“How often misused words generate misleading thoughts”
― Herbert Spencer, 19th century British philosopher
This spring an elder, and member of Trinity’s Strategic Futures Task Force, stood up during a “Trinity Distinctives Dialogue” filled with hundreds of Trinity members and said the PC(USA) General Assembly had defeated a motion in 2001 declaring Jesus Christ as the “singular, saving Lord.”
I remember hearing that and thinking to myself, for the first time, maybe the PC(USA) had lost its mooring.
Then, at a following “Trinity Distinctives Dialogue,” Steve Yamaguchi, our presbytery pastor, briefly explained in less than a minute not only what happened at that General Assembly in 2001 when they refused to declare Jesus Christ as the “singular, saving Lord,” but why it happened. I felt much better about the denomination again after listening to Steve.
So why did it happen?
Below is a 6 minute audio recording of Steve explaining why it happened at a presentation he made at Christ Presbyterian Church in Huntington Beach, CA on September 26, 2013.
I encourage you to listen to Steve’s brief, but full, explanation of why it happened, but here is a summary of what he said.
In July 2000 The Reverend Dirk Ficca, a PC(USA) pastor and Executive Director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, made a speech at a Peacemaking conference held at Chapman University where he asked the rhetorical question, “what’s the big deal about Jesus?” That question was then lifted out of context by publications and became an inflammatory headline causing an outcry in the denomination.
The General Assembly (GA) in 2001 wrestled with this outcry. Commissioners attending that GA were really upset and wanted to press the PC(USA) to make a declaration that Jesus is the only savior. So a committee worked on this issue and they brought an action to the GA which the GA adopted. This action affirmed Jesus Christ is the unique authority as Lord, also that he is uniquely Savior of the world.
In the process of doing this however, one commissioner who was on that committee, brought a statement and wanted to use language that said Jesus is “singular, saving Lord.” The committee felt like that was not traditional language. Historically the church has never used this phrase “singular, saving Lord,” so the committee, and then the General Assembly, rejected that language in order to affirm the unique authority of Jesus Christ as Lord and that Jesus Christ is also uniquely Savior of the world. The headlines read, the PC(USA) refuses to affirm that Jesus Christ is “singular, saving Lord,” which is true, however, we did affirm he is the only Lord and the only Savior.
Advocates for leaving the denomination are still using this very misleading headline to point to the denomination’s theological drift.
Furthermore, in 2001 the GA directed the denomination’s Office of Theology and Worship to create a study for the whole church, so as a whole denomination we have a resource to study what the scriptures say about Jesus as Savior and Lord. In 2002 this study process brought back a report to the GA titled “Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Statements in the document “Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ” include this, and others like it,
“Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord, and all people everywhere are called to place their faith, hope, and love in him. No one is saved by virtue of inherent goodness or admirable living, for ‘by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” [Ephesians 2.8]. No one is saved apart from God’s gracious redemption in Jesus Christ.'”
The GA overwhelmingly approved “Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ” by a vote of 497 yes, 11 no, 5 abstentions.
In addition to what Steve has said, Los Ranchos Presbytery hosted a panel discussion this spring and addressed the same misleading statement.
If you are interested you can watch the panel discussion regarding the misleading statement below
Considering it was an elder, and member of Trinity’s Strategic Futures Task Force, who shared this misleading statement with the congregation, 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.
The PC(USA), by an overwhelming majority, affirms the Lordship of Jesus Christ and recognizes him as the only Lord and Savior.
Trinity, let’s stay PC(USA)