“It is always energizing to be with 2,000 other Presbyterians talking about how to proclaim the Gospel in the 21st century, and I am grateful to the Fellowship for making that happen. These discussions are happening not just within the Fellowship, though — they’re going on all across the denomination. The PC(USA) is already in the process of becoming a ‘new Reformed body,’ as it retools itself and its structures to enable us to do effective ministry into the 21st century.” — Cynthia Bohlbach, ruling elder and moderator of the 218th General Assembly
“There was much to affirm in the Fellowship Gathering. Leaders called for a positive, not angry, tone and that was largely maintained. They called for more missional congregations and for starting new congregations. They spoke positively about denominational mission and were complimentary of General Assembly leadership. They are not alone in calling for reformation of governing structures; many reforms are being considered, and many are already under way as we seek to adapt structures to better support the flourishing of congregations as communities of faith, hope, love and witness. These are all things possible within the PC(USA). Considerable attention was also given to establishing a new Reformed body, which sadly may lead to further separation from one another. My prayer is that the energy exhibited in Minneapolis would be directed to the former things, and not to those things that further divide and diminish our witness to the love of Jesus Christ.” — Linda Valentine, executive director, General Assembly Mission Council, PC(USA)
“The Fellowship gathering in Minneapolis reflected the desire and resolve of many Presbyterians to do church in the most faithful and helpful ways in the years to come. There was an evenhanded and positive energy and tone that seemed to be forward-looking. The leadership of the Fellowship affirmed many aspects of the PC(USA), though many also stated their clear need to live within it with theological integrity. Although the idea of a new Reformed body was discussed as one of four possible ways forward, I was heartened to hear an emphasis placed on not wanting to recreate the wheel, regarding those things that the PC(USA) already does well.” — Tom Taylor, president & CEO, Presbyterian Foundation
”I went to Minneapolis without well-formed expectations. I am pleased that I went. I have no desire to be part of a schism. Some words I heard lifted my heart; some left me unsure of whether a schism is envisioned. I hope not. I remain committed to spiritual renewal within this stream of Christ’s church.” — Harry J. Heintz, pastor, Brunswick Church, Troy, N.Y.
“To gather in hope rather than anger … To rally around a call to mission rather than a battle cry … This gathering of Presbyterians had such a different feel. Ken Bailey said it best when he called us to “reprocess anger into grace.” What a gift that grace moment was. Yet as much as I yearn for the future that we tried to see together in Minneapolis, we still need some content to frame the foundations of that vision.” — Anita Miller Bell, pastor, Concord Liberty Church, Glen Mills, Pa.
“The main words that went through my head were ‘cutting through the Gordian knot.’ As one who has spent decades working within our knotted polity to try to help renew the PC(USA), protect biblical standards and identify essential tenets, I see this as a bold stroke, like slicing with a sword through a knot which cannot otherwise be undone. I like the irenic tone and the idea of overlap between PC(USA) and the new Reformed body, but I agree with Rich Mouw that the organizers must carefully attend to the theology of this movement, and I think that revival of the church is even more important than this, and not identical with it.” — Winfield “Casey” Jones, pastor, First Church, Pearland, Texas
“One rural pastor came to Minneapolis feeling alienated and in despair, but after two days, he said, ‘I feel like I found my tribe.’ That summed it up for me — many Presbyterians feel lost in our current situation, and the Fellowship is opening space for them to follow Christ with renewed passion and integrity.” — Carolyn Poteet, associate pastor, First Church, Hendersonville, N.C.
“I was encouraged by the fellowship at the gathering: the vibrant worship, intentional small group discussion, overdue reunions and hard conversations about our identity, purpose and calling motivate me to stick together and learn together. The FOP named the challenges of our denomination with grace and humility. Let’s keep listening to God, each other and our neighbors.” — Mike McClenahan, pastor, Solana Beach Church, Solana Beach, Calif.
“The Fellowship of Presbyterians opened possibility doors for despairing orthodox Presbyterians. They also lifted spirits with the worship they provided. They were not ashamed of Jesus and his atoning death. My concern is, their hopes are too tied to PC(USA) official leadership and the actions of the next General Assembly.” — Viola Larson, elder, Sacramento, Calif.
“I went to the gathering with mixed feelings. I have no desire to be part of the formation of a new denomination, but, as Peter Barnes so humorously pointed out in his presentation, I realize that there are many ‘who need relief’ from what appears to be an untenable situation with the removal of ‘fidelity and chastity.’ I left the gathering convinced one should not act too quickly, but rather wait and see what happens with the report of the Middle Governing Bodies Task Force, the 2012 GA and the Orlando meeting of the Fellowship. My dad advised that it is unwise to purchase a new automobile in its first model year; therefore I think it is best to wait and see how things develop on a number of fronts before making major decisions. I am willing to be patient, and prayerful.” — John “Mike” Loudon, pastor, First Church, Lakeland, Fla.
“The Fellowship surpassed my expectations. I look most favorably on the possibility of remaining in the PC(USA) and forming an affiliate relationship to the FOP. If things get worse, then the church is positioned to request full membership, remaining as affiliate in the PC(USA) if they will allow it.” — Dan McMillan, pastor, Green Hill Church, Enterprise, Ala.
“A broken church. But who is responsible? An end to anger and a call to grace. Essential tenets that include the right to differentiate and the option to separate. Warnings of what may be next. Expressions of frustration with what stands before us. True statements that omitted all of the truth. Solutions that will create their own problems. Property and pensions and endowments. Hopeful? Hopeless.” — Larry Chottiner, Salisbury Church, Midlothian, Va.
“New life is truly needed. The stench of decay is all around. In the midst of conflicting diagnoses we are doing our best to make sense of the symptoms. I wonder if we have yet asked the right question that will unlock the way to the revitalization God most desires.” — R. Patrick Smith, associate pastor, Zionsville Church, Zionsville, Indiana
“I was glad I attended because there is fresh air blowing for mission and for life in the church. It is blowing against the sense of unresponsive or inflexible church structures that are no longer effectively enabling ministry/mission. Ken Bailey was my highlight as he graciously taught biblically turning anger into grace. Vast differences in reasons some people are disaffected were apparent, and thus leave much room for constructive changes by PC(USA); this movement is organic and not monolithic.” — Paul Watermulder, pastor, First Church of Burlingame, Calif.
“The Fellowship was a breath of fresh air at a time when I needed it most. It gave me hope. I am excited to be on the cutting edge of something new, perhaps another Great Awakening. Also a way to be faithful to Christ’s great commission and be obedient to God’s Word.” — Terry P. Simm, pastor, First Church, Sibley, Iowa
“This Presbyterian ‘gathering’ sought a new direction. It was not about restoring ordination standards or strategizing tactically. It was about trying something completely new, an ‘adaptive’ change. We are a new vessel on uncharted waters and no one knows what that is really going to look like yet.” — Doug Hucke, pastor, Northminster Church, Peoria, Ill.
“Our team is hopeful about the missional path the Fellowship is pursuing. Simply having a theological center alone will not produce growth or health. We need the ‘something new’ in terms of intentional equipping as well as the changing of outdated structures to better facilitate the mission of God’s church in our current context.” — Jack Peebles, pastor, First Church of Yakima, Wash.