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Moderator to convene conversations on unity and ecclesiology on West coast

by Eva Stimson, Office of the General Assembly

LOUISVILLE (PNS)  How can Christians talk constructively about racial and gender differences? How can the church recover its calling to witness boldly in a changing world?

These urgent questions will be the focus of two events in mid March organized by Neal Presa, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, and hosted by a college and a seminary on the West coast.

The Moderator’s Third Conversation on Unity with Difference, March 12–14, will take place at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. It will feature seven presentations on topics related to “Race, Gender, and Religious Identities,” each followed by a period of discussion.

The Moderator’s Third Colloquium on Ecclesiology, March 17–19, will take place at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. It will feature addresses by eight pastors and theologians on the nature and purpose of the church, followed by responses from faculty, students, and local pastors. Other participants will have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions.

Presa hopes the two events will spark wide-ranging conversations throughout the PC(USA) and beyond. To maximize participation, both events will be accessible via live-streaming on the Web and Twitter (follow #UnityDiff and #ModCE).

The Conversation on Unity with Difference is the follow-up to previous conversations at Princeton Theological Seminary in December 2013 and at Stony Point Center (New York) in December 2012. Presa says he hopes the conversation will help Presbyterians find “helpful and healthy ways” of addressing differences of race, gender, and religious identity.

“Through this community conversation,” he says, “we are seeking to dignify our differences, not just tolerate them,” thus creating a church that is “committed to acting and speaking prophetically for a more just world.”

The Colloquium on Ecclesiology follows previous events at Princeton in December 2013 and at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in April 2013. “The colloquium seeks to help the church recover God’s call to be a worshiping and witnessing community,” Presa says.

“In the midst of great change, our default response is to turn inward or be paralyzed with fear,” Presa observes. Using a computer analogy, he says, “We are in a season when the Holy Spirit is essentially pressing the control/alternate/delete button to reboot us to what is essential for our life together as the church of Jesus Christ.”

Both series of conversations, Presa says, are creating resources for the church that can be used well into the future. Videos of the presentations will be archived for use in further dialogue and conversation. Presa and Tom Trinidad, Vice Moderator of the General Assembly, are co-writing resources that will offer study questions and methods to help congregations engage in conversations about unity and differences. These will be published online by Witherspoon Press.

Presa is editing texts of all twenty-two presentations on ecclesiology for publication by Pickwick Publications, an imprint of Wipf and Stock. The forward of the book will be written by Iain Torrance, former president of Princeton Seminary.

Registration information for the Conversation on Unity with Difference and the Colloquium on Ecclesiology, as well as a complete list of speakers and topics, are available at the event websites: