The Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC), composed of disenchanted members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA) is controversial if it is anything. Through its publication, the Presbyterian Layman, the organization has ruffled more than a few feathers among denominational leaders. (For the most recent example, see “A Barroom Ministry Runs Amuck,” p. 62.)

But despite its decidedly un-Presbyterian style, the PLC may be more popular than church officials have thus far been willing to admit.

Over the past year and a half, a special denominational panel has held a series of hearings with PLC representatives, attempting to bring about reconciliation.

At the most recent hearing, held in September in Chicago, all but one of the 20 who showed up to testify voiced strong support for the PLC, according to Religious News Service. Previous hearings, as well as thousands of letters sent to the special panel, have similarly indicated that grassroots Presbyterians look favorably on the PLC.

But James V. Johnson, chair of the panel, is unconvinced. “Intuitively we do not believe that the Presbyterian Lay Committee is as popular as what we have heard and read would indicate,” he said. And so the panel has commissioned a scientific survey to gather what Johnson describes as “a broader sampling of opinion from throughout the church.” Johnson said he expects the survey to reveal a more balanced opinion of the PLC, though he added, “We may be surprised.”

Because of its aggressive, abrasive style and its right-wing politics, even many conservatives within the PCUSA have kept their distance from the PLC. But they are hesitant to criticize the Lay Committee publicly because it has raised issues of broad concern to conservatives and moderates, issues ...

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