Given the precipitous decline in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in terms of membership since the mid-1960s, and the prospect of a much-diminished witness in the not too distant future, it has seemed appropriate to raise these issues, suggest some interpretations, but mainly to put forward questions, primarily of a theological character, as to who we are as Presbyterian children of God, what gifts we bring, and what use God might make of them collectively in our time.
The covenant theme is a persistent one in Scripture and in our confessional/theological tradition, and it has been the organizing concept for this last series of editorials. It has not been dealt with technically in all of its complexity and diversity in its various historical manifestations through the ages. Rather it has been offered as an over arching concept reflecting the fact of God’s intentionality toward us manifested in the covenant of grace, supremely accomplished in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of our need as a corporate body and in all of its parts to begin thinking intentionally about what acceptance of this covenant means in the early days of the new century and the new millennium.
The Presbyterian Church has borrowed much — far too much — from American culture, which has the capacity of supporting our efforts, but all too often is our greatest enemy. For throughout the ages, acculturation has always led to idolatry, the primal sin; yet cultural forms are the only means by which we express and live out our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We live always in this basic tension in the “time between the times.”
More than anything, the last three series have been an effort to sum up the reflections of this editor’s 15 years at this desk, offering hope for the future, while lifting up the challenges of the present, but never giving up on the sovereignty and grace of the living God, whose we are, and in whom, alone, we live and move and have our being. “New Beginnings” is the title of the next series.
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