DALLAS (PNS) — The 2020 Vision Team of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) concluded its final face-to-face meeting here today after spending three days discussing the format and contents of the draft report it will submit to the 223rd General Assembly of the denomination meeting this summer in St. Louis.
The group’s task, as defined by the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the PC(USA), is to “develop a guiding statement for the denomination and make a plan for its implementation with all deliberate speed. The process of developing such a guiding statement will help us to name and claim our denominational identity as we seek to follow the Spirit into the future.”
Following yesterday’s marathon 12-hour wordsmithing session focused on the language of the report’s guiding statement, today’s agenda concentrated on the report’s preamble, recommendations and rationale.
In its draft form, the guiding statement commits the denomination to be “prayerful, courageous, united, serving and alive,” also spelling out the church’s acronym — PCUSA.
Three recommendations came forward from the discussion. The first recommendation asks the denomination to study and comment on the group’s guiding statement following General Assembly 223 until July 1, 2019. The second recommendation is to translate the group’s report into Spanish and Korean so it can be distributed for broader comment. The final recommendation asks the Assembly for a continuation of the group’s work until the 224th General Assembly (2020) in Baltimore so it can properly receive feedback, finalize its report and prepare a plan for implementation.
Translation of the 2020 Vision team resources came up for discussion, with several concerns raised about the process to ensure the group’s work is translated and distributed before the General Assembly meets.
“I find it terribly offensive that we have to ask the General Assembly to translate these documents,” said DèAnn Cunningham, acknowledging the Way Forward Commission’s effort to expand translation services. “It’s especially offensive when we know we have [non-English speakers] who will not be able to access this information.”
Preamble / Preface
Discussion of the report’s preamble consumed the majority of the day’s time, including the purpose and use of the section in the report. Concerns over the preamble’s length were leveled against what the team felt was a strong position in the guiding statement.
“We needed a lot more theological language, and a biblical narrative, to frame our guiding statement,” said Chris McCain of the extensive detail contained in the draft preamble prior to the composition of the guiding statement. “Now I’m wondering whether or not we need the preamble because of how really beautiful the document [guiding statement] is. I’d hate for people to get caught up in the preamble and never get to the guiding statement.”
“[The preamble] should be an invitation to the people of the pews, and people at all levels of the church, to join us in the process,” said Deborah Foster.
“The value the preamble gives as part of the work we’re presenting is it acknowledges the fear that’s going on,” said Joshua Andrzejewski, hoping the introduction would capture the denomination’s concerns and anxiety that, in part, formed the 2020 Vision Team, along with the Way Forward Commission, at the 222nd General Assembly. “It acknowledges we don’t have our head in the sand… Right up front, we’re saying, ‘This is why we did this work.’ And we did it in hope in the faith that’s gone before us and the scriptural basis will be important for people to see.”
“The preamble and its language are important to telling our story,” added Joshua Narcisse on the detail contained in the draft preamble, which traces the biblical account of God’s covenant people. “It’s important for crafting a narrative for where we see ourselves in the Christian community.”
Removing the longest section of the preamble, what the group’s co-moderator Lisa Juica Perkins called a recounting of “salvation history,” the team settled on a shorter introductory statement, potentially moving the more detailed information to a study resource that will accompany the group’s report.
In the continued effort to disseminate the guiding statement in a format other than a written report, team member Jerrod Lowry suggested contacting musicians to write a song that could be used as part of committee worship. “It’s too late to incorporate this into Assembly worship,” he said, “but we’d like to prepare something that can be used in the committee’s worship.”
The questions sent to constituent groups so the 2020 Vision Team could conduct listening sessions across the denomination, along with a summary of responses, are to be included in the appendices. As directed by General Assembly 222, former Moderator Heath Rada’s report of his listening sessions and the “When We Gather at the Table” document were considered by the team and will be included as links in the appendices along with other documents referenced by the group.
Draft Guiding Statement
At the conclusion of its meeting today, the 2020 Vision Team released its draft guiding statement and preface for distribution. It is printed below and is subject to change prior to the Feb. 16 deadline for submission to the General Assembly.
Our Reformed heritage understands the power of words and we humbly offer this guiding statement as speaking truth and declaring life.
The 2020 Vision Team was mandated by the 222nd General Assembly and charged with developing a guiding statement for the denomination as it moves into the future.
In the faithful desire to discern the will of God we listened throughout the denomination and beyond, hearing hope and frustration, expectation and anxiety.
Along our journey even when it is hard to see the way forward, God has spoken and continues to speak to us in these times and places.
God calls the Presbyterian Church (USA) to be:
- Confessing our sin before God and to those we have wronged, we accept our responsibility for the brokenness in the world and in ourselves. In Christ we are assured of forgiveness and freed to forgive others.
- We ask the Holy Spirit to direct and guide us as we actively listen to Scripture and fully engage in the joys and challenges of life in this present world.
- In Christ we are bound together by grace, cleansed in the waters of baptism, nourished at the Lord’s table, and sent out to share the Good News.
- Reformed and always being reformed, we follow the Holy Spirit in new and imaginative ways to places we have not yet been.
- We foster the hope of reconciliation in Christ that brings healing to individuals and communities, which transforms the world.
- We work for God’s justice and peace for all people in every land, prioritizing the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the abused.
- As members of the Church universal, we are Christ’s disciples, called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- Against forces that seek to divide, Christ compels us to bear witness to a love that sustains community across great differences.
- Striving to love all of our neighbors as ourselves, we approach others in a spirit of openness and trust as we follow Jesus Christ in respecting the freedom of other religions, worldviews, and traditions.
- As followers of the One who washed his disciples’ feet, we listen to and serve our neighbors, working to meet their practical needs.
- We partner with others to become the hands and feet of God in the world, showing compassion and generosity to all creation.
- We venture beyond the familiar, meeting people where they are as we share Christ’s transformative love.
- We are a people of the resurrection: though death surrounds us, we are not afraid because we follow the One who was raised from the tomb.
- The Holy Spirit gives us courage to build a community that reflects the fullness of God’s image in humanity: beautifully diverse and no longer divided by age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexuality, physical and mental ability, geography, or theological conviction.
- In the sure and certain hope of resurrection, we testify that the Church and its members are called to follow Christ’s model by risking all, even life itself, for the sake of the Gospel.
And so, God calls the Presbyterian Church (USA) to be: Prayerful, Courageous, United, Serving, Alive.
Thanks be to God.
The full report of the Vision 2020 will be distributed for review by commissioners and other interested parties on the PC Biz site following the Feb. 16 submission deadline.
by Gregg Brekke, Presbyterian News Service