Saturday, March 02, 2013

Presbyterians: The Movable Feast

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Are we really dealing with political philosophical differences, or the offshoots of religious mindsets shaped by authoritarianism, received authority is conclusively presumed to be valid and ongoing in its relevance;  or ongoing reevaluation of responses based on (deity-given?) brainwork.

So far, we have looked as SoBaps, Southern Baptists, and their response in governing being like that in the religion -- accept the orthodoxy, no compromise, force it on others.  Lutherans:  a wide variation, but its extremes look like SoBaps.  The orthodoxy controls, and all else is Satan's work. Is that so?  Autonomy and vetting: Satanic.  No wonder, if this is indeed so, Washington is in gridlock.  This is not political at all.  It is religious wars transplanted across the ocean from medieval Europe.  Launch the crusades, the inquisitions. 

In that light, what does Presbyterian mean?  I grew up in that, no recollection at all of predestination, all was social responsibility, personal accountability, despite a father from a Canadian evangelical background -- that he left. And became a Presbyterian clergyman, and it was a proud, old Scots tradition, and faced like all denominations, challenges that they did not go far enough to serve the disadvantaged. 

How about Baptist?  Lutheran?  It is  not enough to see what numbers of what denomination are in the 112th Congress.  Each denomination self-sorts into subgroups ranging from extreme adherence to received authority, to fostering vetting in dogma, tradition, meanings, adaptability. And denominations are in flux within themselves.  FN 1.

 Which churches, calling themselves Presbyterian, fail to identify their orientation, so  some may be closet evangelicals, some closet liberal reformers, some old Scots do it the old ways.   Ask.  Which Congressional and Senate members belong to churches that, conveniently, make it hard to see what they are.  We are digging. Closet Evangelicals, closet old-south.  We would need the Sunday School Curriculum to find out, in this age of fog the background, so the candidate is not pegged.   Ted Cruz: Prestonwood Baptist Church, not Presbyterian, see  Status of vetting beliefs, considering contexts, various interpretations of oldest texts on which everybody later stands?  Zero, is that so?  See

Condoleezza Rice carries the card.  See Which branch?  Download 113th Congress Presbyterians and their affiliation, conservative-evangalical or reform-liberal, at

Common sense says that a mindset accepting orthodoxy in one realm, leads to a similar predilection in governing or other realms.  Who has research? 

So, mere statistics on which congressperson identifies with which denomination is useless for content, and only is a handy sorting.  Instead, list the names of the denomination's legislators, then attach how they sort themselves on the received authority, dogma spectrum.  Does a religious mindset to accept Biblical words in their particular translation without question, and interpretation according to their particular heritage, spill over into attitudes to legislation:  subject the legislation to the Biblical test first, and block anything that does not serve it.

1.  Presbyterians 113th Congress:  Who is in which camp?

Download names, party and state at  This is already outdated as to some. And what good is it?  There is no identification of branch.  The folks are unsorted. Go to "theology" at Office of Public Witness (OPW) Plans for the OPW look moderate to liberal -- PCUSA Washington report Summer 2012 -- oppose privatizing prisons, applause to Obama for Dream Act, hope for Congo, economic justice, etc.  But this PC(USA) may well not speak to all the other Presbyterians in Congress who take far more conservative stances on applications of government in those areas.

Find other Presbyterians:  Here, the PC(USA), the largest group in the fold, names names of subgroups: The Presbyterian Church in America, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. See that, and the clearest, still convoluted, North-South, Liberal-Conservative, church history at; and  Did you know that in 1629 the Puritans who landed here were Presbyterian? 

1.  Presbyterian Church in the United States -- PC(USA) or PCUSA - established 1983 in Atlanta, after many mergers and splits.  Follows Book of Confessions and Book of Order

2.  Presbyterian Church in America - PCA

3.  Cumberland Presbyterian Church

4.  Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

This is an ongoing research project, so bear with us as we firm up where we think we are, reserving rights to update.
  • For overview on those stats, however, see the percentages of each denomination in Congress, and then in the population at large, at this Presbyterian Church USA site, at;
  • See comprehensive religious stats at  
  • More important:  But what do those groups believe, the ones espoused by those blocking change at every turn.  What individuals reliably spearhead the no-compromise view.  Does that mindset relate to what they learn in church; and/or what their constituents demand, that takes precedence over a national goal.
    • The far right, right-wing extremists as liberals label them, have more in common with each other than the denomination of which they may be a subset.
  • We have already looked at the religious system beliefs and their variations in focusing on received authority: among Baptists, (Southern Baptist); and Lutheran (the Confessional and Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and WELS).
So:  vet the reason. What mindset, refusal to accept evidence and keep searching for another bombshell, mind made up the other way, it must be right.

 Here, Presbyterians.

I.  Branches

In flux.A "flying away" from old doctrines for some, new bonding with other groups for others. Doctrinal realigning, not necessarily "legal" realigning, but are there ramifications to the institutional side (pensions and endowments and property, oh my) See 2007 state of affairs at  Other denominations, as Episcopalian, are in the same stage of alignment-realignment.

It is useless to say that someone is Presbyterian if a communication about approach to belief is intended.  Look at the stew:

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH USA - largest church in denomination

And are these all still separate?

The Presbyterian Church in America
American Presbyterian Church
Orthodox Presbyterians, see
Bible Presbyterians,
Cumberland Presbyterians,
Reformed Presbyterians,
Associate Reformed Presbyterians
Evangelical Presbyterian Cuurch
Evangelical Covenant

Then the old United Presbyterians

This Presbyterian alphabet soup became less complicated in 1983, when the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. joined with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., the so-called Southern branch. This created the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has about 2.3 million members. See FN 1  Is that clear? If so, take a deep breath because Presbyterian affairs are about to get more complicated as new divisions and unions reshape the churches that trace their roots to John Calvin and his Reformed branch of Protestantism.

A.  Presbyterian Church (USA).  This includes or is it  the Reformed?  Sounds very generic, given the vast divisions of earlier decades.

Vocabulary:  there are differences.

Lord's Table.  Not an altar, but the Lord's Table or Communion table, see  No need to call it an altar because the one sacrifice, back at the Crucifixion, was enough. No need to do sacrifice after sacrifice,as in Roman Catholic belief.

Last Supper.  This is a Last Supper at the Lord's Table, as it was then. Lord's Supper:  Communion or Eucharist, for "Thanksgiving". Not a Mass.  No "transubstantiation: as in Roman Catholic religion where the bread and wine actually become the body and blood. Instead, it is a spiritual concept, a way for Christ to dwell within the person.  See the "don't believe" site below.

Bible:  Authority, but not inerrant. Inerrancy means factual accuracy.  Not the issue.  Stories in Bible stand on their own footing, way to answer questions, point a way.  Like art.  Know the scriptural message as a totality, not pick apart facts here and there.

Reform:  Return to the root, no preservation or change for preservation's or change's sake.  Older was better for early Reform movements, because it returned to roots.  Now, focus is more on the innovative. The charge of innovation was a pejorative to early Reformers, but now the innovative returns to the roots. See Reformed at

Church is run by a Session, elected members, and a subgroup known as Elders; and from Elders come the Ruling Elders, and then the pastor or minister or Minister of the Word and Sacrament who is the Teaching Elder (because it requires much education to get there).

Predestination:  Election occurred at the beginning of time; already done. This is a hard concept to grasp but election is part of many Christian church beliefs. See still can make bad choices, but the decision to elect us was done 'way back anyway. See site. ( Do these theological pretzels still make sense?  I grew up Presbyterian and never heard predestination as any big deal -- not a part of life at all). But predestination is out there, in the history and the tomes.

Purgatory, for working off venial or simple sins; or Limbo for the unbaptized babies.  Non-starters. No need to create an additional interim concept for where people go after death. See "don't believe" site.

Hell: where people go for mortal sins? No. No grading of sins into mortal or venial. Leave it to God.

Confession, assurance of pardon:  Not acts that enable God to forgive, but ways for the person to experience forgiveness.  (variations on requirement of confession - I grew up with none of that)

Apostolic or other Succession. Bishops.  None.  Bishops in many denominations are believed to carry the authority on and with them, through centuries, allegedly unbroken. Catholics and Anglicans say it goes back to the Apostles. Bishops get their authority from previous bishops.  Not so with Presbyterians. Authority is not carried by individuals like that  Instead, church leaders can declare the will of God based on scripture.

Lord's Prayer:  say debts and debtors, not trespasses.  In 2 Gospels, different words are used, but in either case, close.  The debt is a debt of sin, see site.

Praying to or through Saints, including Mary.  Not needed.  Praying is itself an act of devotion, and devotion is aimed only at God, not another person, even a saint.

Founders:  Martin Luther, then further Reformers John Calvin in the 1500's, French side of Switzerland, and John Knox in Scotland

Beliefs, see and click at
salvation through Jesus, not by good works. No need to be concerned if you are good enough.

Too much on practice to summarize here.  See site.

James Inhofe R-Okla is Presbyterian.  Senator Inhofe is a Presbyterian Zionist.  He joins Senators McCain and Graham, both SoBaps, or Southern Baptists, strong on received authority; and Lutherans

Senator Inhofe is the subject of many news and opinion pieces, search for religion of Inhofe. There are rants, going back years, by those who disagree with his filibuster and verbal record 



If we want to understand our legislators, look beyond the generic denominational designation, if any, to the content:  Where on the spectrum of received authority is this person, the actual church attended, if any.  People self-sort into a) who approves of vetting, open to new interpretation and implementation approaches, or sb) who stays with Traditional words, traditional dogma evolved, despite new information, evidence, facts.

For the curious and non-political, look at denominations anyway because many of us growing up in a Protestant denomination haven't a clue what the specific beliefs are or were any more.  See overview of denominations at The Association of Religion Data Archives

This little series is honing in on what the Senators and Representatives have in common as to mindset, where they oppose without compromise (generally speaking) an Executive who applies a change-the-system mindset, challenging customary deference paths and racial, other status, hierarchies.The President's move to implement solutions regardless of the received authority of hierarchies, is not done lightly. He does it where the existing systems have failed -- in economics, in policies bringing about the financial catastrophe weighing on President Obama by 2008..  From the President's view, needed in that circumstance, where the old systems and approaches have been given their chance, is new focus to get old national values implemented:  fairness, economic recovery not just for the rich, legislation based on evidence, exploring peace as far as possible before going to war, equal treatment of individuals and groups under the law.

The response?  Discredit the President.  Who does that?  Is it the received authority groups? For four going on five years, see filibuster, placards of the President as the Last Things character preceding the next Coming, and the Judgment, even Satan. Posters at rallies and posts on the internet show that. To others, not personifying End Times, his sin is vetting received authority as to the economy, top-down prosperity-trickles, need for force, position of women, moral obligation to help others, or corporation adoration at expense of workers.  That sort of idea. Enter, filibusters, blocks on votes, last minute shying away from coming to an agreement -- must not compromise, must not compromise.

The use of the filibuster tactic, in particular, shows a predisposition to use force, take hostages, put one's own personal convictions and desires above the majority: I am right, dammit, right, and if you don't hear me roar this time, I'll keep roaring, or some such. 

FN 1  Example of Presbyterian fluctuations, as in many denominations:  the Indian Nations Presbytery, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA)  has voted to release the First Presbyterian Church of Edmond to the Covenant Presbyterians. See, date 1/29/13.

  1. How complex do Presbyterians become?  Have to keep Presbyterians and United Presbyterians both in mind, historic fluctuations. PCUSA joined with the United Presbyterian Church of North America  (UPCNA).  The UPCNA was a smaller group in the Covenanter-Seceder tradition, this from Wiki as a start. Covenanters:  Date roots from 1500's, Scots, do a Wiki search for Covenanter. 
  2. At one point, the United Presbyterians included the First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa, where Senator James Inhofe is a member. Is that so?  Is it a part of "UPCUSA"? 1st Presby at Wiki.  Have to start somewhere. Wiki.
    • First Presby: What does that UPCUSA heritage mean about its theology? And we see the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), this being conservative and mostly in the south, see Wiki.  PCUS split with PCUSA in 1861, Civil War time, and when PCUS left to form the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA?).  PCA  united with PCUSA to form the new PC(USA) (different use of parens from PCUSA) in the 1980's.  Whew.