The Purpose of Reformed Worship

There is division among us over what constitutes authentic Reformed worship. I have witnessed this firsthand while — as moderator of the worship planning work group for the Committee on Local Arrangements for the 216th General Assembly — balancing competing demands of representation and inclusivity for the Assembly in Richmond in four weeks. The variety of Presbyterian worship today is extraordinary. We’ve made choices.

The Need for Dialogue

I first encountered African Church hostility to our debates over ordination in 1998 from the courageous editor of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana’s newspaper. He and I talked of many things, not least of which was the fact that for years his was the only voice in Ghana that spoke truth to power. He was hounded, threatened, and would have been shut down, had his funding not been from the Presbyterian Church. A Reformed Christian, he was a tireless advocate of freedom of the press.

Remembering our Heritage

A couple of years ago an elder at Second church, Richmond, introduced himself, saying he and his wife had lived in Rich-mond for over 30 years, and felt at home in a place they had come to love very much. Then he said, "I know that for many of you, that’s no more than a long weekend." It’s true. We don’t forget history or lineage.

What unites us

What, besides God’s Spirit, God’s providence and God’s purpose for the PC(USA), will hold us together in a recognizable form through the next 20 years? Does God need the PC(USA) to continue to make a Reformed witness that has been our hallmark since long before John Witherspoon signed the Declaration of Independence?

Reshaping the Vsion of how we’re connected

Part of what ails our denomination is rooted in confusion over how we are connected to one another. Over the past 20 years, our shared judicatory mission efforts increasingly have been replaced by congregationally based mission programs. Today, far more mission work is rooted in congregations than judicatories. This process has been enabled and empowered by affordable transportation to any part of the world as well as instant communication through the Internet and e-mail.

Our Ishmaels and God’s Isaac

Recently, the daily lectionary readings have taken us into Genesis. In the 17th chapter there is an episode that may provide some help us to our ongoing struggle over ordination.

The 17th chapter is part of the larger narrative which begins when God first calls Abram in chapter 12. God promises to make for Abram a great nation and a great name so that Abram will become a blessing. Abram, Sarai and others begin to move in faithful response to God’s call and promise.

Learning to Speak about God

Last month Leslie Scanlon reported on The Greenhoe Lectures given at Louisville Seminary by Nancy Ammerman. I found her summaries helpful in a variety of ways, not the least of which are some interesting demographics. Less than 20 percent of American households are families with children living at home, and nearly 30 percent of American households are occupied by two adults without children. In addition Ammerman commented on the religious perspectives of Americans. We overwhelmingly believe in God, and at least one-third of us are mainline Christians.

Remarks at the Million Mom March

Thank God for people of faith who are here today. Our Faith Community is a giant. We’re in every city and town in America. But the Giant is asleep. The Giant also has a powerful, moral voice. But when it comes to fighting gun violence, the Giant is as quiet and timid as a church mouse.

If the U.S. is to reduce its unique level of gun deaths it will be because people of faith awaken their spiritual leaders and demand that they lead the fight from their pulpits and classrooms.

Margaret Flory: An Appreciation

Margaret Flory is "one of the most outstanding leaders of the ecumenical movement of the 20th Century," Rubem Alves, Brazilian theologian and poet, wrote, "because her eyes had the power to see trees when they were only seeds."

More than 150 people from around the world — not a few of them trees that first encountered Flory when they were seeds — gathered at New York's Riverside Church May 14-15 to honor Margaret Flory on the occasion of her 90th birthday.


These thoughts on the church’s ministry of healing are inspired by the willingness of Lawton Posey and Richard Ray to reflect theologically on their experiences of suffering and recovery for the sake of the church. I had a brush with mortality over Palm Sunday weekend, minor indeed compared with theirs. In the quiet of a two-day unexpected hospital stay, I remembered the Divine Healing Service on the Island of Iona in 1965, and words that introduced the laying on of hands following prayers for the sick and dying.