2020 Vision Team makes plans for Presbyterians to engage the guiding statement

The 2020 Vision Team is moving ahead with plans to get Presbyterians involved with the guiding statement it has produced – using everything from a social media blitz to a hymn-writing competition to a plan to pass out bracelets at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium at Purdue University July 16-20 and at Big Tent in Baltimore August 1-3.

The team also hopes it can provide tools for Presbyterians to engage with the statement in their local contexts – for example, a session or a Bible study group might do a lectio divina exercise using Scriptural passages on which the team has leaned, or a pastor might build a sermon series around on ideas in the statement.

The Vision Team’s guiding statement says that“God calls the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to be Prayerful, Courageous, United, Serving, Alive” – with first letters of those words spelling out the PC(USA) acronym.

For each of those words, the team has also fleshed out more of what it means – for example, that in being courageous “we work for God’s justice and peace for all people in every land, walking with the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the abused.”

Or in being united, Presbyterians “approach others in a spirit of openness and trust as we follow Jesus Christ in respecting the freedom of other religions, worldviews, and traditions.”

The vision team– which the General Assembly created in 2016 – met by conference call July 11 to share progress and talk about the steps ahead.

 Communications and social media
A subgroup of the team came to the denomination’s national offices in Louisville recently to work on the communication plan for 2020 Vision. That will include a logo (under development); videos and a website (also under development); and a plan to pass out bracelets emblazoned with the words Prayerful, Courageous, United, Serving, Alive at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium and possibly at Big Tent.

The idea: the team will give a starting group of teenagers at Triennium bracelets to wear – there’ll be 1,100 bracelets in all – and will ask each of them to take off a bracelet and pass it to someone else when they catch that person being prayerful, courageous, united, serving or alive, also passing along a small card explaining what 2020 Vision is all about. Presbyterian News Service plans take photographs and write about some of the young people wearing the bracelets.

Starting in September, the team will launch a social media blitz focused on one of the five words each month – starting with “prayerful” in September and ending with “alive” when the General Assembly convenes in Baltimore on June 25, 2020.

Potential confusion
There was some discussion about confusion that team members have encountered regarding the team’s guiding statement and the Matthew 25 vision that’s become a focus of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, drawing from the call in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison.

With both a statement from the 2020 Vision Team and a Matthew 25 vision, “How do we stay on message, so we’re not confusing folks?” asked Karen Sapio, a team member who’s a pastor in California.

“I think you’ve named the elephant in the room,” said Judy Fletcher, a retired synod executive from Texas. “I’m experiencing the same thing.”

The hope is to make a distinction. What the 2020 Vision Team is offering is not a vision, but a guiding statement, said Sabrina Slater, a minister who’s co-moderator of the team along with Salvador Gavaldá Corchado.

That’s what the General Assembly instructed the Vision Team to do, and a guiding statement can be a tool and provide a process for shaping the denomination’s vision – “it sort of allows for visioning to happen,” Slater said. “We’re not in conflict with Matthew 25,” she said, and there may be efforts at the 2020 General Assembly to demonstrate that “we’re playing well in the sandbox together.”

Pilot projects
The team also heard updates on a number of pilot projects on which it’s working. Among them: a collaboration with the Presbyterian Association of Musicians to sponsor a competition for people to write new sacred anthems that support the Vision Team’s guiding statement. The deadline for entering is Sept. 1, and the winner will receive $1,000.

Other pilot projects include holding workshops to show people how to use the guiding statement for Bible study and lectio divina, and conversations with the National Black Presbyterian Caucus about how the caucus might engage with the work.

Setting it free
Sapio said she’s not worrying about whether the 2020 General Assembly will vote to endorse the guiding statement word for word as the Vision Team has written it. Whether or not that happens, engaging the church with the ideas that are part of it “will bring blessings” over the next year, whatever happens at the assembly, Sapio said.

The role of the Vision Team is not “to lobby for it to get passed as is,” she said, but to provide ideas and resources that “will still have been a good thing and will have helped the church,” regardless of the vote.

DèAnn Cunningham, a ruling elder from North Carolina, said “I see the guiding statement as a call to action,” but said that vision develops in Presbyterians individually as God calls them to live it out – perhaps by giving a care bag to a homeless person or in other ways living out Matthew 25.

Those who want or expect the Vision Team to craft a statement that will accomplish more than are not being realistic, Cunningham said.

“I’m hearing that they want this magic statement that fixes everything and they just follow it – this microwave, New Age quick fix that we can move with. It’s not possible, because we don’t serve that kind of God.”

By encouraging Presbyterians to be aware of the guiding statement, to engage with it and share it with others, the team is “setting it free,” said Michael Fagans, a ruling elder from Mississippi.

“Let it go and see what happens.”

The Vision Team will meet in person in Louisville over Labor Day weekend, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.