The nightmare scenario that the PCUSA has feared–namely, the withdrawal of whole presbyteries from the denomination–has moved one step closer this week, as the Presbytery of Central Washington voted to establish a task force that is charged, among other things, with investigating the possibility of presbytery withdrawal. According to the Layman Online:

The Presbytery of Central Washington has approved a resolution declaring that the General Assemblies of 2006 and 2008 “have brought our PCUSA denomination to a point of crisis. Actions of these assemblies have broken the connection and covenant that has existed in our church since the first meetings of our General Assembly.”

In response to the resolution, the presbytery voted to establish a task force on sexuality that will have a number of duties, including investigating “what constitutional process we might use as a presbytery to move in a united way into a different denomination.”

The resolution includes some pretty harsh language, including this:

2. That we reject any action that allows any part of the church to modify or ignore any mandatory provisions of the Book of Order without the advice and consent of the presbyteries. Thus, we declare that actions taken to make mandatory ordination standards optional will have no force or effect in Central Washington Presbytery.

3. For thirty years our denomination has been well guided by the definitive guidance/authoritative interpretation on human sexuality given in 1978. We believe that this report continues to accurately and graciously reflect the truth of Scripture on matters of homosexuality. We proclaim this guidance continues to hold authority in Central Washington Presbytery in all standards of belief and practice at the congregational and Presbytery level.

4. We reject as false the idea that there can be unity in our church without unified standards for faith and behavior in those who serve the church as ministers, elders, and deacons. There can be no universal ordination for the whole church when there are no shared ordination standards. No General Assembly Authoritative Interpretation can change any ordination standard found in The Book of Confessions or the Book of Order. Thus, we reject any ordinations done by any body that does so in violation of the Constitution, including G-6.0106b, and proclaim that such ordinations will have no force or effect in Central Washington Presbytery.

It concludes with this:

If the piece by piece dismantling of our historic and orthodox Christian faith and ordination standards continues and future assemblies fail to take actions that reverse the damaging actions of the 217th and 218th General Assemblies’, we will consider that the General Assembly of the PCUSA has broken the bonds that hold us together and will look at every and all options to address this, including options whereby our Presbytery may functionally withdraw from the PCUSA.”

My suspicion is that Central Washington will not be the last presbytery taking this approach. Look for the leadership in Louisville to go into full panic mode with this news, one that will include a full panoply of threats and recitations of Book of Order passages that may or may not have anything to do with the issue at hand.

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