The NEXT leaders describe this as “an important moment – a reformation moment – for American Presbyterians.”
They write that while they share some of the Fellowship’s perspectives on evangelism and the need for a more missional and connectional church, the Fellowship’s intention to create a new Reformed body “will result in further division” within the PC(USA) and that such a body “echoes the church of a century ago” and “seems to us to be the church we once were, rather than the church God is calling us to be.”
The letter asks Presbyterians to become involved and to pray as they work on strategies for growing the church, developing leaders, and reaching young adults.
NEXT Church organizers are calling a meeting Feb. 27-28 in Dallas “to discern God’s spirit for a new church.”
Here’s the complete text of the NEXT Church letter:
A letter to the Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is not what it used to be. Maybe that’s a good thing; maybe even a God thing.
Last month in Minneapolis a group calling themselves “The Fellowship of Presbyterians” declared their commitment to form a “New Reformed Body.” The Fellowship seeks to create a variety of new structures both within and outside of the Presbyterian Church (USA). These proposed structures come with a variety of names, and the Fellowship’s plans are still developing. Still, this is clear: these plans urge and will result in further division within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). A “Constitutional Convention” will be held in Orlando in January 2012. Already, there are some congregations that have announced their intention to leave.
We are going to miss our friends who leave the PCUSA. The truth is we want them to stay. We will miss the relationships that are nurtured in a more intentional way when we claim communion together. We will miss their focused commitment to evangelism and mission. We will miss their desire for New Church Development.
We share many of their perspectives about our beloved church:
- They grieve our often ineffectual ways of being church. We agree.
- They grieve a loss of meaningful evangelism in the church. We agree.
- They speak of new ways of being connectional which are more relational and less bureaucratic. We agree.
- They grieve that only 12 new congregations were established in 2010. We agree.
- They speak of the need for a missional church. We agree.
- They say the time for fighting must end. We agree.
- They say, “We are not leaving the church; our church has left us.” While we hold them accountable for their decision to leave, we agree that the church is not what it used to be.
Yet, here is a fundamental difference: We trust, even now, even in this moment, that God is doing a new thing within the Presbyterian Church (USA). We believe God’s Spirit is breathing new life into our church. We move forward knowing Jesus is Lord. He was Lord at the beginning. He will be Lord at the end. Even now, he is Lord! We are convinced that every person, every congregation, every church that trusts in the Lordship of Jesus Christ can only move forward in hope.
Given this perspective, our solutions are different. Some seek separation, differentiation, even the establishment of a New Fellowship which has all the marks of a new denomination. This new fellowship echoes the church of a century ago, when there was not a Book of Confessions, but a singular confession, and Scripture was yet to be read aided by the tools of historical and literary criticism. The New Reformed Body seems to us to be the church we once were, rather than the church God is calling us to be.
This is an important moment—-a reformation moment—for American Presbyterians. We cannot see very far down the road that God is leading us, but we are on the journey to the NextChurch. We see a world desperate for Good News, gasping for grace, hungering for hope and we believe that now is the time to set aside old divisions and to work together to live faithfully, to love generously and to serve sacrificially within the Presbyterian Church (USA).
If this sounds good to you, we welcome you. We welcome your voice whether you are a cradle Presbyterian or so new to this church that denominational names are irrelevant. We welcome your insight whether you are evangelical or progressive or insistent that you are both at the same time. We welcome your prayers and participation as we converse, dream and develop strategies for
- Growing the PC(USA) in faith, faithfulness and presence; and
- Being creative in worship, in church planting, in mission; and
- Excelling in ministry to young adults; and
- Equipping one another for the unique roles of leadership required in this new day; and
- Speaking the Gospel and serving Jesus Christ in a way that today’s culture can hear it, claim it and be transformed by it.
We remember God has said before, “I am doing a new thing…do you not perceive it?” Jesus also promised, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” We humbly confess that our vision of all that God is doing among us is limited, but we are unafraid. No doubt, the church is not what it used to be; we trust that is a God thing. So we are chasing after God’s promised new day that is ahead of us.
We are gathering in Dallas, February 27 & 28, 2012 to discern God’s Spirit for a new church. We hope you will save these dates. Detailed information and Registration for the NEXTChurch Conversation in Dallas will be available at Nextchurch.net or FPCDallas.org beginning October 1, 2011.
Tom Are, Jr., Village Presbyterian Church, Prairie Village, KS
Christine Chakoian, First Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest, IL
Joe Clifford, First Presbyterian Church, Dallas, TX
Andrew Foster Connors, Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
Fairfax Fair, First Presbyterian Church, Ann Arbor, MI
Lewis Galloway, Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN
Tim Hart-Andersen, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis, MN
Leah Hrachovec, First Presbyterian Church, Stillwater, OK
Stacy Johnson, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ
Scott Black Johnston, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, NY
Shannon Johnson Kershner, BlackMountain Presbyterian Church, Black Mountain, NC
Carla Pratt Keyes, GinterPark Presbyterian Church, Richmond, VA
Agnes Norfleet, Shandon Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC
Pen Peery, First Presbyterian Church, Shreveport, LA
Karen Sapio, Claremont Presbyterian Church, Claremont, CA
Jessica Tate, Fairfax Presbyterian Church, Fairfax, VA
Reggie Weaver, First Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL
John Wilkinson, Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester, NY
*The communities in which we minister are listed for identification purposes.