GA News: Ground church in ‘first-order concerns,’ Labberton tells Coalition

SAN JOSE — There is hope for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) if it becomes grounded in first-order concerns, the Rev. Mark Labberton, pastor of 1700-member First Church of Berkeley, Calif., told the Presbyterian Coalition luncheon Sunday (June 22).

Labberton reminded his audience that the mostly white, mostly American PC(USA) is part of a much bigger, worldwide church in a world in which close to 2 billion people live in absolute poverty and a million children are forced annually into prostitution.

Citing a newspaper story about people who fly in private jets to avoid being with crying babies and “people who bum us out,” Labberton asked, “How are we going to live in a world where we exclude people who might ‘bum us out’?” Jesus wants us to go to people who “bum us out” and demonstrate love and mercy, he added.

This kind of ministry will be done by “people who struggle as a community with a kind of faithful worship, measured not by the benchmarks of the American worship experience, but by their love and justice in action, especially for the oppressed, forgotten and neglected,” he said.

Ultimate hope for the church’s future does not hinge on what might happen at this or any other General Assembly, said Labberton. “The answer is not in you or me, or our body politic, but in the God who can deliver us.”

The Presbyterian Coalition is a national organization that promotes conservative leadership and confessional standards within the PC(USA).