published Monday, June 16th, 2014

Cumberland presbyterian church eyes unity in Chattanooga

Two branches — one black, one white — of the 204-year-old Cumberland Presbyterian Church are pondering reunification in Chattanooga this week.

It's not expected that actual reunification will happen during the national denominations' concurrent General Assembly at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, but it's exciting the Scenic City is where the two denominations are worshiping together and talking about a possible future merger.

"We feel there is no reason for us to be separated because God calls us together," said the Rev. Forrest Prosser, pastor emeritus of Red Bank Cumberland Presbyterian Church and moderator for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church for the past year. "We have the same basic history, confession of faith, same system of government, same name. It doesn't seem right to stay as separate denominations when we should be working together."

The largely black Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America (which now has 113 congregations) split from what is now the largely white -- and much larger (800 congregations) -- Cumberland Presbyterian Church less than 10 years after the end of the Civil War, actually remaining together longer than some denominations following the end of the conflict that saw master separated from slave. The new name for the potential unified church is the United Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Reunification has been attempted before, most recently about 15 years ago, according to Prosser. The process reached the level of votes in the individual General Assemblies, he said. However, while the Cumberland Presbyterian Church voted for reuniting, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America did not.

The analysis was that the effort was too top-down led, he said. "So many local pastors were afraid," he said. "[The CPC] is so much larger. The CPCA feared that they'd get swallowed up."

Prosser said the effort has been different this time around, with emphasis being put on the presbyteries (regional governing bodies) and the local churches.

"A lot of good things have happened this time that did not happen the time before," he said.

Since the last reunification try, the denominations have had individual services together and their Christian education committees have met together, Prosser said. Meanwhile, a unification committee began meeting last September and has continued to meet.

As moderator, which is essentially head of the church, he said he has been pushing "the myths of unification" and oversaw the dissemination of a reunification survey, which "came out fairly positive on both sides. There are always problems, but right now it's working good. I'm kind of upbeat about it."

In Chattanooga this week, the concurrent General Assemblies are being jointly hosted by the Hiawassee Presbytery (CPCA) and Tennessee-Georgia Presbytery (CPC), whose areas overlap.

According to minutes of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the report of the Unification Task Force suggests a plan of union be readied for a vote by the General Assemblies in 2016, and, if approved, sent to the various presbyteries for ratification in late 2016 and early 2017. If ratified, both General Assemblies will vote on revised bylaws and standing rules in 2017 and plan a celebration of the United Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 2018.

"We're still at the dating stage," said Prosser. "We're trying to focus in on the grassroots situation. My sense is it'll happen. You can't be sure about anything. But we're still in the getting to know each other stage."

"Many in both churches believe that the time for reunification has now fully come," said the Rev. Cliff Hudson, moderator of the Tennessee-Georgia Presbytery. "Change is scary, but change is an opportunity to do better ministry together."

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Instead of joining together to perpetuate the myths of Jehovah and the Bible, maybe you could just get together to have dinner, enjoy the company, tell jokes, eat good food, have a glass of wine or a beer, and decide to work on solving human problems.

There's no need of gods, divine intervention, or ancient rituals.

What is needed is a approach to work together to help humanity.

Just as you wouldn't put an old rubber boot into a stew, there's no need to put imaginary gods into the stew of human problems of living.

Both the old boot and Jehovah spoil the taste, ruin the stew, and often poison the diners.

June 16, 2014 at 9:32 a.m.

Jesus was not an imaginary god. He was a political social reformer who flipped the money changers table because the church was making money off the poor under the watchful eye of the Roman Empire. Jesus came to flip the social pyramid of his day and to teach...the first shall become last and the last shall become first.

These two Presbyterian camps are working together to help humanity because that is what they have done for over 200 years throughout the world. For it's size, the CPC and CPCA has done more to advance the message (that I wrote about above) of Jesus more than any other denomination in the USA.

Old boot? No, Jesus' message is just getting started. It hasn't even scratched the surface yet. One can't put old wine in new wineskins. That might be a better parable of Jesus for you to dig into, allahsyoungerbrother. Peace.

June 16, 2014 at 1:22 p.m.

There's no evidence of Jesus, Jehovah, or the Bible being anything other than creations by man. None.

There's no need of a real Jesus. If you want to follow what you believe are his teachings, do so. If you want to help humanity, there's no need to inject supernatural gods to do so.

Messiahs are and always have been a dime a dozen in all times. Jesus, if such a person ever existed, had a better PR team. But that man is long dead, flesh and bone long gone, and whatever his teachings were are perverted by those who make claims of divinity.

June 16, 2014 at 1:34 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

STP, whether you believe in a Jesus who was the actual "son of God" or a thoroughly mortal man who happened to be a great activist and reformer, his message was not new. Not one word that he ever uttered was earth-shatteringly unique. Virtually everything that he (supposedly) ever preached or spoke about had already been written of and spoken of before in the various pagan religions - Taoism in particular - that preceded Christianity.

Most liberal minded Christians today have the good sense to see the absurdity in worshiping Christ as a supernatural god-man, but they still cling to the notion that he was some sort of unique divinely inspired religious rebel who was destined to turn the world on its heels and usher in a new philosophy and morality. You say that "Jesus' message is just getting started," but no, it is not. It has been around for a long, long time, dating back to before even he himself (supposedly) came on the scene.

It is great that today's New-Age-ish Christians focus more on the love and compassion in the New Testament than on the hellfire-and-brimstone view of the self-righteous and judgmental fundamentalists, but they still needlessly and wrongly make of Jesus an idol. Truth is truth and it doesn't need a hero or a guru or an idol, either living or dead, to substantiate it.

But I suspect that even the more liberal minded Christians today are afraid of thinking entirely for themselves and have been sufficiently brainwashed to still believe in the primitive and preposterous dogma of "original sin" and a hell set aside for non-believers and the need for a "savior," even a thoroughly mortal one, to save them from those fires of hell. When Christianity at long last jettisons its dependency on a "savior" or a hero and lives for the clear and simple truths of brotherly love and compassion, then it will truly be a force for the good, and its practitioners will no longer feel the need to wear a label that sets them apart as "Christians."

Truth does not dwell in some holy spirit, it dwells in the here and now, free as the air we breathe. Jesus, whoever he was or wasn't, is dead and gone. Whatever inspiration or uplifting of spirit you might attribute to him is coming from within you yourself, here and now. That's a truism you might want to dig into.

June 16, 2014 at 2:10 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Ayb, you have said pretty much the same thing as I did but you've managed to say it in far fewer words. Well spoken...or written, rather. Brevity is the soul of wit (and wisdom), they say. :)

June 16, 2014 at 2:35 p.m.

Rickaroo, truth is one and sages speak of it by many names. I'm fully aware of the dozens of messiah motifs. There is a collective spirit and I'm discerning that you know enough about it to know that you don't know. It's a truism that was passed through Jewish Kabbalah, and is not some esoteric magic formula for a chosen few. You are right, it's for the here and now. There are Christians who are very well aware of that fact and spread the message. Jesus talked extensively about the "kingdom of heaven" and ideas such as "get behind me satan" to teach people to live in the present. It's not anything new, correct. But Christians hold 33% of the worlds power, so what a great platform to break down ignorance, right? Yes, it has just scratched the surface when one looks at it from this point of view. You missed the point.

However, I digress...this article is about the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and breaking down the walls of segregation. In large cities, and in rural areas, Sundays are extremely segregated and I'm glad to see that we have groups and denominations working to break down those walls. Restoring humanity takes time. Working with real people, with real everyday problems, and real everyday lives takes time.

June 16, 2014 at 3:15 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

STP, you make some good points. You are absolutely right about its being a good thing how the walls of segregation are coming down. I have often wondered why the churches have remained as stubbornly segregated as they have. If I were a Christian and a church goer it would be a black church that I would most likely attend. Their services have always been less structured and more joyful and spontaneous, and it's pretty obvious that most of those in attendance are truly "filled with the spirit." I just happen to think that the spirit they are filled with is a natural outpouring of the human spirit and not some mysterious supernatural power bestowed upon them by the "Holy Ghost" (Jesus). I have had my own experiences as a Christian in the past of being filled with what I thought was the "Holy Spirit." The human mind is capable of inducing any sort of feeling or experience it wishes, if the will to experience it is strong enough.

Christianity has made some goodly strides over this last century in evolving to a religion of love and compassion and divesting itself of the element of fear and blind obedience to stale and worn-out dogma. It will truly have evolved when it finally divests itself of the need to cling to a dead savior/guru as its idol or the fear of our own mortality or the desperate fantasy of living in an eternal paradise. The main question one needs to ask oneself is this: should I concern myself with how to live a moral life of principle and honor or should I primarily be concerned with bowing down in blind faith in order to attain eternal life? Too many Christians - even the more liberal, New Age type Christians, it seems - are still too concerned with the hope of eternal life and living a Christian life that will EARN them an eternity in paradise. But if one is primarily concerned with what constitutes a moral life of principle and integrity, one does not need Jesus or God for that. In fact, blind obedience to any deity or dogma is the antithesis of morality.

June 16, 2014 at 8:45 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

BTW..."Restoring humanity" only takes time if you have a particular goal in mind. What sort of goal do you have in mind? To convert humanity to your way of thinking? To an imagined world of love, peace, and perfect harmony? All one can do is live fully in the moment and see people as they are now, perfect in their imperfections, not distinguishing between "saved" and "unsaved" but everyone on their own path that is right or necessary for each individual. What happens in the future is beyond our control and to think that our actions are creating a better or more spiritual future is an illusion and a waste of time. Now is all we have, and eternity is as much a part of the present moment as is some illusory time in the future. Our spiritual evolution, if there is such a thing, is not linear. For every step forward that humanity takes, it takes another step or two or three backward, it seems.

June 16, 2014 at 9:13 p.m.

STP,

If your church is progressive then start speaking out against Christian fundamentalism.

Tell people the Bible is not meant to be taken literally. It's metaphors, allegories, similes, and older myths adopted by early Jews and Christians.

Tell the Christian fundamentalists that creationism is silly, immature, and backwards in the advance of science.

Tell the Fundies that homosexuality is OK; may not your choice, but your God and Jesus aren't buying the fundamentalist BS.

Tell the Fundies that women are equal to men with the same ability to speak in church, hold leadership positions, and are not to be silent and dominated by men.

Tell the Fundies that Revelation is a book of insanity, delusions, bad dreams and not to be taken seriously as "gospel."

Tell the Fundies that the Old Testament is full of rules and regulations that are the result of primitive tribes attempting to understand their environment, but not the word of some god to be taken literally.

Tell the Fundies that the only important things in the BIble are "Love Thy Neighbor" and "Do unto others" and the rest of it doesn't matter.

Tell the Fundies that they're wrong in all these matters that when they're condemning everyone to hell they've missed the point of Jesus' teachings.

Every time a Fundy gets on TV or radio to preach their hate, respond vocally and publicly to put down such tripe.

You must earn my respect for your deeds STP; not merely give lip service.

June 16, 2014 at 9:44 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

Great conversation in the comments here. Folks exchanging views, building on some things, disagreeing respectfully on others. How refreshing and sadly rare on these TFP forums. Good job.

June 17, 2014 at 9:53 p.m.
Ki said...

Rick regarding your June 16 8:45 pm comment. The only reason the 'walls' of segregation appears to be coming down is because christian religion in the west has been on a steady decline for sometime now. People have become so disenchanted with the hypocrisy that they've been turning away from it in droves. Those 'walls' coming down are for selfish reasons than selfless acts. Personally, I don't put too much stock in any of it.

June 17, 2014 at 10:26 p.m.

AYBROTHER, what exactly are you calling fundamental? Those who concertize their faith? You are right, the Bible is full of metaphors, allegories, similes, and older myth, but it's full of life for the here and now at the same time. The Protestant Reformation was only 500 years ago or so and it's taking scholars a good while to put the texts back together. Prior to that, what people believed was whatever the church told them to believe. The whole idea of thinking for oneself, without a Priest reading in Latin, is a fairly new concept within the last 500 years. The Renaissance and printing press changed everything...THANK GOD! :-) We have a ways to go, to change the ignorance and the corruption that was brought about by greedy opportunists.

I agree that Creationism is silly and we have a lot of scientific data that proves just that. However, IMHO...the message that Jesus brought of Love (that you guys pointed out has been around for a long time) science will never be able to prove that a deity or God or god does not exist. Google Einsteins views on Love. Am I saying God is Love? Probably. God is a name, thought, idea, but references to something that is beyond our thinking and understanding. God (The ALL or Absolute) is a mystery that will never be understood. You guys, or girls, obviously are interested in the concept or you would not be writing comments here. Even BILL MAHER, who says he is an atheist, talks about religion constantly. Why does he do that? Because he is haunted by God and Jesus. People who grow up in church are either haunted by Jesus or they accept his teachings. It's really that simple.

Did primitive tribes attempt to understand their environment by creating myths or stories to try and explain it? Yes, they did, but how did Native American Tribes (Pagan Tribes) come up with the same elemental stories as the Native European Tribes (Pagan Tribes) at the same time? The same creation stories? The same creation myths? They did this without knowing each other or ever having an impact on each other. It's the same common motif we see all throughout history. However, here is the difference with the Hebrew people versus those of a more polytheistic view. The Hebrews figured out that whatever God is, their was only ONE that existed. They belived that "I AM" or I BE" was the one "TRUE" God. What is that God?

Again, God is deeper than anything humans can ever come up with to try and describe what "God" is. In history, we have tried to paint it, draw it, write poetry about it, etc. But words cannot do justice because all we have is language to describe this mystery. Why does the gospel according to John talk about the "word"? What was that word referring to? Was it a perfect word? Could it be "AUM"? Is that why people who understand and respect the mystery meditate upon "AUM"? Probably. It's the perfect word. All vowel sounds are represented in the alpha and omega of this sound and mystery.

June 18, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.

BTW...Revelation was a book based on Apocalyptic Hope for the believers of that time. Contemporary scholars for the last 200 years have discovered that Revelation was written primarily to bring hope to Christians suffering persecution under the Roman Emperor, Domitian. Currently, those who are making money today from FEAR because of bad theology taken from Ezekiel have a special place in hell (whatever you believe Hell to be).

Homosexuals? This is our generations Civil Rights issue. It's almost like in the 60's when whites and blacks could not marry. Any church who calls themselves christian and locks the door or tuns someone away for whatever reason has a special place in hell, too.

You want me to keep going? I do this for a living. :-)

Seriously...hunter_bluff...you are right, this is a great conversation.

June 18, 2014 at 4:38 p.m.
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