our session’s request for dismissal from the PC(USA). As evidence of how far the denomination has drifted from orthodoxy, the congregation was told 45% of pastors and 60% of specialized clergy in the PC(USA) do not believe that “only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.”
The implication, if not outright claim, was PC(USA) pastors and specialized clergy, in large measure, believe Jesus Christ is just one way of salvation among many. But that is not what the survey asked.
Both the survey and its results are misleading. To offer them as justification for the session’s request for dismissal from the PC(USA) is reckless.
This specific survey was addressed in a panel discussion held earlier this year at Trinity for members of Los Ranchos Presbytery. The three panelist were Laird Stuart, retired PC(USA) pastor and interim president of San Francisco Theological Seminary, Jack Haberer, editor of The Presbyterian Outlook, and Dana Allin, ECO Presbyterian synod executive.
You can see how they each responded to the survey here
Jack was the first to point out the survey did not ask is “Jesus only one way of salvation,” the survey asked “can people be saved who are not committed believers in Christ.”
Referencing 2 Samuel 12:23 (infants who die) and Hebrews 11:39-40 (speaks of those in the Old Testament who are now credited with their faith) Jack said,
“So I’m one of those who votes that other people can be saved, other than those who believe in Jesus. I think the bible tells us so. And so to say we have this broad number of ministers who think Jesus is just one way among others, that’s not what the survey asked them. That’s what some publications have interpreted that survey to say. It’s not true. Many of us believe that some will be saved that do not believe in Jesus because the salvation accomplished by Jesus, God has the right to spread to others.”
Dana Allin, ECO Presbyterian synod executive agreed that the survey could have led to results that were skewed. Dana said,
“I do agree that I think the survey was not maybe not articulated in the way that it should have been and led to results that could be skewed. For example as Jack said about children dying in infancy.”
I am deeply concerned misrepresentations like this are what led Trinity’s Strategic Futures Task Force to recommend dismissal from the PC(USA) to the session.
Trinity, let’s stay PC(USA)
Note the discrepancy between Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, which Trinity’s documents affirm, and other statements by leadership to the effect that only those who believe are saved, and you see the confusion. Our leaders are confused on this point.