Our Stories: God Has Called Me To Serve

By |2023-09-25T01:16:07-05:00September 23rd, 2023|

Faithful servants of God and the church are facing a profound challenge as they await a decision on the amendments being deliberated in the presbyteries. These are their stories... God Has Called Me To Serve Anonymous Cumberland Presbyterian Minister In the rural area where I grew up, we assumed that everyone was alike. The reality, as I came to understand, is that everyone is different in their own way. I just did not realize it when I was young. When I entered college, I had an awakening and discovered that there were a lot of things I had not experienced. For example, two of my female classmates (one black and one white) were known as a couple. I make a point of their different races because, at the time, such commingling was considered heresy. But then, to make matters worse, they were a couple… Well, as far as I knew--based on the culture in which I grew up--they were hell-bound! This was how I was raised. People of different races didn’t date. And still, for many people today, people of same gender…well, to many, that is still considered a bridge too far. Imagine my own personal struggles when I went to Seminary; and for the first time, because of people I met, had classes with, and walked beside in faith, I wrestled with these social issues. It was quite the Jacob moment. It was during this time that I came to terms with who God created me to be. After all, how does one tackle the issues of faith and ultimately not come to know oneself even better? It is only through God’s grace and the special intervention by some very near and dear people that I am able to tell this story. You see, when I was entrapped by

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Our Lives Have Callings on Them

By |2023-09-23T03:12:26-05:00September 15th, 2023|

As presbyteries deliberate upon proposed amendments, let us bear in mind the gravity of these changes, as they will profoundly impact the lives of individuals within our denomination, especially those who identify as LGBTQ+ and their families. Within our midst, an anonymous Cumberland Presbyterian minister has courageously shared their personal journey. Their story serves illustrates the experience of a person of faith who has answered God's call and also identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. We are reminded that our Confession of Faith explains the nature of humanity as sinful, but it also emphasizes the power of God's grace in our salvation. It is not our place to judge the eternal destinies of our fellow believers. Instead, we are called upon us to be a community that embraces all who seek God's love and grace (CoF, 6,16). In a spirit of love, compassion, and our commitment to following Christ's example, let us remember that God calls who God wills, and all of our our lives have callings on them, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that all members of our church family are given the opportunity to answer God's call. May the love of Christ unite us as we navigate this important decision, and may we continue to be a church that reflects His boundless love and grace to all. Our Lives Have Callings on Them anonymous Cumberland Presbyterian minister As a child born into the Cumberland Presbyterian church, a member of a family who loves the Lord and a person who obeyed God’s call to serve in the ministry, my life has been unreservedly impacted by the church for the entirety of my existence in flesh. As an infant, I was dedicated to the Lord to be raised in the church and my church family

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Proposed Constitutional Amendments (2023)

By |2023-09-06T00:07:17-05:00September 5th, 2023|

Presented below is an excerpt featuring the proposed constitutional amendments taken from the Summary of Actions provided by Michael Sharpe, Stated Clerk of the Assembly. These amendments were deliberated upon during the 192nd General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which convened in Denton, Texas, from June 19 to 23, 2023. JOINT COMMITTEE ON AMENDMENTS Approved sending the following proposed changes to the Constitution to the Presbyteries for vote: 1. That the Constitution be amended by adding the following Paragraph 2.92 and renumbering subsequent sections as appropriate: 2.92 When a person is in a sexual relationship that is outside the boundaries of marriage as described in the Confession of Faith 6.17, then such a situation makes that person ineligible to be ordained to the office of elder. 2. That the Constitution be amended by adding the following sentence at the end of the current Paragraph 2.73: When a person is in a sexual relationship that is outside the boundaries of marriage as described in the Confession of Faith 6.17, then such a situation makes that person ineligible to serve as an elder on the session of a church. 3. That the Constitution be amended by adding the following Paragraph 6.35 and renumbering subsequent sections as appropriate: 6.35 No licentiate shall be ordained who is in a sexual relationship that is outside the boundaries of marriage as described in the Confession of Faith 6.17. Such a situation makes that person ineligible to be ordained as a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. 4. That the Constitution be amended by adding the following new Paragraph 7.02 and renumbering subsequent sections as appropriate: 7.02 When a person is in a sexual relationship that is outside the boundaries of marriage as described in the Confession of Faith 6.17, then such a situation makes that person

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An Open Letter from 13 Former Moderators

By |2023-09-20T20:56:29-05:00September 5th, 2023|

We are grateful to share an open letter from thirteen of nineteen former living General Assembly moderators who stand united in opposition to the proposed exclusionary constitutional amendments. These individuals, representing various theological perspectives, have come together out of their deep love for our denomination and shared hope for its vibrant future. They wisely implore us to consider the harmful implications of these amendments, urging thoughtful discernment and reflection. We encourage you to read their concerns, as we echo their call for grace and unity. We earnestly pray that the church’s presbyteries will reject these divisive amendments and remember that we are one body in Christ Jesus. As we navigate our journey ahead, may we all do so with an abundance of grace, love and understanding. August 31, 2023 Dear Cumberland Presbyterian Family, The former Moderators of the General Assembly (GA) of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (CPC) signed below have profound reservations concerning the proposed Constitutional Amendments that are currently placed before our presbyteries. Like our church, we all stand at different theological perspectives on many issues except for our common love for our denomination. Our hope for its vibrant future compels us to pen this plea for preserving the foundational spirit of Cumberland Presbyterianism which is threatened by the proposed Constitutional Amendments. We pray that you take time for discernment before the impending vote to consider underlying concerns that cause us to stand united in opposition to its passage. Here are a few of the reasons why we are opposed to these Amendments: -Will weaken the authority and power of lower judicatories (Synod, Presbytery, Session). The 1894 General Assembly endorsed Louisa Woosley as a lay evangelist. While many were not individually receptive to women in ministry, they recognized the power of the presbytery to ordain. The authority for the

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Recommendation to Reject the Proposed Amendments to The Cumberland Presbyterian Church Constitution

By |2023-09-21T10:31:49-05:00August 7th, 2023|

Ed Adair This article highlights how the proposed amendments present multiple issues relative to their interpretation, implementation, application, and enforcement. Originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the Cumberland Presbyterian magazine, it has been reprinted here with some edits. The author, Edward H. Adair, holds a law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law, class of 1985, and has served in roles such as Federal Law Clerk and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Department of the Interior. Currently, he is a Licentiate under the care of the Presbytery of East Tennessee and fulfills the role of Privacy and Regulatory Specialist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. To Whom It May Concern, I am writing to share my reflections and deliberations concerning the proposed amendments to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church's (CPC) Constitution. I respectfully submit that I do not favor the proposed amendments. In my view, excluding individuals from serving as Elders, Ministers, or in other positions of leadership within the CPC based on their identification as members of the LGBTQIA+ community is not aligned with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures when we consider the historical, cultural, and linguistic contexts in which the scriptures were written. Furthermore, such exclusion is inconsistent with the love, compassion, and inclusive nature of the Kingdom of God as proclaimed, preached, and embodied by Christ. Notwithstanding this conviction, I have approached my reading, interpretation, analysis, and commentary on the proposed amendments as objectively as possible. I understand that not everyone shares the same viewpoint on this issue, and I acknowledge that convictions and emotions run deep. This document aims to promote dialogue and discernment, driven by the conviction that a variety of perspectives enriches the depth and breadth of our process. At our core, we are members

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Reasons to Deny Proposed Amendments (2023)

By |2023-09-19T14:04:13-05:00June 21st, 2023|

Welcoming Cumberland Presbyterians is an independent grassroots movement of LGBTQIA+ Cumberland Presbyterians and clergy, elders and laity who wish to increase participation in the church by living out our confessional calling to seek reconciliation among all groups of people (6.32, CoF) and embrace all people in the life of the church (6.16, CoF). We oppose the proposed amendments for being divisive, exclusionary, unnecessary and dangerous. We urge the Church to deny these amendments because they would usurp the rightful and appropriate authority and discretion of the presbytery and session to ordain whom they see fit. The following concerns are not an exhaustive list, but we hope it will be a starting place for further conversation with our LGBTQIA+ siblings and their supporters. It is essential we recognize that the church consists of those who in good faith come to different interpretative conclusions on the complex issue of sexuality and its members will exercise the prerogative to live according to their conscience. We believe the wisest path forward for the church is to continue to respect the rightful authority of presbyteries and sessions to ordain whom they see fit, respect individual freedom of conscience on same-sex relationships, and practice tolerance and forbearance towards those they disagree with rather than attempting to force universal conformity. The proposed amendments are unnecessary because each presbytery and session already has the rightful authority to ordain who they see fit. Each person called to ministry should be received with openness and have the opportunity to face presbytery or session to determine their fitness and qualifications, without experiencing discrimination. The attempt to create denominational policy that would categorically disqualify an entire minority of people hearkens back to times when African Americans and women were denied even the possibility of ordination, despite their giftedness and calls. While the

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Hear the Stories of our LGBTQ+ Allies

By |2023-06-17T20:12:25-05:00June 17th, 2023|

Welcome to our new series of videos, where Cumberland Presbyterian clergy and laity share their personal journeys of reconciling faith and the Bible with acceptance and support for our LGBTQ siblings. Inspired by the 1984 Confession of Faith, which encourages us to embrace one another (6.16) with the grace of Christ (5.10), share insights, and grow together (1.07), this series aims to foster a spirit of dialogue and understanding. Watch these stories and learn about why these Cumberland Presbyterians have become friends and allies to members of the LGBTQ+ community: Rev. Billy Price, Rev. Dwight Liles, Rev. Chris Warren, Rev. Byron Forester, Rev. Tommy Clark, Pat Pottorff White, Cheryl S, Jeff F, Jordan H In addition, we have extended invitations to several Cumberland Presbyterians who identify as LGBTQ+ to share their personal stories, allowing the church to gain a deeper understanding of the individuals who will be greatly impacted by rulings of General Assembly and church judicatories. Furthermore, we have curated a collection of written stories offering further insight into the experiences and perspectives of members of our church family, available at www.welcomingcps.org/our-stories. We encourage everyone to explore these stories as we navigate this important conversation. We are deeply grateful for each person who has shared (and will share) their personal story of why they are a friend and ally of the LGBTQ+ community. We pray that these stories serve as a source of comfort and hope, especially for those who have faced harmed or felt abandoned by the church. We pray too that God will touch the hearts of all those who view them. Our hope is that through witnessing the love and compassion we aim to convey, these videos will have a transformative impact on the minds and hearts of all who engage with them. If you would like

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“Your Call Is a Call to All of Us”

By |2023-09-21T03:16:04-05:00June 17th, 2023|

A message from Reverend Lisa Anderson, pastor of Colonial Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Moderator of the 184th General Assembly: Nine years ago a very unexpected thing happened. After saying no four times to people in my presbytery, I agreed to be nominated for Moderator of our General Assembly. About this time on that Monday I began to read all of the texts, messages, emails and listen to voice mail messages from literally hundreds of people congratulating me for being elected. It was absolutely not expected. The emotions were all over the place. Gratitude for the confidence, joy that my completely supportive spouse, family and closest friends were around me, regret that my father missed out on this event that would have been special for him, anxiety that I would get it all wrong, excitement that the year was going to be full of new experiences and most of all awe that even when we do not expect it God opens doors we cannot resist walking through. I said yes to my call to ministry at the Assembly that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ordination of Louisa Woosley, the first ordination of a woman in the denomination. My call was clarified while listening to the voices of Mary Lin Hudson, Missy DeBerry and Donna Heflin. I said yes again to a call to serve the church as moderator on the 125th anniversary of that ordination and was inspired by the voices of Tiffany McClung, Deborah Matthews and women nearing ordination Whitney Brown, Anna Sweet and Ellen Hudson. One of the messages that night was from a dear seminary friend, he included the usual good thoughts and prayer. But also a challenge. He brought to my attention the young people and many others in the church who are quietly suffering from marginalization

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“Song of Change” by Rev. Dwight Liles

By |2023-04-25T01:21:13-05:00April 23rd, 2023|

Rev. Dwight Liles As described in the Confession of Faith for Cumberland Presbyterians, the church, both as a collective and through its individual members, has a calling to promote reconciliation, love, and justice among all individuals, classes, races, and nations (6.32). These values are at the core of our beliefs as a church, and so we should strive to live them out in our daily lives. That's why we're excited to share "Song of Change" by Dove Award-winning Gospel/CCM songwriter and Cumberland Presbyterian Minister Rev. Dwight Liles. This powerful new protest anthem echoes the values of promoting justice that we hold dear and inspires us to come together to create a more peaceful and just world. Please listen and share this song widely! Rev. Liles emphasizes: "I have sole ownership of this song and wish for it to be used freely for the cause of justice, peace, and equity for all people." As we raise our voices and join hands, we can help spread this message and work towards a better future for all.  SONG OF CHANGE  It is time to lift our voices It is time to make it clear That we won't stop demanding justice And we refuse to live in fear CHORUS With songs of change, songs of freedom Songs of hope and songs of love Keep on singing, keep on marching Join your hands and rise above They will try to keep us quiet They will try to block our way But we will speak the truth to power And we will walk into the day CHORUS We will not resort to violence In our quest for what we seek But we will not remain in silence We will stand and we will speak CHORUS Words and music copyright 2023 by Dwight Liles. Guitar

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Japan Presbytery’s Response to the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution

By |2023-09-21T01:47:36-05:00March 21st, 2023|

On March 11, 2023, Japan Presbytery publicly announced their official response to the proposed exclusionary amendments to the Constitution of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America. Japan Presbytery urges the church to carefully consider its concerns and reject the proposed amendments. The full statement follows: Japan Presbytery’s Response to the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution 2.92, 4.2, and 6.35 Praise the name of the Lord! We, Japan Presbytery, extend our heartfelt greetings to all our brothers and sisters in Christ of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church around the world. We salute you for your unceasing service to the Lord and for your faithful ministry in each region, even in these difficult times. It is our great joy that we are saved by the gospel of reconciliation in the Lord Jesus Christ and connected with you in the bond of Christ to be one family of God’s people. Our General Assembly is a precious place where we reaffirm our identity as a global faith community. Now we of Japan Presbytery must share our concern about the constitutional amendments referred to the Joint Committee on Amendments by the 191st General Assembly. We beg you to listen to a voice from Asia before this matter is finally decided. The Confession of Faith of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church states that “God’s word spoken in and through the scriptures should be understood in the light of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth” (1.06). Jesus always acted to do God’s will even when he was criticized for breaking the Law. “What would Jesus do” is the principle our Confession of Faith upholds. If we exclude someone on the basis of rules in existing documents, we disobey that principle. Any resolution that would result in the exclusion of LGBTQ+

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Statement on Ending Conversion “Therapy”

By |2023-09-08T11:35:19-05:00February 4th, 2023|

A grassroots call to support the wellness of LGBTQ+ individuals by ending efforts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Sign Statement! Sexual orientation and gender identity or expression change efforts (SOGIECE) including conversion “therapy” (sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” “reintegrative therapy,” “therapy for those experiencing same-sex attraction [SSA],”) refers to a range of dangerous and discredited practices that aim to change, deny, or suppress one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Rather than cherishing the sacred gift of an LGBTQ+ individual as a person created in God's image, such practices force them into a fabricated existence, depriving them of the blessing of an authentic life. Regardless of the labels used to identify conversion “therapy” practices (CTP), they are neither legitimate therapy nor productive exercises in dealing with young people and/or those in the process of recognizing their sexual or gender identity. These interventions have been discredited by countless medical professionals and organizations and exposed as “dangerous”, “harmful”, and “lacking efficacy”.  Because of the higher rates of suicide within this demographic, at least 20 U.S. states and hundreds of municipalities have already banned conversion “therapy” by licensed mental health practitioners for minors completely, while 5 U.S. states and 1 U.S. territory have instituted partial bans. Globally, at least 14 countries have some form of a national ban on conversion “therapy” practices, and many other states, cities, and provinces have introduced legislation to protect their citizens from such abuse. As Christians, we recognize that any practice such as conversion “therapy”—involving as it does the exercise of mental and/or physical abuse, shaming, and manipulation of another—is sinful, and specifically at odds with the teachings of Christ. Study after study has shown that young people who are exposed to such practices are significantly more likely to suffer

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Church Called to Prayer & Action After Club Q Shooting

By |2023-04-23T22:49:22-05:00December 29th, 2022|

In the wake of the November 19th, 2022, mass shooting at a queer nightclub in Colorado Springs, Welcoming Cumberland Presbyterians urges church leaders across the U.S. and around the world to pray over the tragic loss of five lives and for healing for the 18 injured victims, and for their families and loved ones. Survivors of the Club Q shooting have pointed to the ongoing use of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric by political leaders as a contributing factor to the violence and loss of life they experienced. It is essential that leaders in both the church and society use language and actions that promote love and understanding, rather than hate and fear. The General Assemblies of Cumberland Presbyterian Churches have explicitly condemned hate, violence, and denigration perpetrated against any person, as well as any form of oppression based on gender or sexual expression. We call on church leaders to unconditionally denounce all forms of violence against members of the LGBTQ+ community. We believe such a message can discourage future perpetrators, and also expresses pastoral support to LGBTQ+ people in our communities. We urge church leaders to participate in demonstrations and vigils in support of LGBTQ+ people, and for all Christians to join efforts to end discrimination against them by supporting equality initiatives and laws. Befriending LGBTQ+ people and learning about the issues they face while eschewing stereotypes and misinformation will help end hateful attitudes and violence against them. By raising our voices now, we can provide hope in this time of tragedy and ensuring compassion and respect for LGBTQ+ people are an essential part of the church’s pastoral mission. “In her corporate life and through her individual members, the church is an advocate for all victims of violence and all those whom the law or society treats as less than persons for

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Rev. Lisa Anderson Speaks Out After Club Q Shooting

By |2022-12-29T19:26:54-06:00November 21st, 2022|

Rev. Lisa Anderson Following the Club Q Shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which killed five children of God, injured at least eighteen, and left countless people across the country traumatized, Reverend Lisa Hall Anderson, the founding executive director of Room in the Inn-Memphis and pastor of Colonial Cumberland Presbyterian Church condemned hateful rhetoric and exclusion targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Calling for repentance, Rev. Anderson wrote: "What we say matters, what we do matters. I am a Christian minister who believes that all are created by God in God’s image and are beloved by God. Because of the hatred and exclusion LGBTQ+ neighbors find places to feel safe, because of our tolerance for hate filled rhetoric in and out of the church even in those places they cannot be safe. Intolerance and exclusion is a sin and it is deadly." “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God, For God is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil. Joel 2:12-13

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Cumberland Presbyterians Denounce White Supremacist Gathering at Montgomery Bell State Park

By |2023-08-09T01:31:03-05:00November 9th, 2022|

The Statement On the hallowed grounds where the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was born, White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Klansmen will meet again November 18 - 20, 2022, to espouse their hateful beliefs. At the American Renaissance conference, participants desecrate the site as they justify, plan, and teach their racist version of American culture in the shelter of Tennessee's Public Land, Montgomery Bell State Park. As a grassroots group of concerned Cumberland Presbyterians, not only are we sickened by their racist ideology, we are heartbroken that they will again meet near the birthplace of our beloved church. In response to this meeting and in the face of rising extremism, we have a duty and a responsibility to speak up. Silence is complicity. Therefore, we state together and with a unified voice: We denounce White supremacy as evil and a threat to justice, peace and the common welfare. We petition the State of Tennessee and Tennessee State Parks to cease sheltering hate speech and providing a platform to individuals and groups promoting White supremacy. White supremacy undermines the safety, livelihood, and basic human rights of its victims and hardens its proponents against the dignity of all people. We vehemently oppose any ideology, philosophy, or theology that sees any human being as inferior to another - based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, age, nationality, or any other reason. We believe all persons are created in the image of God, even those who do not reflect God's love. We pray for those who suffer under oppression and those who deliberately ignore or are unconscious to it. We pray for White supremacists and those of us who benefit from its systemic practice, for the harm it does to our humanity, and that all our hearts may be transformed. We have

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Resolution of Repentance, Apology, and Resolve

By |2022-11-09T00:42:57-06:00November 9th, 2022|

Adopted by the 2016 Cumberland Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly: Whereas, we Cumberland Presbyterians are considering the call of God to “Go” during this 186th meeting of the General Assembly; and Whereas, Jesus sent the twelve with these instructions: “As you go, proclaim the good news. The kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:7-8); and Whereas, we seek the healing of our divisions as Cumberland Presbyterians; and Whereas, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was founded in 1810 in Dickson County, Tennessee, USA, and grew rapidly in a nation that endorsed, participated in, and benefited from the practice of enslaving African men, women and children who were brought to this nation through the brutal trans-Atlantic slave trade; and Whereas, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was inconsistent in its condemnation of American slavery as an institution -- an institution that condoned the buying and selling of persons made in the image of God; an institution in which African American families were often separated, and individuals were beaten and abused in body and mind; and Whereas, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church often condoned the segregation of its African American members into separate balconies, congregations, and classes because of the influence of cultural ideas of racial superiority and inferiority; and Whereas, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church refused to allow its African American members full and equal membership following emancipation and the end of slavery; organizing instead separate congregations, presbyteries, and other judicatories that were denied representation in the General Assembly, and Whereas, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church encouraged and supported the organization of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America (originally the Colored Cumberland Presbyterian Church) in 1874 in order to avoid the difficult work of integration, and to avoid offending its members who continued to hold fast

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In Christ, We Stand Against Exclusion & Oppression

By |2023-01-02T20:50:30-06:00October 30th, 2022|

Statement from a grassroots body of concerned Cumberland Presbyterians who take seriously our Call to love and minister in partnership with our siblings in Christ without regard for race, gender identity, or sexual orientation toward the realization of the Kingdom of God: In anticipation of our 191st General Assembly held in June 2022, many Cumberland Presbyterians were aware that Commissioners to that Assembly would be considering at least two exclusionary memorials, the submission of which represented the culmination of an extended campaign by a group of self-styled “traditionalists”, ultimately, to force adoption of their own legalistic, self-righteous, and hypocritical interpretation of scripture—that God could not possibly call members of the LGBTQ+ community to Christian service and ministry—as the will of our entire denomination. Regardless of one’s stance on the issues the memorials raised, there is little doubt that if fully implemented (or carried out), they would bring untold bitterness and division to the denomination.  While fomenting such bitterness and division may have been one of the goals of the memorials, reason and concerns for our unity prevailed within the Committee assigned the task of making recommendations on them. After thoughtful consideration and prayer, the Committee recommended denial in both cases.  Unfortunately, the body chose to reject the wisdom of the Committee and instead to slander the LGBTQ+ community and sanction the inevitable turmoil and pain that surely the memorials’ authors knew would result. It was an action that not only puts our denomination squarely on the wrong side of history, but also leaves us teetering tragically outside the foundations of our own faith.  At issue in this debate was the simple question, “will we divide the church by refusing to recognize and accept members of the LGBTQ+ community whom God calls and has already planted into the full faith, fellowship,

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Unity Amidst Diversity: By the Grace of God

By |2022-10-10T15:22:32-05:00October 10th, 2022|

By Matt McDonell Are we to be distracted by questions about sexual orientation, when we allow murderers to stand in the pulpit? Okay, I admit it, that headline is sensationalized and intended to grab your attention, but if you’re willing to stick with me for a bit I think you’ll see what I’m trying to say. There has been sharp division among Christians on the question of killing for as long as there has been a church (well, maybe not that long, but going at least as far back as Constantine). Is it ever permissible for a Christian to take a human life? The earliest church fathers held to a conviction that taking up the sword was not permissible for adherents to The Way. No less an authoritative voice than Saint Augustine argues for the permissibility of Christians to participate in a war so long as it is a “just war”, and Thomas Aquinas himself argued that a Christian political leader should use all force and authority available - up to and including the threat of execution - to compel adherence to the tenets of the faith by all under their influence, whether they identify as Christian or not (and who wouldn’t agree to identify as Christian under such persuasive incentives?). Among the worldwide fellowship of believers from those times up until today, there remain individuals, congregations, and entire denominations that hold firmly to the belief and practice of pacifism with the conviction that the taking of any human life is forbidden to Christians under any circumstances. The importance of these convictions is recognized even by our secular government, which will grant exemptions from military service on the grounds of conscientious objection for anyone holding to a conviction that their Christian faith prohibits the taking of a life no matter

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LGBTQI+ Solidarity Sunday

By |2023-09-25T01:13:49-05:00September 1st, 2022|

Ecumenical/Interfaith Anti-Violence Initiative Sunday, October 8, 2023 (or anytime in October) Join us in observing Solidarity Sunday, October 8th, 2023. Individuals from diverse faiths will pray together for an end to violence, hate, and harassment directed against our LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) neighbors, as well as all groups subjected such injustices. Anti-LGBTQI+ violence, hate, and harassment are a plague upon our churches, communities and world. In the USA, our LGBTQI+ neighbors are among the most targeted groups for hate crimes. Globally, 69 countries criminalize consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex and 15 countries criminalize the gender identity and/or expression of transgender people. Consensual same-sex acts are punishable by death in eleven countries. While people of faith have differing stances on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, we can all agree that violence, hate and harassment are not acceptable and that we must do our part to end them. Solidarity is coming together in spite of differences to protect the vulnerable and agreeing to stand together against violence, hate and harassment in our church and in society. The Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith and the 190th General Assembly's Statement Against Oppression calls on Cumberland Presbyterians to advocate for ALL victims of violence (without discriminating against those who are LGBTQI+) and to work together to end the oppression of sexual minorities in church and society, as expressed in the perpetration of hate, denigration, and violence. "The church is an advocate for all victims of violence and all those whom the law or society treats as less than persons for whom Christ died." (Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith, 6.31) "Echoing the Holy Scriptures, the Confession declares that humans are created in the image of God, so we believe that there is no place in

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I must stand in dissent and protest

By |2023-04-24T01:01:33-05:00June 24th, 2022|

Rev. Dwight Liles Rev. Dwight Liles writes regarding the exclusionary statement approved by the 191st General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church: I cannot be silent about this, at whatever risk. I cannot be silent. The Confession of Faith of my denomination, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, states in article 6.31 the following: "The covenant community affirms the lordship of Christ who sought out the poor, the oppressed, the sick, and the helpless. In her corporate life and through her individual members, the church is an advocate for all victims of violence and all those whom the law or society treats as less than persons for whom Christ died. Such advocacy involves not only opposition to all unjust laws and forms of injustice but even more support for those attitudes and actions which embody the way of Christ, which is to overcome evil with good." This week, the General Assembly of my denomination, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, adopted a statement towards the LGBTQ+ community within our denomination that stands in direct contradiction to the above paragraph of our Confession of Faith. I must stand in dissent and protest. I've seen too many of my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters disowned by their families, turned out of their churches, insulted, oppressed, and driven to depression, despair, and suicide, to remain silent. I am an ally of the LBGTQ+ community, and I will be so even if it costs me my ordination, and if because of that stand I am never invited to stand behind a pulpit again. I cannot be silent. The action taken this week by the 2022 General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church against the LGBTQ+ community within our denomination does not represent me, and I do not approve.

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Testimonies of Diverse Cumberland Presbyterians

By |2023-09-23T03:06:09-05:00June 22nd, 2022|

There are a diversity of Cumberland Presbyterians faithfully serving the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and they have been gifts to the denomination throughout its history. We invited a few folks to share their stories in order to help people throughout the church know a few of those whom the exclusionary amendments and discussions on LGBTQ+ inclusion affect most directly. These stories reveal deep faith and commitment to the church but also the damage that comes when people choose intolerance and seek to limit God’s calling on all kinds of people. These stories are an expression of our commitment to God, to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and to sharing the truth of our experiences and our faith. We recognize that our gay and lesbian siblings are not an exception when Scripture declares that God will pour out God’s Spirit on all flesh and that God is no respecter of persons. We hope these stories will be a step towards deeper connection and greater unity as we seek to break down any walls that may exist between us. Thanks for watching! WCP Stories: Allison & Elicia WCP Stories: Michael WCP Stories: Angela WCP Stories: Mandy and Jamie WCP Stories: Christi WCP Stories: Obed WCP Stories: Michael L If you are interested in sharing your story as a part of this project, please contact us. We will also accept anonymous submissions using an alias. Note on the use of the word "Queer" Queer is a word that describes sexual and gender identities other than straight and cisgender (those assigned either male or female at birth). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people may all identify with the word queer. Queer is sometimes used to express that sexuality and gender can be complicated, change over time, and might not fit neatly into either/or identities, like

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Concerns with Exclusionary Memorials (2022)

By |2022-07-06T23:22:59-05:00June 21st, 2022|

Welcoming Cumberland Presbyterians is a grassroots movement of LGBTQIA+ Cumberland Presbyterians and clergy, elders and laity who wish to increase participation in the church by living out our confessional calling to seek reconciliation among all groups of people and embrace all people in the life of the church. We have read and studied the memorials from Arkansas and Grace Presbyteries and find them to be divisive, exclusionary, unnecessary and even dangerous. It is our recommendation that the General Assembly deny these exclusionary memorials because they attempt to usurp the rightful and appropriate authority and discretion of presbytery and session to ordain who they see fit. The following concerns are not an exhaustive list, but we hope it will be a starting place for further conversation with our LGBTQIA+ siblings and their supporters.  It is essential we recognize that the church consists of those who in good faith come to different interpretative conclusions on the complex issue of sexuality and its members will exercise the prerogative to live according to their conscience. We believe the wisest path forward for the church is to continue to respect the rightful authority of presbytery to ordain who they see fit, respect freedom of conscience on same-sex relationships, and practice tolerance and forbearance towards those they disagree with rather than attempting to force universal conformity. It is very concerning that these memorials fail to recognize that LGBTQIA+ people are already faithfully serving the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and have been gifts to the denomination throughout its history. When Scripture declares God will pour out God’s Spirit on all flesh and that God is no respecter of persons this includes LGBTQIA+ people. But these memorials attempt to remove faithful servants of God from leadership and limit how God is moving in the hearts of members of the

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Prayer for 191st General Assembly

By |2022-08-02T02:04:35-05:00June 18th, 2022|

We offer this prayer as the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church meets in its 191st session this week in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Loving God, we offer you thanks and praise! As the week of General Assembly begins, we hold in prayer all who are travelling and making final preparations. We lift up each and every commissioner and youth advisory delegate and ask that you grant them openness, wisdom and courage as they seek resolve controversies and reflect your love in the life of the church. We ask a special blessing on those who have travelled to General Assembly seeking unity and peace. May the whole body find this unity and peace in Christ and may we see in each other the face of Christ. May hearts and minds be open to one another and to the moving of the Holy Spirit. The church means so much to so many and no one wants to lose their church family. Strengthen the bonds that connect us; let love and friendship grow. We pray that the diversity of the church be honored and that restrictive and exclusionary memorials and statements be denied. Give those attending grace beyond measure and the courage to speak up against that which divides, marginalizes and excludes. We lift up your faithful beloved LGBTQ+ members and leaders who only wish to answer their calls and continue to serve God in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Break down the barriers between us and help us to show love and grace in conversations with one another. Keep us all open to continued growth in faith and understanding. Guide and lead us, the General Assembly, the commissioners, the youth advisory delegates, the committees, all the judicatories, and the whole church ever forward into your healing love, justice and reconciliation. God, work

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Message to Commissioners from Rev. Abby Cole Keller

By |2022-06-17T19:58:49-05:00June 17th, 2022|

Rev. Abby Cole Keller Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:34-40) This past Sunday I preached a sermon on how God created each person with different aspects of God’s self. Thus, it is all of us in totality that reflect a part of God’s wonder and might. It takes the whole body to see the vastness and diversity of God. It takes the totality of God’s people to truly reflect the complexity of who God is—and even then, we fall short, by rejecting those that we deem ungodlike.   Jesus prayed that we be one. But, too often sin causes us to divide. This division prevents us from seeing the fullness of God and the wholeness that God desires for us. Political differences, theological pondering and pandering, humankind imposed ‘ideals’ all stand in the way of what God desires for God’s people, unity.   Story after story in the Bible, New and Old Testaments alike, reveal to us that God desires God’s people to work together for the glory of God. Yet, humanity works so hard to divide. Human nature (and sin) makes us divide into “us” and “them”; male and female; black, white and brown; and yes, now around differences in human sexuality and identity. God desires unity in God’s people, yet sin separates us from each other and thus from

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On Respecting the Blessing of Conscience

By |2022-06-22T16:45:51-05:00June 28th, 2021|

When I was an adolescent, I pictured my conscience as being God’s way of speaking to me—reminding me, when faced with a choice of two paths to take, that there was generally a right path and a wrong path, and helping me to choose the right one. Or if I chose the wrong path—as I sometimes did, despite the urging of my conscience—that the guilt I subsequently felt was the result of having tuned my conscience out; or to my child-like way of thinking—of having disobeyed, and thus disappointed God. Like most children, the choices with which I found myself faced were pretty much binary in nature—left or right, black or white, truth or falsehood, love or hate. Because I was reared in a caring community of faith—the Cumberland Presbyterian Church—my conscience was lovingly nurtured into a mature process for discerning the will of God in even complex choices through the encouragement of my Sunday School teachers, Youth Group Leaders, Pastors, and spiritual mentors. I was taught to study the foundations of my faith, encouraged to question them freely in my efforts to understand, to compare scripture with scripture, to pray and be open for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to employ critical thinking in using the intellect with which I’d been blessed, and ultimately, to think for myself—hand in hand with the Lord of our conscience. In 1991, the 161st General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church issued a Statement on the Sanctity of Persons as a means of coming to grips with the vast array of passionately-held opinions on abortion that were threatening to rip both the church and our society apart. In the end, that body proclaimed that “since Cumberland Presbyterians affirm a variety of views on abortion, it is not appropriate for the General Assembly

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A Theological Statement on the Inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ Community

By |2022-06-22T16:46:18-05:00June 21st, 2021|

A Theological Statement on Inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ Community in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (CPC) by Rev. Chris Warren The inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community in Christian Churches is an important topic for the Church of the early 21st century. Many have chosen a “side” and have become entrenched. Something like a battle line has been drawn. For the traditionalist, a common sense reading of scripture is clearly against same-sex relationships. For the progressive the whole arc of scripture is clear about inclusion. A careful, culturally-sensitive reading of scripture, sensitive to the culture when scripture was written and the cultural meaning given to similar words in modern usage, must be taken into account before excluding an entire community of people. This paper supports the inclusion of the LGBTQIA community in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Its purpose is to introduce readers who may be unfamiliar with cultural and biblical studies to alternate understandings of passages that have been used to exclude this community from full fellowship in the Church. Examples from the Church’s History The Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith (COF) reads in section 1.07: “In order to understand God’s word spoken in and through the scriptures, persons must have the illumination of God’s own Spirit. Moreover, they should study the writings of the Bible in their historical settings, compare scripture with scripture, listen to the witness of the church throughout the centuries, and share insights with others in the covenant community.” The Introduction to the 1883 Confession of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the first independent confession of faith created by the church reads, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it unfettered by the doctrines and commandments of men [sic] which are in any thing contrary to his word. The right of private judgment, therefore, in respect

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Open Letter for Freedom of Conscience on Human Sexuality

By |2022-06-22T16:47:17-05:00June 21st, 2021|

To: The Unified Committee on Theology and Social Concerns From: A grassroots body of concerned Cumberland Presbyterians advocating for the freedom of conscience bequeathed to all of us by our founders, specifically concerning a denominational position on human sexuality Pursuant to the granting of its request (from the 189th General Assembly) for more time to consider the issues surrounding the development of a denominational statement on human sexuality, the Unified Committee of Theology and Social Concerns has solicited input from Cumberland Presbyterians as they consider the task before them. It is no secret that passionate debate on this topic has consumed a significant amount time at meetings of Presbyteries, meetings of Sessions, and in private and public conversation among faithful Cumberland Presbyterians. A concern we wish to highlight with this communication is that in much of the debate, a critical detail concerning an essential element of Cumberland Presbyterianism—a detail that arguably has defined who we are to countless Christians who have come to faith precisely because of the freedom we encourage to be open to new understandings of scripture and growth through the influence of the Holy Spirit—has been neglected. As a reminder, on 4 February 1810, almost 210 years ago, Reverends Samuel McAdow, Finis Ewing, and Samuel King drafted a document organizing a new presbytery within the Presbyterian denomination to which they belonged after that body had failed to address grievances for which they had previously sought relief. Among other precipitating disagreements they had with their denomination was one over the doctrine of predestination, which they viewed as a form of fatalism. In their document establishing Cumberland Presbytery, our founders laid out certain conditions that those who wished to become members of the new body would have to meet. Significantly, one doctrinal condition was that “all candidates for the

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Cumberland Presbyterian Youth and Young Adult Statement on Inclusion

By |2022-06-26T02:22:50-05:00June 21st, 2021|

June 28, 2021 Dear Members of the Committee on Theology and Social Concerns and Unification Task Force, First, I want to thank you for your dedication and attention to this matter. I know that many in our churches have pushed for a quick answer or a hurried response, and I am heartened and grateful for your deliberateness and careful consideration of each person’s voice. Attached to this note is the Cumberland Presbyterian Youth and Young Adult Statement on Inclusion. It is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Ministry Council or any other official body of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It is also not meant to be representative of all youth or young adults in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Rather, it seeks to capture the voices of those who have not been previously heard--a contingency of people who yearn to see a full affirmation of all people in our church. As of June 28, 2021, 164 people have signed this statement. Of those who reported their age, 71% of the respondents were between the ages of 13-30. Among the 143 people who listed a presbytery, 15 different presbyteries were represented, including Andes and Medellin Presbyteries. As a representative of the signatories, I hope that you will prayerfully and earnestly consider our words. Our beliefs are based upon the teachings and scripture we learned in our CP churches, at church camp, and in youth group. We were taught by our leaders that each person is welcomed in church, loved by God, and called to serve God, including by serving as church leaders; we are now seeking to live out that teaching. Contrary to some characterizations of this view, our statement is drawn from Christ’s message of love and grounded in our reading of Scripture. While we may disagree, I ask that

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