At about three million members, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA) is bound to have criticism from within. In fact, most of the “Chapter Nine” organizations (special interest groups formally registered with the denomination) represent conservative agendas that include a return to evangelism and the unique authority of Scripture. And one such group, the Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC), has been especially aggressive in its criticism.

The PLC’S main activity is the publication of the bimonthly Presbyterian Layman newspaper, whose circulation of 620,000 makes it the most widely received publication within the denomination. The paper aggressively challenges official church positions, especially on political issues. Critics of the Layman claim it is divisive; it has been formally accused by the denomination of “journalistic excess” for its unqualified criticism of denominational stands.

PLC president J. Robert Campbell points out that denominational investigations of the Layman have revealed no improprieties. The denomination’s general assembly, however, denied the PLC certain Chapter Nine privileges because of a technicality related to solicitation of funds. The assembly took no action against five other Chapter Nine groups who violated the same regulation.

Campbell objects to the denomination’s control of the Layman’s access to church membership lists—a primary source of potential subscribers. The general assembly last year ruled that leadership in local churches must authorize the release of membership lists; PLC has defied the ruling. “We contend that once a membership list is circulated to a congregation, it is public.”

Abrasive Style

Even among those who ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.