The Death of Denominations?

Actions by recent General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are beginning to force many of our members to consider a choice between God and our denomination. We are not alone. Other denominations are doing the same. If denominations continue to force their members to choose between their deeply committed personal religious beliefs and their denominational affiliation, the denominations will lose.

For Less Regulatory Governance

There is an increasingly urgent voice in the church, calling for our governance to be more enabling and less regulatory. Chapter 14 of the Form of Government, which deals with ordination, certification and commissioning, is the most severe focal point for this frustration, and is a major source of the disconnect between congregations and the denomination.

The PC(USA) and the China Christian Council

Today there are a number of conflicting accounts as to the status of Christianity in China. One persistent version begins with the assumption that an atheistic Communist government will not tolerate the presence of a true Christian church. Consequently, Christianity in China must be sharply divided between an "apostate church" -- represented by the China Christian Council which is supported by the atheistic government -- and the "true underground church," which is subject to continuous persecution and harassment.

Unreached, Unchurched or Unconcerned

Mission is not something done "to" or "for" others, but "with" others. We participate in God's mission in loving communion with: (1) the Triune God who empowers, sends and directs us; (2) one another in the local- global church; and (3) those to whom we are sent and those whom we receive.

Watch Out!

In baptism every parent promises to bring up a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  The Greek term for nurture is paideia, which was really a dynamite word for the Hellenes, especially those who were kept in the Attic.  One needs only to mention the magisterial three volumes of Werner Jaeger's study of that topic.  Paideia was the unlocking key to the glory that was Greece.  It means the intentional transmission of values and may be translated as civilization, culture, education, nurture and tradition.

In the Big Inning

Baseball is, of course, a biblical game because we are taught "the homer shall be the standard measure" (Ezekiel 45:11, RSV).  Jesus was looking for the diamond when he asked, "Where are the nine?"  (Luke 17:17)  Baseball is congenial to Christians because it is played in green pastures and often beside still waters (in Pittsburgh, however, we can cross three rivers to get to the park).

Throwing in the Towel

Our son Gary was born in a hospital connected with the prison where his mother was serving time for grand theft.  With a birth weight slightly more than three pounds, Gary could whimper softly but was too weak to cry for his first year on Earth.  We were told Gary would never walk because to his mental retardation was added cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs.

A Chest Hair Named Fred

When he was a teen-ager, my son, who was not wearing a shirt, approached his mother and said,

"Look, Mom."  "I'm looking."  "What do you see?"  "I see your chest."  "Yes, but what do you see on my chest?"  "What am I supposed to see on your chest?"  "You're supposed to see a chest hair named Fred."

The Gun Lap

I am often, and rightly, described as an athletic supporter.  I love all sports but especially track and am proud to say that I am one of the few persons in the world to see Bobby Morrow (1956 Olympic gold medals at 100 and 200 meters and the 4-by-100 relay) run a full quarter mile.

On Barking Dogmas

Fundamentalist and Modernist; Liberal and Conservative.  Sadly, these clumsy assignations are still made by Presbyterians.  I regret to say that I am myself victimized by this distinction, and I regret even more that I perpetuate its use.  The Apostle Paul discusses the broader problem of "we" and "they" (or to be more objective -- "us" and "them") in Philippians 1:15-18, coming to the remarkable conclusion that we should rejoice because Christ is being proclaimed, whether by "them" in pretense or by "us" in truth.