Previously, union presbyteries sought to create unity and shared mission where none existed. Congregations and presbyteries are now looking at this idea to preserve a measure unity and mission that is in danger of dissolving.
Let’s face it, many congregations are now on a path to leave the PC(USA). Like it or not, that’s a given. Currently, most are leaving for the EPC. They will have no contact with their old Presbyteries and, regardless of the compensation a presbytery may receive, very few presbyteries will be able to successfully replace these congregations with a successful new church plant. A few presbyteries where many churches have left are now shadows of their former selves and may never recover.
But, in some of these presbyteries, many of the congregations that will be leaving have good relationships with their current presbyteries, even if they are disconnected from the denomination. They would happily stay connected and active in mission with their surrounding Presbyterian congregations, if there is a vehicle to do so.
So the options for some presbyteries are simply this:
- 1.Have a critical mass of churches leave the PC(USA), seriously diminish the mission and resources of the presbytery, and become functional competitors to any NCD.
- 2.Develop a vehicle (read “union presbytery”) by which a the presbytery and her congregations can stay unified in mission, even if some congregations move from the PC(USA).
What option would you take? Why is this idea so wrong or threatening? It sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
The new Form of Government has significantly streamlined outlines for union presbyteries. We were told the main reason to adopt this drastic revision of the FoG was to allow presbyteries to adopt new and creative responses to a changing world. This may well be an opportunity to see if we were actually serious about that.
No doubt this will become a work in progress. Adjustments and changes will be made. Different presbyteries will have different plans, to meet their individual needs and circumstance. But, these will not be your daddy’s union presbyteries.
Opposing the changes that are now upon us will not turn back the clock. The choices we have are only between better or worse options. If I have the chance, I will choose an solution that helps keep presbyteries united in mission with as many congregations as possible. If a union presbytery can do that, I’m all for it.
Rev Al Sandalow
1st Presbyterian Church