God has given the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) a moment of grace to dream new dreams, to see new visions, to lay aside the weapons of warfare, and to rethink mission and strategy on a truly grand scale.
At the end of a quarter century of nearly continuous contentiousness, it is as if a boil has been lanced, followed by an experience of relief, a weary contingent of God’s people wanting to move beyond the trenches that divided and to move forward into a future of obedience and service.
In advance of the meeting of the 214th General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, conventional wisdom held that there would be very little real work to be done since virtually all matters relating to human sexuality were off the table this time around.
As it turned out, though, commissioners not only did real and important work, they even dealt effectively with a few sexuality related issues.
If something new and wonderful is to happen at the 214th General Assembly it will certainly involve repentance — lots of it — a commodity that has been in very short supply for a very long time in our church.
Repentance involves sincere confession and a turning around — a turning from ourselves and our own interests to God and God’s interests.
This space has been devoted in recent weeks to the shape of a new church which is arising in our midst as a consequence of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the active agent in everything that happens in the church — indeed, in the world.
Our eyes are accustomed to seeing things as they have always been — or, at least, have been within our span of memory — and it is so difficult to perceive and to understand new shapes and forms of divine activity that are right in front of our face.
If we as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are to become what God wants us to be, then we will have to alter radically our way of thinking about ourselves as a denomination and the way we conduct our business.
First, we will focus on our own particular congregation, and pour tremendous energy into its mission and, even more important, the mission of each member in the world.
Two things define us as Presbyterians, beyond the fact that we are a church governed by elders, gathered in an ascending series of governing bodies: we are a confessional (or at least aspire to be!) church and a connectional church.
Two weeks ago this column was devoted to discussing the perplexities of being a confessional church in a time of widespread biblical and theological illiteracy.
Following up last week’s editorial suggesting that forces in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that have devoted themselves in the last quarter-century to either holding on to or taking over control of the denomination need to move toward demobilization, the first question that must be asked is: How much theological cohesion does a Presbyterian body need to hold together?
Demobilization, the reduction in armed forces following a war, is a model that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) may find useful.
We’ve been involved in a war about human sexuality for the past 25 years that seems to be over; while discussion will continue, the terms of engagement have changed. It’s fairly inconceivable that the church will entertain a constitutional change of any magnitude in ordination standards in the foreseeable future.
Following the recent defeat of Amendment A in the presbyteries, a number of groups across the spectrum released statements announcing their official reactions. The statements, given their source, were entirely predictable, each group trying to put the best spin on the outcome.