A few months ago you might remember reading an article written by long-time Outlook friend and writer, Earl Johnson, titled, “What’s right with your church?” He indicated that soon we would be asking our readers to submit for publication those aspects of their churches that they wanted to celebrate and hold up as examples that would inspire and encourage others. Well, the time has come. Starting this spring, we will be featuring your stories of what is right with your church in the “at a glance” section in the front of the magazine. We hope you can keep them brief (about 150 words) — and feel free to also send a photo or two. Depending on how many we receive, we may put some on our website as well. You can email them to me at [email protected].
Despite much of the negative news — from recent Pew surveys to the daily headlines — faithful people are passionately engaged in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed. We want to remind those in our communities and outside of them that the Holy Spirit is at work in our midst and therefore we need not be anxious. Even in our post-modern, post-Christendom, post-denominational age, God is working through Presbyterians near and far. So, please share with us the new, life-giving things God is doing in your context.
This issue of the Outlook lifts up some of what is right about the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We have a long history of global mission that continues to thrive, even in the face of threatening circumstances and ongoing budget cuts. We are highlighting one of the areas where it is most difficult to serve Jesus Christ in our day and time: the Middle East. Cleary, this is a large, complex region and we are limited in what we can cover. As a result, we have decided to devote most of these pages to the work of one of our mission co-workers, Scott Parker. I think what Scott shares will inspire you and I hope it moves you to want to support not just Scott and his family, but the many mission co-workers doing remarkable work all over the world.
Both Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission for the PC(USA), and our own national reporter, Leslie Scanlon, offer some context for this issue. Hunter provides a concise history of Presbyterian mission in the Middle East and Leslie gives some statistics that detail the many drastic changes that have impacted Christians in the region.
I also want to encourage you to visit our website for additional content. Amagad Beblawi, the area coordinator for the Middle East and Europe in World Mission for our denomination, has written a thoughtful and accessible article about ISIS. He documents how ISIS came to be and how the church might respond in faith to its threats.
Finally, you will find two reviews of Walter Bruggemann’s latest book, “Chosen” as well as Bruggemann’s response to those reviews. These represent the intensity and diversity of views regarding Israel and Palestine. They also represent something right about our church: a willingness to wrestle with difficult issues, knowing that faithful people may well come to different conclusions and yet remain certain that God is at work even when consensus is far off. Walter Bruggemann states in his response that the intent of his book is to invite readers into an “urgent conversation.” I hope this issue does likewise. If so, it too will prompt something right about our church.
Judging from the ministry of Presbyterians in the Middle East and indeed all over the globe, news of the death of the PC(USA) has been greatly exaggerated. There is much that is right about our church even as there is much that is in need of God’s transformation. We need always remember, however, that God doesn’t give up and surely is still at work both on us and through us. Let’s share the news of the abundant and eternal life that Christ has given us; the world needs to know of it.
So, tell us, what is right with your church?
Grace and peace,