Moderator’s column: The beginning of a dialogue

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 4.45.12 PMThe 221st General Assembly (2014) of our church adjourned on June 21 after eight days of deliberations, worship, and voting. Many decisions were made, which usually means answers to questions were settled. However, in our Reforming church, we find that the decisions only helped to highlight some of the issues that face our denomination today. Certainly we received directions on what we should do in regard to many matters, but many questions were raised instead of solved.

I have my own questions, and a number of you have expressed your own. As I enter my two years of service as Moderator, I wish to share with you some of the questions I have been asked in the past weeks, and which I hope to explore more fully during my tenure. These are not offered with a bias nor an agenda, but instead as the beginning of a dialogue that I hope we will share in the coming months.

  1. Do we intentionally and openly accept that we are all in this church together because we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and that nothing else that we do is as important as that fact?
  2. Do we recognize the reality that each of us is limited by our own humanity and sinfulness as we interpret the Scriptures, and may not agree upon various interpretations?
  3. Is divestment of any sort the appropriate answer for our denomination to take when it tends to polarize and politicize our decisions, and has become the dominant issue facing each recent assembly?
  4. How does our denomination reach out to both Palestinians and Jews in a way that communicates our sincere heartbreak for both communities concerning their victimization of terror and harassment, and their right to a homeland?
  5. Do our decisions about marriage sincerely reflect a decision to be open to people adopting and believing different positions concerning same-gender unions? Is there really room in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for those who believe this is a God-given right to worship and serve in congregations where people believe it is sinful behavior?
  6. Is “Louisville” in touch with the needs of the church? In other words, are we as a denomination directing our central offices to serve our church in the ways that are most needed, as opposed to having the staff direct the priorities they believe to be important?
  7. Is the General Assembly meeting organized in the best way to reflect the priorities of the church? Is there so much focus on voting that we miss other areas where we should be spending our time? Should we hear the stories of our successes in our congregations and also share the burdens of day-to-day ministry in churches, and explore together ways that these may be expanded or duplicated?
  8. Do we maximize the presence and extraordinary gifts of the young adult advisory delegates, as well as other young adults throughout the church?
  9. Are the 1001 New Worshipping Communities signs of a renewal in the PC(USA) or are these fads and non-centered gatherings of people in places that will not sustain longevity?
  10. Are we giving adequate attention to small, older churches that are still vital, but having financial problems as opposed to the new entities?

I invite you to communicate with me as we seek to make our denomination one of healthy, caring Christians rather than a group of people who have lost their ability to identify the Godliness in each of God’s children, who were created in God’s image.