A leading Presbyterian activist could be stripped of his ordination after suggesting that conservative churches should withhold funds from the denomination.

In a closed session, local church officials voted December 9 to recommend that Parker T. Williamson, a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), be placed on inactive status in the Western North Carolina Presbytery. Williamson did not attend because of a previous commitment.

Williamson is executive director of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor of its newspaper, The Layman. Both organizations are headquartered in Lenoir, North Carolina, where Williamson was pastor of First Presbyterian Church.

On October 18, the Lay Committee adopted a Declaration of Conscience that urged churches to "prayerfully consider" denying money to the national church. The statement said "spiritual schism" exists: "We are two faiths within one denomination."

Presbytery officials said they were concerned about the "character and conduct" of the Lay Committee. "It isn't Parker. It is the ministry in which he is engaged," Mary Atkinson, who chaired the church task force that made the recommendation, told Presbyterian News Service.

What tipped the scales for the task force, she said, was the call for church sessions to consider withholding per-capita and mission funds from the denomination.

If the entire presbytery agrees with the decision when it meets on January 31, Williamson will be barred from participating in presbytery meetings. If he is not returned to good standing within three years, he will be stripped of his ordination.

Williamson told The Layman, "Presbyterians who care more about institutional preservation than constitutional integrity have won a short-term skirmish in a battle that is wider than they can imagine."

Kevin Eckstrom, RNS, with Presbyterian News Service

Related Elsewhere:

The Declaration of Conscience is available from The Layman, which has covered the issue.

The newspaper also has a bio of Williamson.

The Presbyterian News Service also covered the story.

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