The signatories of this document wish to register the following Protest against the action taken today by West Tennessee Presbytery regarding the Resolution. Accordingly, we ask, a) that this Protest be entered into the minutes of West Tennessee Presbytery, and b) that this Protest be referred to the Committee on Judicial Concerns, as provided for in Section 5.64 of the Presbytery Manual of Operation and approved by the 158th General Assembly—or failing that, to the Synod of Great Rivers as provided for in Section 4.304 of the Rules of Discipline—with a request for a review and ruling as to the Constitutional and/or Confessional merits of our Protest. Our Protest is multi-faceted, being concerned with both the procedural legality of the Resolution and its disregard for our heritage—the very DNA—of the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination.
Procedural Objections
The Resolution, in its opening paragraph, establishes the “1996 Statement of the General Assembly on Homosexuality” (“Statement”) as its starting point, and proceeds immediately to quote those parts of the Statement that support the Resolution’s intent, exclusive of the final paragraph of the Statement. In its subsequent Whereas statements, the Resolution goes on to affirm selected parts of our Confession of Faith, and uses passages of scripture that are interpreted in such a way as to support the intent of the Resolution. The excluded Statement passage (endorsed by 1996 General Assembly as part of the rest of the Statement), while inconvenient to the purpose of the Resolution, reads as follows: “This statement is to be understood as a theological and social statement and not to be understood as a rule or principle for ordination but never to usurp the authority of presbytery or session to ordain.”
1. While we have no quarrel with the freedom of conscience the Resolution’s author(s) have exercised in arriving at the conclusions they have, our Protest concerns this body’s adoption of a document which is in the end a transparent effort to make an “adaptation” to a ruling of General Assembly that suits the personal scriptural interpretations of the Resolution’s author(s). The authority to change, rescind, amend, or make “adaptations” to an action of General Assembly rests ultimately with General Assembly. Therefore, we Protest the adoption of the Resolution by this body as out of order.
2. Assuming for the sake of argument that the Resolution were in order (which this Protest disputes), its adoption by this presbytery implicitly sanctions a violation of Article 2.21 of the Constitution of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church which, as interpreted by the General Assembly (see Digest, Session’s Jurisdiction Over Elders and Deacons), clearly establishes that all matters pertaining to Elders of a particular congregation are to be handled by the Session of that congregation, excepting cases where a formal complaint 38 has been lodged by one member of the congregation against another and the Session has failed in its duty to address the complaint—an exception that is absent in the current matter. The Resolution, in its 15th (next to last) paragraph, intentionally sets up a conflict to this privilege of the Session. Therefore, we Protest the adoption of the Resolution by this body as out of order.

Ecclesiastical Objections

We, the signatories of this Protest, observe that the Resolution neglects a critical detail concerning an essential element of Cumberland Presbyterianism—a detail that has defined who we are to countless Christians who have come to faith within the freedom of conscience afforded by our embrace of a “medium theology”. As a reminder, on 4 February 1810, scarcely more than 208 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 the 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 ministry, who may hereafter be licensed by this presbytery; and all the licentiates, or probationers who may hereafter be ordained by this presbytery; shall be required before such licensure, and ordination, to receive, and adopt the confession and discipline of the Presbyterian [sic] church, except the idea of fatality, that seems to be taught under the mysterious doctrine of predestination.” Having outlined this prerequisite for the full participation of licentiates and probationers seeking membership in the new presbytery, though, they immediately went on to say, “It is understood, however, that such as can clearly receive the confession, without an exception, shall not be required to make any.” [emphasis added]

In other words, our founders, while clearly preferring a doctrinal position that precluded the acceptance of predestination as a doctrine worthy of embrace, still allowed those who wished to join their new presbytery the freedom of conscience to embrace a different interpretation of scripture on the matter—even one supportive of a doctrine they so strongly opposed. This is, and has been a defining trait of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church since its founding—that members are not only free to question matters of scriptural interpretation (among other things), but encouraged to do so, that through the illumination of God’s own Spirit, by studying the writings of the Bible in their historical settings, comparing scripture with scripture, listening to the witness of the church throughout the centuries, and sharing insights with others in the covenant community, their faith might be strengthened as a result. To avoid judgment of the conclusions our brothers and sisters have reached on non-doctrinal matters as a result of their own good-faith study is part of who we are. This—the allowance within our body for different interpretations of scripture in nondoctrinal matters—is the real issue before us—not whether persons with same-gender attraction are to be permitted to participate fully in the life of the church. Our founders clearly valued what many today refer to as “freedom of religion” so highly that they specifically allowed for it even on a doctrinal matter. This body should do no less. Indeed, that is all we ask and all we expect from this body. We Protest the intended effect of the Resolution which is clearly to deny Cumberland Presbyterians freedom of conscience—“freedom of religion” in contemporary vernacular—on this or any other non-doctrinal matter.

39 Signatures on original protest: Jerry Edwards, [illegible], Cory D. Williams, D. White, M. Linda McGroom, John C. Clark, [illegible], Noah Quinton, Reverend Emily Trapp, Rev. Mark Brown; Rev. Whitney Brown, Rev. Lisa Anderson, Elder C. W. Trapp, Rev. Chris Todd. Church members, elders, and clergy reported to have added their names in support of the protest March 4 – 9: Elder Mark J Davis, Germantown Church; Elder Bethany Hollingsworth, Shiloh Church (CC); Elder Susan Hill, Shiloh Church (CC); Elder Ellen Alford, Cool Springs Church; Rev. Byron Forester; Elder Michelle Brown, Germantown Church; David Forester, Shiloh Church (CC); Elizabeth Forester, Germantown Church; Rev. Tiffany Hall McClung; Teri Thompson, Germantown Church; Rick Thompson, Germantown Church; Rev. Nathan Wheeler; Elder Jesse Davis, Germantown Church; Rev. William Warren; Rev. Steven Shelton; Elder Pam Irving, Brunswick Church; Elder Claudette Pickle, Germantown Church; Elder Michael Minton, Cool Springs Church; Ann Minton, Cool Springs Church; Elder Deana Kendall, Cool Springs Church; Elder Harold Dunivant, Cool Springs Church; Elder Mike Pruett, Cool Springs Church; Elder Gail Pruett, Cool Springs Church; Eleanor Forester, Germantown Church; Jamie Adams, Cool Springs Church; Robbie Robertson, Cool Springs Church; Elicia Scobey, Cool Springs Church; Rachel Forester, Germantown Church; Nelson Jackson, Cool Springs Church; Audrey Adams, Cool Springs Church; Jason R. Adams, Mt. Ararat Church; Rev. Linda Glenn; Elder Andrew Castleman, Medina Church; Elder Gene McReynolds, Medina Church; Elder Valerie Fowlkes, Cool Springs Church; Elder Beth Trapp, Olive Branch Church; Andrea McLeod, Olive Branch Church; Ian McLeod, Olive Branch Church; William McLeod, Olive Branch Church; Collin McLeod, Olive Branch Church; Jake Trapp, Olive Branch Church; Cassidy Kutz, Olive Branch Church; Rev. Elinor Brown; Elder Allison Stewart, Cool Springs Church; Elder Kim Moss, McKenzie Church; Elder Thomas D. Keenan, Jr., McKenzie Church; Charro Keenan, McKenzie Church; Michael Keenan, McKenzie Church; Joseph Keenan, McKenzie Church; Sierra Keenan, McKenzie Church; Elder Willie Mae Forester, Shiloh Church (CC); Elder Steve Forester, Shiloh Church (CC); Bethany Ingram Murphy, Germantown Church; Elder Gwen Holland, Shiloh Church (CC); Grace Holland, Shiloh Church (CC); Elder Jamie Groce, Germantown Church; Elder Angela Rogers, Germantown Church; Elder Richard Raines, Germantown Church; Elder Clay Jones, Germantown Church; Elder Bill Pickle, Germantown Church; Elder Diane Wyatt, Germantown Church; Elder Evelyn Swaffer, Germantown Church; Elder Debby Marston, Colonial Church; Elder Marilyn Godwin, Colonial Church; Elder Julie Knight, Colonial Church; Elder Bill Black, Colonial Church; Elder Linda Rainey, Colonial Church; Elder Linda Dinwiddie, Colonial Church; Rev. Donna Heflin; Laura Heflin, Germantown Church; Leanah Heflin, Germantown Church; Sherrie Nelson, Mt. Ararat; Jerry Nelson, Mt. Ararat; Helen Clifford, Mt. Ararat; Bekah Bowlin, New Ebenezer; Elder Adam Campbell, Union City; Andy Nelson, Union City; Emma Frey, Germantown; Anna Sisson, Germantown; Cassidy Cox, Germantown; Caroline Phillips-Burk, Germantown; Ian McClung, Germantown; Matthew Adams, Mt. Ararat; Elder Frank Hines, Hopewell (BC); Adrienne Walters, Olive Branch; Elder Linda Spaulding, Hopewell (BC)

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