Easter is the great day for the church of Jesus Christ. There would be no gospel, no faith, no hope without the resurrection. Everything depends on God's raising Jesus from the dead, Jesus' ascension, his sitting at the right hand of the Father, his promised coming again. His resurrection is the guarantee of our own, and the gift of life after death to all to whom God chooses to give it.
The minister's primary duty -- and the session's -- is to feed and protect the flock over which God, through the actions of the church, has placed them. One of the sad aspects of the church's wars in recent years has been the spectacle of the people of God in the pew being drawn willy-nilly into battles that they really don't need to be a part of.
If the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is at a crossroads in its life -- a time when many aspects of our life together need to be subjected to careful scrutiny to determine their usefulness to the church -- then certainly a re-examination of the meeting of the General Assembly itself is in order.
For more than 50 years, The Presbyterian Outlook and its predecessor publications worked passionately for the reunion of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A./United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church, U.S. -- the Southern branch separated from the main body since 1861. Year after year, patiently and persistently, our editors worked through individual Presbyterians, North and South, and through the governing bodies of the church to make reunion possible.
Before the presbyteries for a vote, as the new year begins, is the issue of Amendment O. Narrowly passed last summer by the 212th General Assembly, Amendment O proposes an addition to the PC(USA) Directory of Worship to the effect that church property shall not be used for, nor shall any church officer "take part in conducting any ceremony or event that pronounces blessing or gives approval of the church or invokes the blessing of God upon any relationship that is inconsistent with God's intention" of monogamous marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.
The litany of Presbyterian woes gets tiresome. In the New Year we should covenant to cultivate a more positive spirit, not because of what we can do, but because the church belongs to God, not us, and God's strength is always made perfect in our weakness.
Nothing is clearer, as we go through yet another around of decision-making about sexuality in the presbyteries, than that the Presbyterian Church is in the grip of legalism, which seems not to trust the gospel. We are trying to order our affairs as a church by the book, and the book is really not very helpful right now.
In recent issues, the topic of Jesus Christ has been addressed in this column: Who is he? What has he done for us and our salvation? The claim has been put forward that this is the decisive question facing the church today.
Who is Jesus Christ? is the central issue facing the church today, or so I have claimed in the last four columns of this series titled "An Apology," "A Testimony," "Confession" and "Life." This claim has been related to Scripture, the gospel and the Christian life. This final part relates the claim to the issues that so deeply divide the church today and whose resolution seems nowhere to be in sight.