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How Much Theological Cohesion Do We Need?

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?

From Warfare to Witness

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.

The Blessing and Curse of Affinity Groups

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.

The Letter and the Spirit of the Law

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has just completed a 25-year theological-legal debate over ordination standards with a resounding reaffirmation of the “fidelity-chastity” requirement for ordination of ministers and church officers. Presbyteries have voted to disapprove an amendment that would have undone the legislative work of the whole church in recent years.

‘Comfort, O Comfort My People’

"Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the LORDís hand double for all her sins" (Isaiah 40:1-2).

We Presbyterians have been in bondage for a long time. We have allowed ourselves to become trapped in a never-ending cycle of violence. We have absolutized our theological positions in such a way as to deny the rule of the living God.

Discerning the Spirits

As Presbyterians seek to make sense of the church — the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — into which they have been called by the Lord Jesus to serve God and our fellow humans, the need to discern the spirits is more important than ever. And with the rising significance of this activity is the reality of its increasing difficulty — for all the reasons enumerated in recent offerings in this space — distraction, ignorance, indifference, self-seeking.

Resurrection Life

God's raising Jesus from the dead on the third day is the central message of the Christian movement in every time and place. If the church ceases to preach Christ crucified ó and raised from the dead by God — it ceases to be the church.

We are in grave danger of ceasing to be the church. Jesus' resurrection from the dead — the good, glad tidings of God's triumph of life over the devil, sin and death — is far too infrequently preached in today's mainline church, including the Presbyterian, and with far too little conviction.

Servant Leadership

As we walk with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem where our Savior will be executed by the authorities as a common criminal, it behooves us to consider the issue of leadership in the church, which has been much talked about for some time now, the lack of it, that is. Yes we have leaders: pastors in pulpits, elders on session, deacons on diaconate, staff and elected officers in governing bodies from session to General Assembly, but there is a sense that the truly "great ones" are no longer among us.

Where to Start?

This column in recent weeks has provided an ongoing examination of and commentary on the life of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as it is in fact today. To sum it up, we’re like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights of the oncoming car. Frozen in place. In deadly peril. But unable to do anything but stand in place and wait for it to happen.

Fortunately, we Presbyterians know who is the driver of the ongoing vehicle: the sovereign, loving merciful God. In that fact lies our only hope.

The Faith of the Church

The faith of the church is not something we formulate but which, instead, has been given to us through Godís self-disclosure in Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures and the confessions of the church ó ancient and modern ó and the preaching of the church. Faith, most fundamentally, is the childlike trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God, but equally important it is our understanding about who God is, who we are and Godís intention for the redemption of fallen humanity in the good creation.