It is with a mixture of sorrow and hope that we, the elders of Memorial Presbyterian Church, after fifteen months spent fasting, praying, waiting, consulting and listening, now write to call a meeting of the congregation for 5:30–6:30 p.m. Friday, November 18, 2022, in the Auditorium for the purpose of deciding on matters pertaining to denominational alignment. We are recommending the congregation vote to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in America in accordance with Book of Church Order 25-11
October 18, 2022
Dear church family,
Memorial exists to bring the Welcome of Jesus through his Gospel as found in his Word to St. Louis. We have seen how he provides for us. We have experienced his Spirit’s work among us. We have had our hearts captivated by the gospel. We have had the privilege of being coworkers in what Jesus is doing on the earth. For the past 40 years, we have done so as a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
Since our first letter on July 13 and last letter on September 8, troubling new circumstances have arisen that move us to believe it is time for us to take the next step toward denominational realignment.
It is with a mixture of sorrow and hope that we, the elders of Memorial Presbyterian Church, after fifteen months spent fasting, praying, waiting, consulting and listening, now write to call a meeting of the congregation for 5:30–6:30 p.m. Friday, November 18, 2022, in the Auditorium for the purpose of deciding on matters pertaining to denominational alignment. We are recommending the congregation vote to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in America in accordance with Book of Church Order 25-11, which states:
Particular churches need remain in association with any court of this body only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is voluntary, based upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any force or coercion whatsoever. A particular church may withdraw from any court of this body at any time for reasons which seem to it sufficient, provided, however, the congregation is given at least thirty-days’ notice of any meeting where the congregation is to vote on a proposed withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church in America.
Memorial exists to bring the Welcome of Jesus to sinners like ourselves, helping them embrace that Welcome, live out that Welcome and unleash that Welcome in the power of the Holy Spirit. Continued attacks from within our denomination have and continue to hinder and distract from that mission. We need a team that is for us.
This is a historic moment. As historic as our vote in 1980 to leave what was then our denomination. We believe this step is necessary to protect Memorial’s ministries and ministers from distraction and abuse. More details about our recommended path forward will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.
In our last letter, we explained that there were some questions about which we still needed further information. Two questions related to our reception into another denomination. We are still working on those questions and hope to have full answers for you soon.
Two other questions were related to timing and unity. We heard the congregation asking:
- If Greg is tried (or re-tried) by the PCA sooner rather than later, will that hold up the church’s denominational realignment until after the trial and ruling has come—a judicial process that can take months or years?
We have now learned that, yes, once a court of the church (whether local Missouri Presbytery, denominational supreme court or General Assembly) takes a case, thereby entering into judicial process, the pastor involved must see the case through unless another denomination receives him into it. Other denominations can be hesitant to receive a pastor under such circumstances, and would likely require a supermajority vote to receive him. This could hold us all up.
Greg was exonerated by our denominational supreme court a year ago. But his critics have been busy retargeting him and—just this month—now targeting other Memorial pastors.
Our denominational supreme court already has requests from several regional presbyteries to try (or re-try) Greg in an attempt to reverse last year’s ruling. They could vote to accept this case as early as this weekend or as late as February. If they refuse to take the case, a minority report is likely, setting Greg up for a possible trial on the floor of General Assembly next June in Memphis.
Additionally, our local Missouri Presbytery has received a number of new requests for investigations even since our last letter to you. One misrepresents Greg’s views and involves accusations that his 2021 book doesn’t properly reflect the nuance of the Westminster Larger Catechism.
And yet another most recent one requests that pastors Sam Dolby and Keith Robinson also be investigated—alongside Greg—concerning their Christian character due to their support for our Chapel ministry to artists.
Other possible cases against our pastors are also developing. The flow of these baseless judicial attacks is unlikely to slow down. We are being deliberately targeted. To protect our pastors—and to keep our presbytery from having to do multiple formal investigations of baseless accusations—we therefore think it wise to take this next step in realignment sooner rather than later.
- We also heard you asking, whatever we decide—and it will be the congregation that decides, not the Session—we are your servants—how can we do it together as a family, with love even when perspectives differ?
We are therefore scheduling two additional fireside chats, which also will involve intercessory prayer for our protection and unity as a congregation.
This will not be an easy decision for some of us. Greg has shared how deeply sorrowful this decision is for him. Greg is not alone in these feelings. This will not be a time to celebrate.
While Memorial will continue to send students to Covenant College and continue to support our MTW missionaries and especially our RUF minister at Wash U, many of us and many of our Memorial siblings are already grieving a loss. Please be in prayer for them. Speak kindly to them. Reach out to listen and to love. And respect your sibling’s perspective, especially if it differs from your own.
Also, realize that it is common to experience feelings of anxiety during periods of uncertainty or transition. We encourage you to channel any anxiety into prayer for the church.
We will have a Fireside Chat and Prayer Gathering Monday, October 24 at 7:00 p.m.
We will have another Wednesday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Our intention has been to bathe this process with prayer and with love. We believe this decision to be the most loving option for Memorial, for same-sex oriented believers, for our pastors and, yes, for the PCA itself.
We hope that Memorial’s withdrawal from the PCA will strengthen the hands of our friends within the denomination. As their opponents have capitalized on the “wedge issue” they found in knowing the PCA had a celibate same-sex oriented pastor, we can now remove Memorial from that equation. Critics will have to find some other cause with which to rally their troops. Lord willing, that will help our friends in the denomination as they work hard to once again take leadership to ground the denomination in a humble, winsome and missiological grace.
We believe Jesus is walking with us through this process, as is our current presbytery. The gospel is at work among us. The Lord’s Spirit is within us. We are not afraid.
In this letter, we have described what we believe we must move away from to protect our mission. In a fourth letter, we hope soon to offer a clearer picture of what we hope to move toward. We are still discerning that matter, and we are excited by the possibilities. Jesus loves Memorial, and we are confident that he will preserve us in our mission as he pours his love and Spirit out upon us—and through us to others.
We love you and thank God for you.
Your servants in Jesus,
The Session of Memorial Presbyterian Church