Members of the 2020 Vision Team say they want to craft a vision statement for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that is short, hopeful and not focused on structure.
Something that you can read as you run by it, suggested Becca Snedeker-Meier, a student from Wooster College in Ohio.
Something that could fit on a bumper sticker or a T-shirt, said Lisa Juica Perkins, a pastor from Texas and co-moderator with Bernadette Coffee of the 2020 Vision Team. “When you see it, you automatically know what organization they’re a part of.”
Something that’s “short, quick and that would really tell the world who we are, and become our catch phrase,” said Joshua Andrzejewski, a hospital chaplain from Virginia.
He also said: “This should be hopeful and get people really energized about what the church is doing and how individuals can be part of that.”
Examples team members offered as guideposts:
From the United Methodists: “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.”
“God is still speaking,” from the United Church of Christ. (That image includes a comma – sometimes drawing from the catchphrase “Don’t put a period where God has put a comma.”)
During a conference call Oct. 10, members of the Vision Team started laying out ideas – partly as preparation for the team’s in-person meeting in Dallas Nov. 12-14. These are still preliminary – initial thoughts and impressions, including what the team has learned from surveys and from conversations its members have been holding for months now with Presbyterians, people who work in proximity with the denomination (such as college chaplains or ecumenical groups) and some who have no connection with the PC(USA) at all.
The 2016 General Assembly created the 2020 Vision Team and instructed it to devise “a guiding statement for the denomination and make a plan for its implementation with all deliberate speed.”
In addition to creating some sort of a short vision statement, members suggested including in their report to the 2016 General Assembly what Chris McCain, an elder from Atlanta, described as a longer piece “explaining the underpinnings that give rise to that vision” – making it clear the vision statement draws on Scripture, the Reformed theological tradition and the PC(USA) constitutional documents.
McCain also said he wants language that “is very accessible and hopeful” and that “utilizes language that is resonant and relevant to the times we live in.”
Team members also said, however, that they want the report to reflect some of what they’re hearing in the discussions they’ve convened in recent months – and that includes what Perkins and Coffee described for the All Agency Review Committee in a conference call Oct. 9 as a pervasive sense of lament. “People are lamenting like crazy across the church,” Perkins told All Agency Review – much more so than expressing joy.
All Agency may be sensing more joy, in part because of positive reports it has received regarding initiatives of the six PC(USA) agencies, Perkins said. That may also reflect some “disconnect between the agencies and the local church, where we’ve been listening,” she said on the conference call.
Michael Fagans, an elder from Mississippi, said he spoke recently to students at a UKirk service, and sensed “there is a giant disconnect at least here in Mississippi with students and the church. No wanted to talk to me. No one was interested in what we were asking” – questions from the vision team’s three surveys (for those inside the PC(USA), adjacent to it and outside).
The Vision Team’s report needs to point out to the PC(USA) in some way “that we are increasingly becoming disconnected from the world,” Fagans said. He also had a conversation with a pastor worried that “we’re not having any relevance for folks Monday through Saturday.”
The Vision Team needs to talk to people outside the PC(USA), because “those are the folks whose needs are not being met. Those are the folks who are not being fed at the table” or who don’t feel invited, Fagans said. “There are people who are really hungry for what we can offer them, but they are not feeling welcomed in the church. … We also need to increase what our call to the table is or what we imagine the table looks like. How do we invite folks?”
Joshua Narcisse, a student at Yale Divinity School, said he has also sensed in his conversations energy for supporting the work of the church, including ecumenical and interfaith initiatives. “Folks want to feel connected, want to feel valued to the national church, and also want to do some work across denominational and faith lines,” Narcisse said.
Team members said, however, that they don’t want the vision statement to get entangled with structural questions – those matters might come later, in the implementation piece, or be seen more as the work of All Agency Review and the Way Forward Commission, both of which will also report to the 2018 General Assembly in St. Louis.
Team members have also said – following up on an idea suggested last summer by Karen Sapio, a pastor from California – that Presbyterians ought to be able to sing the vision statement or set it to music. Perkins also wants it represented by art or images. “When you see it and you hear it and you sing it, you know.”
Coffee has compiled a collection of more than 30 vision statements from churches and nonprofits. Those from churches tend to be longer (200 words or more) and those from nonprofits shorter, Perkins said.
And McCain said the church statements tend to express more “Here is what we are called to do” and those from nonprofits more “What is the world we want to see?” An example, a vision statement from Oxfam International: “A just world without poverty.”
In preparation for the Vision Team’s next meeting, Perkins asked the team’s 15 members to share by Nov. 6 their responses to this question: “What is God’s unfolding vision for the PC(USA)?”
And between Nov. 6 and 12, they’ll review those responses and then answer these four questions:
- What images, words or phrases stick out to you from these responses?
- What themes emerge for you across the responses?
- What questions are coming up for you in light of these responses?
- What is God saying to you now and to the church?
On Oct. 15, Perkins will, along with Mark Hostetter, moderator of the Way Forward Commission and Jim Wilson, a member of All Agency Review, address a plenary session of the Mid Council Leaders Gathering in St. Louis – discussing the implications of the work those three groups are doing for synods and presbyteries in the PC(USA).