Last August, Fellowship leaders presented four tiers of possible action for congregations – ranging from staying in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to joining a new Reformed body. On Dec. 5, the Fellowship posted on its Web site a document called “Are Tiers Still An Option?”
That document states that since August, some congregations and presbyteries have explored the ideas of Tiers 2 and 3 – those involving realignments within the PC(USA), including the idea of a “presbytery within a presbytery” – and “have met with uneven and at times disappointing responses.”
As a result, the document states, congregations now appear to have three options:
Join the Fellowship but stay in the PC(USA) “in your current presbytery or continuing to explore some sort of differentiation within the PC(USA);”
Pursue a union relationship (congregation or presbytery) with both the PC(USA) and the new Reformed body;
“Separate from the PC(USA) by joining the new Reformed body, by maintaining important relationships and creating new ministry partnerships” under the Fellowship’s umbrella.
The Fellowship also has begun describing the January meeting as a “covenanting conference” rather than calling it a “constitutional convention,” as leaders were doing in August. A Dec. 2 posting on the Fellowship’s Web site states that “at the heart of The Fellowship of Presbyterians is the desire to reclaim a covenanted biblical community.”
And it states that “the `umbrella’ of The Fellowship of Presbyterians is intended to reach across lines of structural affiliation, drawing into a covenanted relationship of mutual support and accountability those who, in various ways, are remaining as missionaries in the PC(USA), those who are seeking union relationships, and those who are forming a new Reformed entity. This is one of the goals of the Orlando conference.”
Here is the full text of the Fellowship’s recent posts:
Are Tiers Still an Option?
December 5, 2011
Many people have been asking about the current status of the “Four Tiers” proposal presented in August at the Minneapolis Gathering — our way of explaining options for congregations to consider, given their particular contexts, while we work together to be the Church of Jesus Christ in a new way. These four “tiers” ranged from no structural realignment to the creation of a totally new Reformed body. They were presented in good faith following conversations with members of the Middle Governing Bodies Administrative Commission and the Office of the Stated Clerk, PC(USA).
Since August, congregations and presbyteries in several regions have explored tiers two and three — the more entrepreneurial approaches to remaining in cooperative ministry with established presbyteries. Many have met with uneven and at times disappointing responses. While we are still very hopeful for continuing progress in some presbyteries, we now appear to have three options:
Affiliate with other like-minded individuals and congregations by joining The Fellowship of Presbyterians while remaining in your current presbytery or continuing to explore some form of differentiation within the PC(USA).
Differentiate more completely under the umbrella of The Fellowship by pursuing a union relationship (congregation or presbytery) with both the PC(USA) and the new Reformed body.
Separate from the PC(USA) by joining the new Reformed body, while maintaining important relationships and creating new ministry partnerships under the umbrella of The Fellowship of Presbyterians.
The Fellowship of Presbyterians remains supportive of any organizational change within the PC(USA) that will allow congregations and/or presbyteries to maintain theological integrity. We are deeply appreciative of the work of the Committees of Correspondence and the Presbyterian Coalition in these ongoing efforts. Our primary calling, however, is to encourage adaptive change — new ways of being the Church that nurture spiritual health and vital mission. In these areas we are pleased to be working with organizations like PFR and the Presbyterian Global Fellowship along with the Outreach Foundation and the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship for nurturing global partnerships.
Why a “Covenanting” Conference in Orlando?
December 2, 2011
A paragraph from the soon-to-be released theology group includes this beautiful explanation:
“We are elect in Christ to become members of the community of the new covenant. This covenant, which God himself guarantees, unites us to God and to one another. Already in the creation, we discover that we are made to live in relationships to others, male and female, created together in God’s image. In Christ, we are adopted into the family of God and find our new identity as brothers and sisters of one another, since we now share one Father. Our faith requires our active participation in that covenant community.”
In the declining days of Christendom, it seemed easy to relate to one another as “fellow Presbyterians,” assuming shared beliefs, heritage, and mission derived from a common worldview. Such assumptions were sufficient to maintain a tacit sense of “unity.”
One by one, these assumptions have been proven wrong. The PC(USA), as it exists today, is at best a collection of diverse expressions of faith, witness, and mission held together by a bureaucratic structure. Increasingly we are invited to “celebrate our diversity” and not ask the embarrassing questions of like-mindedness with Christ or with one another.
At the heart of The Fellowship of Presbyterians is the desire to reclaim a covenanted biblical community. This begins with a clear expression of our core theological identity and, for those creating a new Reformed entity, carries through to a new polity structure that embodies those beliefs.
In this time of deepening divisions, “active participation in Christ’s covenant community” requires us to be clear on who we are, what we believe, and why, and invites us to realize that our unity is derived from common faith, not structural affiliation.
The “umbrella” of The Fellowship of Presbyterians is intended to reach across lines of structural affiliation, drawing into a covenanted relationship of mutual support and accountability those who, in various ways, are remaining as missionaries in the PC(USA), those who are seeking union relationships, and those who are forming a new Reformed entity. This is one of the goals of the Orlando conference.