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Fellowship leaders: committed to remaining in PC(USA)

The leaders of “The Fellowship” have downgraded the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s threat alert.

An open letter from eight pastor-leaders to the church, marking three months since their first letter raised
anxieties to red-alert level, now assures that they are “committed to starting a new Reformed body
without leaving the PC(USA).”
The letter acknowledges the imminent passage of Amendment 10-A, which would do away
with the categorical prohibition of all persons sexually active outside the covenant of marriage
between a man and a woman. While opposing such a change, the pastors are not calling for separating
from the denomination. Rather than subjecting their churches to the eruption of conflict that schisms
inevitably cause, and wanting to avoid the same mistakes other new denominations inevitably make,
their letter of May 4, 2011, seeks to live out “a new reality ‘in place’ [that] gives the possibility of a
form of ‘dual citizenship.’”
The letter adds, “We value our sisters and brothers and many aspects of our Presbyterian
tradition: a common commitment to global missions, great work happening in many ministries of the
denomination …the Presbyterian Foundation [ and] a strong Board of Pensions, and more.”

The letter:

May 4, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It’s startling that only three months have passed since we issued a White Paper calling for a new way
through our denominational turmoil. We have developed an Advisory Board broadly representative of
our movement and nearly 550 people have signed on as supporters (leadership and supporters listed at
http://www.fellowship-pcusa.org/supporters/. We also continue meet with various groups in the PC(USA).

The landscape continues to change with the imminent passage of Amendment 10-A. An executive
presbyter recently said that 10-A’s change of ordination standards will have the effect of an
earthquake, but the sensation you feel will be very dependent on your location: some will feel shaking
that rips apart the building, others will only notice dishes falling off the wall, still others may feel
nothing beyond what they read in the newspaper. Your context may well determine your response,
but all of us are impacted by this seismic change. Amendment 10-A provides a not-so-subtle shift
in words, from “Obedience to Scripture” (G.6) to being “Guided by Scripture” (10-A). We as a
Fellowship choose to remain obedient to Scripture and guided by The Book of Order.

In this time of upheaval, we sense emerging clarity about something new being born. The two
statements in the White Paper that provoked the most response now seem like guidelines: “deathly ill”
requires radical change, and “like-minded” calls for new connections. Between now and our Gathering
in August, we intend to take steps toward a new way of connecting. We are committed to starting a
new Reformed body without leaving the PC(USA).

We are focusing on four areas to mark a new connectionism:

 1. Reclaim Our Core Theological Identity. This will include a set of essentials around which
we gather, using “Union in Christ” as a foundation. (the current version of “Union in
Christ” is posted at www.fellowship-pcusa.org/documents).

 2. Refresh Our Relational Unity. This begins with a new role for presbyteries, refocusing on
encouragement and our identity as transforming communities. We will form theological
subsets within several current presbyteries and petition for 10-15 new presbyteries to be
recognized in the near term. Approved or not, these new, small entities will begin and pilot
the kind of networking already modeled by some presbyteries. Other variations in polity
and alignment will follow once there is permission for more non-geographic presbyteries to
form.

 3. Renew Our Leadership Vitality. We recognize that we have a leadership development
crisis in the denomination and in many of our congregations, and we need flexibility for
new models of ordination and preparation.

 4. Release the Gospel Locally. We are committed to forming new communities of all
configurations, marked by a missional focus.

One question has come from many on both ends of the current theological spectrum: why don’t you
just leave the PC(USA) now? We believe that forcing a “go/stay” decision upon congregations will
be painful and divisive. Further, jumping to another denomination just perpetuates current practices
without allowing our congregations time to discern how they can benefit from a healthy form of
connectionalism in a post-denominational world. A premature, forced choice will result in fewer
congregations experiencing the joyful and expansive future to which we are committed, and will
provoke more of the acrimony we see in so many other mainline denominations. We believe living out
a new reality “in place” gives the possibility of a form of “dual citizenship.” We value our sisters and
brothers and many aspects of our Presbyterian tradition: a common commitment to global missions,
great work happening in many ministries of the denomination (e.g. the Office of Evangelism), solid
performance from the Presbyterian Foundation, a strong Board of Pensions, and more.

Sustained movements cannot be driven from the top down but must be lived out in the grassroots.
The Gathering in August will include several examples of initiatives that are bringing health and hope
while renewing ministry. We also hope to model some of what we aspire to have in national gatherings
with shared worship, vision, and learning together. The call to join our Fellowship will be clear but
only as the next step in a journey together as we follow Christ out into the world.

 

WHAT WE’RE ABOUT: Our Focus

We are committed to starting a new Reformed body without leaving the PC(USA).

WHAT WE SEEK TO DO: Our Goals

Reclaim Our Core Theological Identity (with essential beliefs)
Refresh Our Relational Unity (with new structures)
Renew Our Leadership Vitality (with new ordination/preparation models)
Release the Gospel Locally (with new missional communities)

WHAT WE BELIEVE: Our Identity

We in the Fellowship proclaim salvation in Christ alone,
strive to live in obedience to Scripture alone,
and go into the world for God’s glory alone.

In proclaiming salvation in Christ alone, we seek to reverse the decline of our denomination by growing
congregations and planting new ones to lead people into a transformational relationship with Jesus in the power
of the Holy Spirit.
In obedience to Scripture alone, we live in tension with many of the cultural trends of our time while seeking by
God’s grace to live holy lives.
In going into the world for God’s glory alone, we equip and send believers to join God’s mission to the world,
entering neighborhoods, workplaces, and realms of human need to join God in His redemptive mission to all
people.
The Fellowship is a covenant community of congregations and individuals — committed to learning from each
other, sharing best practices, and meeting annually. We share a deep passion for recruiting and training a gifted
new generation to lead vibrant Reformed communities in the 21st century.

WHAT WE WILL CHANGE: Our Priorities

New Presbyteries (based on theology and affiliation more than geography)
Finances (we’ll reprioritize commitments as we start something new without leaving the old)
Ordination (different standards and educational tracks)
Withdrawal from “Old Fights” about Sexuality (no further attempts to change The Book of Order language)
Inclusion of Any Who Leave the PC(USA) Now (and help for those who seek a gracious withdrawal)

Fellowship Steering Committee:
Vic Pentz, Peachtree Presbyterian, Atlanta, GA
John Crosby, Christ Presbyterian, Edina, MN
David Peterson, Memorial Drive Presbyterian, Houston, TX
Jim Singleton, First Presbyterian, Colorado Springs, CO
David Swanson, First Presbyterian, Orlando, FL
Rich Kannwischer, St. Andrews, Newport Beach, CA
Mark Toone, Chapel Hill Presbyterian, Gig Harbor, WA
Tae-Hyung Ko, Good Shepherd Presbyterian, Rowland Heights, CA

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