On Jan. 31, the presbytery voted 150-106 that Williamson, chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor-in-chief of the Layman, does not have a ministry that is validated by the presbytery — a decision made after the presbytery’s Committee on Ministry accused the Layman of practicing “destructive” journalism.
The presbytery also granted Williamson “member-at-large” status, something he opposes. Williamson has been a member of the presbytery for more than 30 years — and he said during the meeting that making him a member-at-large would be an “oily compromise” that he considers unacceptable. Immediately after the vote, Williamson marched to the microphone and said he would seek a stay of enforcement.
Williamson apparently did not gather enough signatures — he needed one-third of those who’d voted at the meeting — to stay the presbytery’s action that way. But three members of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Mid-Atlantic Synod have agreed to approve a stay, according to Roger Harp, the synod’s executive and stated clerk. Under the rules, that’s enough. The presbytery’s decision involving Williamson will be stayed until his Williamson’s complaint that the presbytery acted irregularly is heard in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) courts.
The Committee on Ministry of Western North Carolina Presbytery has argued that Williamson’s ministry should not be validated by the presbytery because the Layman, the privately funded newspaper of which he is editor-in-chief, has a history of “destructive tactics and unending attacks upon women and men who are seeking to do God’s work through the offices of the PC(USA).” The committee originally recommended that Williamson be put on inactive status — but that was amended to member-at-large status on the presbytery floor.
Williamson disputed much of what the Committee on Ministry said.
In his appeal, Williamson contends, in part, that:
The Lay Committee provided material about its work that the Committee on Ministry and the presbytery’s Task Force on Validated Ministry did not read or consider;
The task force said Williamson’s work with the Lay Committee should not be validated because of the “character and conduct” of the Lay Committee’s ministry, but didn’t specify what it meant by that;
The Committee on Ministry met in closed session and did not meet with Williamson;
Williamson was not shown before the Jan. 31 presbytery meeting details of the Committee on Ministry’s presentation regarding why his ministry should not be validated, and he wasn’t given time to prepare a proper response to that presentation;
The presbytery’s Jan. 31 action violates the Book of Order provisions for granting member-at-large status.
The presbytery has not yet filed its response to Williamson’s complaint — once the complaint is properly filed, it has 45 days to do so.