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Presbytery of East Tennessee E-Newsletter                                 July, 2014


In This Issue
221st General Assembly
Peacemaking Committee
Board of Pensions Seminars
Urgent Need for School Kits
News & Events Around the Presbytery
Quick Links
Presbytery Staff

Judd Shaw

General Presbyter

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James McTyre

Stated Clerk

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Bri Payne

Executive Director, John Knox Center



Dana Hendrix

Office Manager

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Gwen Pyle

Financial Administrator

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221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

From Judd Shaw, General Presbyter 


Ephesians 1:15-16


Last week, the COBO Center in Detroit was packed with ruling and teaching elders of the PC(USA). Their responsibility as commissioners of the 221st General Assembly had a single focus to discern the will and way of God.


These elders were elected by their presbyteries to pray together, worship together, debate together and seek God's direction through the Presbyterian practice of committee and council discernment. The voting equipment did not work at first, but they stuck with it. The debates and discussions were vigorous and open, but they stuck with it. The decisions were popular to some and disappointing to others, but they stuck with it. Our Presbyterian Polity holds that God works through our councils. God's Holy Spirit touching the minds and hearts of the faithful elders who have gathered. We profess that God Almighty is Sovereign. This is truly one of the essentials of the Reformed/Presbyterian doctrine.


Commissioners from the Presbytery of East Tennessee gather for a meal with others attending the General Assembly. 


At the General Assembly in Detroit, several decisions were made that prompted very mixed reactions. Regarding marriage, the first action was the adoption of a new Authoritative Interpretation of the current 2013-2015 Book of Order, W-4.9000, which permits teaching elders (ministers) to perform marriage in states where same gender marriages are legal. At the same time, the Authoritative Interpretation specifically allows teaching elders and sessions the freedom to not participate in same-sex marriages, even though the state may legally permit it.


The second action regarding marriage is a proposed constitutional amendment to the Book of Order, W-4.9000. This action requires the approval of a majority of the 171 presbyteries, and seeks to replace the current language in W.4-9000 with this new Language:


"Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people (traditionally a man and a woman) to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and wider community."


"In civil law, marriage is a contract that recognizes the rights and obligations of the married couple in society. In the Reformed tradition, marriage is also a covenant in which God has an active part, and which the community of faith publicly witnesses and acknowledges"


"If they meet the requirements of the civil jurisdiction in which they intend to marry, a couple may request that a service of Christian marriage be conducted by a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), who is authorized, though not required, to act as an agent of the civil jurisdiction in recording the marriage contract. A couple requesting a service of Christian marriage shall receive instruction from the teaching elder, who shall agree to the couple's request only if, in the judgment of the teaching elder, the couple demonstrate sufficient understanding of the nature of the marriage covenant and commitment to living their lives together according to its values. In making this decision, the teaching elder may seek the counsel of the session, which has authority to permit or deny the use of church property for a marriage service."


"The marriage service shall be conducted in a manner appropriate to this covenant and to the forms of Reformed worship, under the direction of the teaching elder and the supervision of the session (W-1.4004-.4006). In a service of marriage, the couple marry each other by exchanging mutual promises. The teaching elder witnesses the couple's promises and pronounces God's blessing upon their union. The community of faith pledges to support the couple in upholding their promises; prayers may be offered for the couple, for the communities that support them, and for all who seek to live in faithfulness."


"A service of worship recognizing a civil marriage and confirming it in the community of faith may be appropriate when requested by the couple. The service will be similar to the marriage service except that the statements made shall reflect the fact that the couple is already married to one another according to the laws of the civil jurisdiction."


"Nothing herein shall compel a teaching elder to perform nor compel a session to authorize the use of church property for a marriage service that the teaching elder or the session believes is contrary to the teaching elder's or the session's discernment of the Holy Spirit and their understanding of the Word of God."


Another action that has created much discussion was the adoption of an overture to divest from companies that did not comply with the Presbyterian Church (USA) long standing Socially Responsible Investment policy. I have included the adopted action below.


"In service to God's love and justice for all of the people of Palestine and Israel, and in accord with international law concerning self-determination and human rights, the Presbytery of San Francisco overtures the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to:


1. Instruct the Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to disinvest from Caterpillar, Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, in accord with our church's decades-long socially responsible investment (SRI) history, and not to reinvest in these companies until the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee of the PC(USA) is fully satisfied that product sales and services by these companies are no longer complicit in


   a.  the building and security of illegal Israeli settlements, which U.S. foreign policy, and most recent U.N. fact-finding mission determine to be an obstacle to peace;


   b. the construction and maintenance of walls and fences that illegally encroach upon Palestinian lands, destroying Palestinian rights to own property and pursue livelihoods;


   c. the management of checkpoints that dehumanize Palestinians and cut off innocent civilians from their property and natural resources;


   d. contributing to and profiting from the relentless, five decade long, military occupation of the Palestinian territories."


This action was not a divestment in Israel, but the denomination's attempt to be consistent in its investment policy.


There were many other actions taken by the 221st General Assembly. These actions can be found in detail at


I give thanks for all of the faithful ruling and teaching elders who gave their time on behalf of the church. They took their responsibility to heart and prayerfully considered the work placed before them. I'm thankful that they all voted faithfully as they felt the leading of the Spirit. I trust and I'm thankful to our sovereign God that if the decisions that were made were not according to God's way, God will guide us to the corrected path.


I'm especially thankful to the commissioners from the Presbytery of East Tennessee: Ruling Elders Brenda Hooper and Jeff Paris, and Teaching Elders Wendy Neff and Miki Vanderbilt, and Young Adult Advisory Delegate Ben Terpstra.


Our commissioners will be leading three GA Forums:


Sunday, July 20th - Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (3805 Maloney Road SW, Knoxville), 3:00pm - 4:30pm


Tuesday, July 22nd - Mars Hill Presbyterian Church (205 North Jackson Street, Athens), 7:00pm - 8:30pm


Sunday July 27th - Rivermont Presbyterian Church (3319 Hixson Pike, Chattanooga), 3:00pm - 4:30pm


Please note that the GA Forums are for information regarding the 221st General Assembly. The debate and vote on amendments and actions coming from the General Assembly will come before the presbytery at a later time.


I give thanks for all of you and for your faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. May God continue to guide us as we walk Christ's journey together.


Ephesians 3:14-20


Related Links:


Pastoral Letter on Marriage from the General Assembly leadership

Pastoral Letter on Marriage from Presbyterians for Renewal and the Fellowship of Presbyterians

FAQ regarding General Assembly actions concerning Marriage

FAQ regarding General Assembly actions concerning Divestment

Talking points regarding Divestment

Read about other actions of the General Assembly

Peacemaking Committee

50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act 


Come join the PET contingent in the short parade and program, Wednesday, July 2, at 6 p.m., to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that ended legal segregation of the races in the U.S.A.!  We'll meet in the parking lot of Knoxville's Police Dept./Public Safety Bldg., 800 Howard Baker, Jr., Ave., 37915 (just off E. Hill Ave.) at 5:40 p.m.


We'll march (only 20-minutes) to Mt. Olive Baptist Church, to meet two major workers for Civil Rights at that time.  They are Rabbi Israel Dresner, arrested in 1961 for non-violent witness, and Ms. Dorie Ladner, jailed the next year for trying to desegregate a Woolworth's lunch counter.

The Civil Rights Bill was steered through the U.S. Senate mainly by the heroic, bipartisan efforts of Republican Senator and Dutch Reformed layman Everett Dirksen, of Illinois, and Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, of Texas.


Mercy Junction recognized by Presbyterian Peace Fellowship


The Peacemaking Committee of the Presbytery of East Tennessee was happy to learn that the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship recognized our own Presbytery's Mercy Junction (New Church Development) on June 18th, at the General Assembly.   Along with six other entities across the country, Mercy Junction was identified as "an emerging peace community whose witness will inspire the whole Church to develop a distinctive witness for peace over the next decade."  


The announcement of the award states:  "The seven Peace Communities-modeled on those early Pentecost communities-have been chosen to receive $500 per month to help them impact the broader Church as they develop a common life of prayer, study, and nonviolent direct action for peace. We trust that their witness will deepen the resolve of the Peace Fellowship and strengthen Presbyterian witness in the world.


The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship's description of Mercy Junction states:  "Founded by the Rev. Brian Merritt in conjunction with the Presbytery of East Tennessee and Northminster Presbyterian Church, Mercy Junction is a "community of faith, rooted in social justice, devoted to addressing systemic food and housing inequalities. We are guided by the Holy Spirit to express God's unbiased love to all people through action in our community." Mercy Junction seeks to challenge and change systemic conditions that create the violence called poverty. Our work has included foreclosure defense, community gardening, giving away food, supporting living wage and labor campaigns, and extending our commitment to non-violence to include non-human animals."


Climate 1000 - July 12 in Market Square


The Presbytery Peacemaking Committee would like your help in publicizing the following event in your congregations in Knoxville:  


On Saturday, July 12th, from 4-9 p.m., "Climate 1000" will be held in Market Square.  This is a rally to support a weatherization project for low-income Knoxville homes as well as the EPA's new rule proposal to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.  This event is sponsored by Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, Socially Equal Energy Efficiency Development (SEEED), Beyond Coal Campaign, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.


Board of Pensions Seminars
Growing into Tomorrow...Today
A Retirement Planning Seminar
September 23-24, 2014
Mars Hill Presbyterian Church
205 North Jackson St., Athens
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., ET, both days

This free two-day seminar is for plan members and their guests who plan to retire within the next fifteen years. Look beyond finances to be informed, educated, and inspired for a journey toward wholeness in retirement living.
  • Identify key questions for discernment
  • Assess your finances
  • Discuss healthcare and housing options
  • Create next steps in life balance, relationships, housing, health, and finances
Additional information and registration

Getting in Shape Fiscally
A Financial Planning Seminar
September 25, 2014
Mars Hill Presbyterian Church
205 North Jackson St., Athens
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., ET

This free one-day seminar is for plan members, seminarians, and their guests. It's an introduction to Board seminars and general financial planning. Attend and learn about:
  • money danger signals
  • how to build budgets
  • clergy tax and terms of call basics
  • saving and investing
  • estate planning basics
Also, attending the entire seminar fulfills one grant application requirement for the Board's Seminary Debt Assistance Program.

Additional information and registration

The registration deadline for these seminars is August 22.
Urgent Need for School Kits
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance logo

With the latest shipment of Church World Service (CWS) Gift of the Heart School Kits to our partner IOCC in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the number of School Kits is down to about 60 cartons at
the New Windsor Warehouse and 120 cartons at the warehouse at Ferncliff.

We need to replenish these supplies immediately.

Gift of the Heart School Kits give children in impoverished schools, refugee camps, or other difficult settings some of the basic tools for learning, so it is vitally important that we replenish our supplies as quickly as possible.

* In the case of Syria, IOCC supports one of the largest established networks to deliver life-saving humanitarian aid inside Syria, where more than 9.3 million people are currently in need of assistance.
* In November 2013, approximately 3,000 School Kits were shipped for distribution in Syria.
* Gift of the Heart School Kits include some of the basic necessities for learning, including notebooks, pencils and crayons.
* These kits help children return to normalcy faster, helping them avoid the long-term effects of trauma.

Learn how to assemble Gift of the Heart School Kits.
News & Events Around the Presbytery
Eusebia Church remembers Revolutionary War Veterans - June 29

Members and friends of historic Eusebia Cemetery, Seymour, will gather Sunday, June 29, to place "Betsy Ross" American flags on the graves of the 15 known veterans of the Revolutionary War there.


At the 10:20 a.m. event children and youth of adjacent Eusebia Presbyterian Church, some of them, descendants of the buried patriots, will set the original, 13-star American banners onto each tomb.  The flags will remain in place through July 4.


At least two of these early warriors for U.S. independence fought with Col. John Sevier at the crucial Battle of King's Mountain, October, 1780, a total defeat for Loyalist forces, that ultimately led to the surrender of Cornwallis and the end of the conflict, a year later.  Read more... 


After each patriot's grave displays a "Betsy Ross" flag, a "Service of Thanksgiving and Prayer for the Nation" will follow in Eusebia ChurchGraveyard and church are located at 1701 Burnett Station Rd., corner of U.S. 411, between Seymour and Maryville.  


Newton Child Development Center appreciates Presbyterian Women of the Presbytery

The Board of Directors at Newton Child Development Center in Chattanooga would like to thank the Presbyterian Women for their kind contribution of $800.00 in April 2014.  Their support and encouragement is critical in helping us care for families of the west side community and provide them with good, affordable child care in a loving Christian environment.


Madeline Swanson, the director of Newton, continues to juggle well the responsibility of maintaining the facility, providing continual training for the staff, and partnering with the community to bring in educational opportunities that are fun and interactive for the children.


After a bitter, cold winter the children are enjoying being outside again and are having a great time on the new playground built last year.  However, along with the warm weather and school being out come challenges for an inner-city community.  We ask for your prayers for this neighborhood as we enter the summer months.


Newton has a Facebook page which includes pictures of the children and news of upcoming events at the center.  Please visit the page to see the bright, happy faces of those who are being impacted by your generosity. 


With much gratitude,

Sue Steels, Board Member


Tennessee Valley Fair Hosts Mid-Week Retreat

Wednesday, September 10 at 7:00 pm  

Featuring Big Daddy Weave 


Festivities kick-off at 6:30 PM with a message, concert begins at 7:00 PM.  Special $7/pp group rate (inc. fair admission + concert) offered until September 1.   Event Flyer 

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We invite you to share your news with us.  All articles and news items must be submitted by the 20th of the month prior to publication.  Send your information to Dana Hendrix,