Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Open Declaration voted down by Beaver-Butler Presbytery; referred to new task force

What Happened Last Night

Beaver-Butler Presbytery voted down the Open Theological Declaration at its November 17th meeting in Aliquippa, Beaver County, PA and referred it to a special task force empowered to look at the issues the Declaration confronts.

Incoming presbytery moderator, the Rev. Connie Dunn was charged by the body last night with appointing members to this new task force and with instructing it to conduct its work so that it may present a report to the whole presbytery at its March 2009 meeting.

The 55-47 (I believe, but may be wrong on the actual vote) to refer the Declaration to the new task force came after nearly an hour of highly spirited debate.

Principle objections raised during the debate centered largely around the Declaration's statements about the nature of Christians' shared beliefs with Jews and Muslims about the nature of our understandings of who God is and what constitutes either valid or invalid promotion of joint worship.

Not a few minister-presbyters raised questions about participation in and conduct of mixed-religious wedding services with Jews. They also raised questions indirectly (or obliquely) about whether or not this Declaration calls into question Christian understandings of the historical precedence of the Jews' status as God's chosen people and whether or not the document calls into question the validity of the Old Testament scriptures.

Where We Go from Here
Those of us who are appointed to serve on the newly created task force will do so. We truly have no choice at this point.

We have invested ourselves, our beliefs and consciences into this debate--seeing it as a fight over matters that truly rise to the level of covenanted orthodoxy. We will continue to stand where we must.

In the mean time, a dozen individual sessions, their collected elders, their pastors have officially signed this document and stand behind it. Our call to other sessions and presbyteries to consider this or some very close parallel statement have lost none of their passion and immediacy. We need to take decisive steps and make a bold, clear but loving stand in the face of what we see as serious steps away from the gospel handed down once-for-all to the saints.

We may not back down. And we are committed to this fight at the judicatory level. This is a church fight that must be appropriately and correctly waged within the courts of the church. Certainly affinity groups and related reform organizations are welcomed and encouraged to share this fight with us, but ultimately, the fight must be waged from the lowest recognizable regional courts to the highest.

Again, our Defender is strong and we are called to stand in place.

Please continue to pray for us and to check in with us regularly regarding updates or questions. We may be contacted via this blog or by e-mail. My e-mail is and Pat McElroy's e-mail is

Grace & Peace,
+Rusty Stuart & Pat McElroy


Anonymous said...

You guys are great and did a great service to Jesus Christ in your presentation and defense last night!

I think it is time though for congregations, sessions and pastors to start locally organizing within the presbytery for a thorough defense of the Reformed faith. Communities of resistance, bound by covenant love to each other is the way forward.

Just for me, I think the strategy of presbytery reform can't work until each and every congregation that holds to the faith once delivered declares to the world what they believe and what they will DO as a consequence of that belief.

Just my thoughts the day after...

linda lee said...

Many thanks to Presbywb for making this post available. I pledge to pray for you in your stand for Christ and for this task force as they look further at this declaration. May God bless you, empower you, give you the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide you
as you proceed and as you witness to the rest of us across the nation in our Presbyteries and churches.

PrRustyStuart said...


Many and profound thanks to you. We all need prayer and a great deal of it. The Lord is faithful. His purposes will be worked out.

"How" that will be is yet to be seen and is frustrating, upsetting and somewhat disheartening to quite a few. That is, unfortunately, part and parcel of our fallen human nature as we work through our many battles against the principalities and powers.

Again, dear sister, many thanks for your prayer cover. Keep it going!

Grace & Peace,
+Rusty & Pat

Aric Clark said...

This is an attempt to reach Rusty Stuart. He left a phone message for me at church, but it got cut off before he could leave a number for me to return the call. I very much look forward to conversing with you if that is still your wish.