Presbytery action on validation of
Parker Williamson's ministry
as Issues Analyst of the Witherspoon Society, offers this perspective on
the presbytery action to withdraw the validation of the ministry of Parker
On January 31, validation of the ministry of the Rev.
Parker Williamson was revoked by his own presbytery, the Presbytery of
Western North Carolina.
The situation, as we know, has been
building for several months. The story about the recommendation of the
presbytery's Committee on Ministry has been told by
the Presbyterian News Service, PresbyWeb, and the
Lay Committee's own web site. Witherspoon and other organizations that
have been the target of Mr. Williamson's attacks in the Layman
have not made any comments on the COM's recommendations, knowing that we
would be depicted as part of a witch hunt by progressives in the church.
In fact, a Baltimore group related to That All May Freely
Serve took a public position in favor of continuing Mr. Williamson's
This has not been an organized attack
directed by outside interests. It is an action by his own presbytery. We
would note that we have often taken the position, in relation to questions
about GLBT ordination and making judgments about the "essentials of the
Reformed faith," that the members of the presbytery, those who actually
know the person, are in the best position to decide about ordination,
installation, and status in the presbytery.
Marcia Casais pointed out some weeks ago, a revocation of Mr.
Williamson's validated ministry "would not be the end of the world." He
has not been removed from the ministry. On the contrary, he maintains his
voting membership in his presbytery.
The question was whether his activities
as CEO of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor in chief of its
publications should be acknowledged as a validated ministry. Many people
in the PC(USA) have been concerned about the half-truths and personal
attacks that have become the trademark of the Presbyterian Layman.
They have been even more dismayed at his characterization of a recent
General Assembly as "an apostate Assembly" and his open advocacy of
boycotting the budget of the General Assembly and withholding per capita
assessments. He has asserted that other Presbyterians teach a "false
gospel," claiming (like J. Gresham Machen) that we are "two faiths within
Mr. Williamson's supporters have depicted
him as a persecuted prophet. There are many in the church, however, who
have characterized his strategy as one of "saving the church by destroying
it." John Sniffen, in a recent editorial in the
Presbyterian Outlook, suggested that Mr. Williamson has been
carrying on a "ministry of fear."
The Book of Order holds each presbytery
responsible for the actions of its members. It states the criteria by
which ministries are to be validated (G-11.0402, G-11.0410, G-1.0411). And
it declares that "the ministry shall be carried on in accountability for
its character and conduct to the presbytery and to organizations,
agencies, and institutions" (G-1.0403d).
Occasionally we have heard suggestions
that Mr. Williamson's presbytery be called upon publicly to examine his
activities in the light of these provisions. No call of that sort has been
issued. Instead, the Presbytery of Western North Carolina, on its own
initiative, has carried out its responsibilities under these provisions of
the Book of Order. And it is an action, we should note, that was taken by
a conservative presbytery, one that voted in favor of Amendment B
(G-6.0106b) by a two-to-one majority.
|If you want to look more deeply
into the complex story of the Layman and its sponsors, you
might check A Moment to Decide,
a study of The Presbyterian Lay Committee and other groups on the
Presbyterian Right, by Lew Daly.
Presbytery votes not to validate the ministry of
by Doug King, Witherspoon editor
[1-31-04, with minor corrections and additions on 2-1-04]
Early reports from today's l-o-n-g meeting of the
Presbytery of Western North Carolina tell us that the recommendation of
the presbytery's Committee on Ministry was basically accepted, with one
important amendment. The committee had recommended that the ministry of
the Rev. Parker Williamson as chief executive officer of the Presbyterian
Lay Committee and editor in chief of its publications no longer be
considered a validated ministry, and that he therefore be placed on
suspended status as a member of the presbytery. After an hour or more of
procedural skirmishes, followed by lunch, the Committee on Ministry
presented its motion.
An amendment was then offered by the Rev. Pete Peery,
pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Asheville. It would have affirmed
the COM recommendation that Williamson's ministry not be validated, while
softening the action by continuing him on the roll of presbytery as a
member at large. Williamson and his defenders argued against the
amendment, apparently wanting a clear action by the presbytery to reject
him and his ministry. According to
the Layman Online, Mr. Williamson himself denounced the
amendment as an "oily compromise."
The presbytery approved the amendment, which was seen by
some as separating the ministry of the Presbyterian Lay Committee from
consideration of Mr. Williamson personally, and focusing on the ministry
of the Presbyterian Lay Committee as being considered invalid.
With the amendment on the floor, the Committee on
Ministry then gave a twenty-minute presentation of the reasons for its
recommendation; the Lay Committee was then given twenty minutes to make
its case against the recommended action, with two of the Lay Committee's
leading attorneys arguing that the issue should be dealt with in the
church's judicial system, and not by the Presbytery.
Some members of the Committee on Ministry spoke as evangelicals who share
many of the views of the Lay Committee, but who said they cannot accept
the ways that group is pursuing them. One speaker said that if someone
wants to work for change within the Presbyterian Church, they must work
within the rules of the system; if they choose to work outside those
rules, they are apparently choosing to work outside the church itself.
One speaker noted that the Lay Committee had declared
that the 2001 General Assembly was "apostate," and more recently has
charged through its "Declaration Conscience" that no part of the
denomination's budget is worthy of support. He then asked why, if this
group thinks the denomination is so completely on the wrong track, they
still want to be a part of it.
One participant observed that the COM succeeded in
focusing the debate on the legitimacy of the Lay Committee's work, rather
than letting it shift to a debate on the personal ministry of Parker
Williamson - which is the way he and his defenders have been trying to
Following the presentations and a long debate, the amendment was passed
"pretty convincingly," thus becoming the main motion.
Williamson's supporters offered a substitute motion which would have
rejected the COM recommendation completely. That motion failed.
After further debate, a secret ballot was taken. The result was 150 votes
for the COM motion as amended, to 106 against.
After the result was announced, Mr. Williamson went to the podium and
proclaimed his intention to file a complaint about "irregularities" in the
process. Saying that one third of those present must support his
complaint, he invited his supporters forward. About a third of the group
went forward. As one person put it, they "marched up and then left."
It was noted that the Committee on Ministry, in its presentation and in
the debates, made clear that "per capita" (and Williamson's urging
churches not to support it) was not the only issue. The style of his work
through the Layman was clearly a part of the problem as well.
One observer expressed his sense that Mr. Williamson and the Lay Committee
came to the meeting expecting to lose, and determined to make the process
into a matter of martyrdom. It appeared that the general tone of the
debate, and the amendment to keep Williamson on the roll of presbytery,
might help to soften that appeal to sympathy for a "martyr."
Do you have thoughts or comments to share?
Just send a
Leslie Scanlon of Outlook has
a brief report from
Presbytery embraces Williamson,
invalidates Lay Committee ministry
Presbyterian News Service
ASHEVILLE, NC -- February 2, 2004 -- The
Presbytery of Western North
Carolina voted Saturday to withdraw its validation of the ministry of
the Rev. Parker Williamson, CEO of the
Presbyterian Lay Committee
(PLC) and editor in chief of its publication,
The Presbyterian Layman.
During a contentious Jan. 31 meeting, the presbyters
approved a "hate the sin but love the sinner" compromise, invalidating
Williamson's PLC ministry but allowing him to remain an active at-large
member of the presbytery and to keep his rights of voice and vote during
Williamson's work for the PLC had been classified as
"other validated ministry." The presbytery's Committee on Ministry had
recommended that he be declared an "inactive" member, which eventually
could have led to the loss of his ordination.
The vote to withdraw the validation of the ministry was
After the balloting, Williamson objected that he had
been rendered "a sort of a 'man without a country,'" and immediately said
he would seek a stay of enforcement and appeal the decision to a church
Presbyterian Outlook sees
Parker Williamson as
carrying on a "ministry of fear."
As the date from a
presbytery action to validate the ministry of the Rev. Parker Williamson -
or if it follows the recommendation of its Committee on Ministry, not
to validate his ministry with the Presbyterian Lay Committee - John
Sniffen, Associate Editor of Outlook, affirms the need for critics
in the Presbyterian Church, but asserts that the work of the Layman has
often consisted of attacks and threats against those with whom they
|Parker Williamson faces vote to end presbytery
validation of his work with the Layman, set for Saturday, Jan. 31.
As the date approaches for the Presbytery of Western North Carolina to vote
on not continuing to validate the ministry of the Rev. Parker T. Williamson
with the Presbyterian Lay Committee, here are a few updates.
Click here for a little background for
An act of charity toward a bitter critic:
TAMFS Baltimore offers support for the continued validation of the
ministry of the Rev. Parker T. Williamson with the Presbyterian Lay
[1-14-04, posted here 1-26-04]
Click here for the Board's letter to the Presbytery of
Western North Carolina
News Release from That All May Freely Serve: Baltimore
Baltimore, January 14, 2004
The Board of Directors of That All May Freely Serve:
Baltimore released a letter today in support of the continued validation of
the ministry of the Rev. Parker T. Williamson with the Presbyterian Lay
Committee. The Presbytery of Western North Carolina is scheduled to vote on
not continuing the validation of Rev. Williamson's ministry at its January
The Board supports the validation of the Rev. Williamson's ministry because
it believes that the present disagreements in the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) must be resolved in the area of ideas and not in direct conflicts
and attacks on individuals.
The Board strongly believes that the PCUSA is a church in which all should
be able to freely serve; and believes that that right needs to include Rev.
Williamson, even though he might advocate excluding others from ministry
because of their theological beliefs or sexual orientation.
That All May Freely Serve: Baltimore speaks from direct experience. The Rev.
Donald E. Stroud's ministry is validated by the Presbytery of Baltimore. His
validation was virtually unanimously approved, even though the position he
advocates is strongly opposed by some in the Presbytery. Both those who
agree and disagree with the positions Rev. Stroud advocates were able to
agree that the disagreements should not fall on his back as an individual.
The Board does not presume to say that the issues between Rev. Williamson,
the Presbyterian Lay Committee, and the Presbytery of Western North Carolina
are not real and require addressing. However, it does suggest that there
a better approach that allows them to be considered and resolved without
That All May Freely Serve: Baltimore remains committed to and works
prayerfully towards a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in which all may freely
serve: whether gay or straight, conservative or liberal, Donald Stroud or
Letter to the Presbytery of Western
The Presbytery of Western North
c/o Rev. J. William Taber III, Stated Clerk
114 Silver Creek Road
Morgantown, NC 28655
January 14, 2004
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
I write on behalf of the Board of Directors of That All
May Freely Serve: Baltimore, in response to the recommendation being
presented to the Presbytery of Western North Carolina at its January meeting
that the validation of the ministry of the Rev. Parker T. Williamson with
the Presbyterian Lay Committee not be continued. We strongly support the
continued validation of Rev. Williamson''s ministry with the Presbyterian
Lay Committee. We ask that this support be communicated to the Presbytery of
Western North Carolina by whatever means is appropriate in your presbytery.
We support the validation of Rev. Williamson's ministry
because we believe that the present disagreements in the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) must be resolved in the arena of ideas and not in direct conflicts
and attacks on individuals. We strongly believe that the PCUSA is a church
in which all should be able to freely serve; and we believe that
that right needs to include Rev. Williamson, even though he might advocate
excluding others from ministry because of their theological beliefs or
We speak from direct experience. The Rev. Donald E.
Stroud's ministry with That All May Freely Serve: Baltimore is validated by
the Presbytery of Baltimore. His validation was virtually unanimously
approved, even though the position he advocates is strongly opposed by some
in the Presbytery. Both those who agree and disagree with the positions Rev.
Stroud advocates were able to agree that the disagreements should not fall
on his back as an individual. The Presbytery of Baltimore is a diverse
presbytery, with a range of views on the issue of called service by those
who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender. However different some of
those views are from those of That All May Freely Serve: Baltimore, the
Presbytery of Baltimore recognized that the validation of Rev. Stroud's
ministry was not the mechanism by which to work out those differences.
Similarly, we do not think that the validation of Rev.
Williamson's ministry with the Presbyterian Lay Committee is the
appropriate vehicle for the Presbytery of Western North Carolina to work out
its differences with Rev. Williamson or its differences with the
Presbyterian Lay Committee.
Neither Rev. Williamson, nor Rev. Stroud, could
participate in the pension or medical plan of the Board of Pensions unless
their ministry is validated. There is no way that the withdrawal of Rev.
Williamson's validation can be construed as other than a personal attack on
him: one that can have very serious personal consequences.
We do not presume to say that the issues you seek to
resolve with Rev. Williamson and the Presbyterian Lay Committee are not real
and require addressing. However, we do suggest that there must be a better
approach that allows them to be considered and resolved without personal
We remain committed to and prayerfully work towards a
(U.S.A.) in which all may freely serve: whether gay or
straight, conservative or liberal, Donald Stroud or Parker Williamson.
Robert Jackson, Moderator
For the Board of Directors
cc. Rev. Parker T. Williamson
The Layman Online reported
on this statement from a group of whom Williamson has been sharply critical
published a helpful survey of the unfolding situation, dated January 23,
2004, under the headline, "Williamson ready to defend his ministry before
Western North Carolina Presbytery."
We hope to have a report on the presbytery action as soon
as possible after it is decided.
panel recommends withdrawing validation of Parker Williamson's ministry
Presbyterian News Service reports on the COM vote in the
Presbytery of Western North Carolina, recommending that the Presbytery not
validate the ministry of the Rev. Parker T. Williamson as chief executive
officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor in chief of its
This vote would not, as suggested by earlier reports in
The Layman Online, strip Williamson of his ordination. It would place him
on inactive status, and if his validation were not renewed in three years,
would revoke his ordination.
Task force of the Presbytery of Western North Carolina recommends that
Parker Williamson, Layman editor-in-chief, be placed on inactive
The Layman Online reports that a task force of the Presbytery
of Western North Carolina has recommended that Parker T. Williamson, chief
executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor-in-chief of
its publications, be denied validation as an active member of the
presbytery. If the presbytery's Committee on the Ministry and the full
presbytery concur with the task force's report, Williamson would be
demoted to inactive status and no longer be granted voice or vote at
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!