Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thank you!

Dear Readers,
Thank you for following this blog. Within the next twelve months I will be involved in a “project” that is in a country that is VERY unfriendly to Jesus’ followers and any type of evangelism effort is against the law. This “project” is with a previously “unreached” people group. There have been a couple of people who have given their lives to Jesus as a result of this project. So that my presence will not hind this important Kingdom work, I will be deleting the content of any of my church-related blogs. All blog content will be deleted before January 1, 2010.

I pray that you will draw close to Jesus this Advent.

Additionally, please pray for the efforts to reach the wonderful folks of this people group.

God’s blessings upon you!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Preparing for Christmas in a “winter-wonderland.”

A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. These dahlias are from my 2008 garden. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Parkland Rave, Penhill Watermellon, Pinelands Pixie, and Powder Gull. Check out my dahlia web site (The Dahlia Guy) for the complete set of photos and more dahlia information.

Western Washington is under an unprecedented layer of snow and ice. The airport is filled with people that have had their flight canceled-Christmas hopes and dreams are on hold. Gas stations are running out of the “stuff” that our cars run on. Power has been out.

Our family is experiencing the travel crunch. Our daughter will finally make it home tomorrow (Christmas Eve day) from the mission field in the Sahara Desert after getting caught in the airline “mess” with her connecting flight here in the US. My dad will arrive on Christmas afternoon-another weather casualty. Oh well, everyone is safe and we will have a great celebration of the Savior’s birth.

Flexibility is the name of the game.

Our church is located just off of state highway 161—just before the top of a LARGE hill. The small “street” that leads to our parking lot is steep, steep, steep. This past week, cars with studded tires couldn’t make it up the hill. Those that did make it up (four wheel drive vehicles) had to worry about the descent of the hill and being able to stop before sliding out onto the highway. Events have had to be rescheduled or canceled due to safety concerns.

It is suppose to snow tonight and tomorrow morning—Christmas Eve day. It will turn to rain by mid day and freeze before Christmas Eve worship.

The barn where we hold our late-night service is just a half mile from the church. A four wheel drive vehicle is currently needed to negotiate the road into the barn and the parking area. It is going to be a mess on Christmas Eve.

Mary and Joseph experienced a “mess” on that first Christmas. I cannot even imagine what the trip to Bethlehem would have been like for a pregnant Mary. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to give birth in a barn—away from immediate family and friends. Flexibility was the name of the game.

We will have a great Christmas—even if we have to “alter” our original worship and family plans. We are celebrating the birth of our Savior! Praise be to God! Emmanuel—God with us!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

“Out of the box” thinking needed—part 3.

A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. These dahlias are from my 2008 garden. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Narrow’s Tricia, Nanakazi, Oretti Adele and Pam Howden. Check out my dahlia web site (The Dahlia Guy) for the complete set of photos and more dahlia information.

This series of posts is looking at creative ideas for meeting the needs of those in, and around, our congregations and communities during these difficult economic times. The ideas I have suggested to this point are:
• Idea #1: Host a community garden at the church.
• Idea #2: Free lunches for seniors two or three times a week.

The third idea came from an observation from our Thanksgiving dinner delivery team. We work through a local, high need, elementary school. The school sends out a notice that there is assistance available for families in need. Families respond to the school with information on the family: number of people, ages and what the kids would like for Christmas. Our delivery teams noticed a new tendency—families sharing housing during these difficult economic times. Homes where we expected one parent with two kids might have had another parent (a sibling, for example) move in with his, or her, children. This living situation makes it cheaper for both families. This brings me to idea #3.

Idea #3: shared housing.

Lavern and Shirley (fictitious names representing real people) were two elderly women at Evergreen when I was first called to be the pastor of the church. These elderly ladies each lived in mobile homes and had very little in the way of money. Lavern had recently moved into a “new” double-wide mobile home because her son and moved in with her. Finances were still very tight. Shirley began to have some “balance” issues—she fell a couple of times. Things were getting to the point where Shirley could not live alone—she could not afford to move into a retirement home. Lavern and Shirley came up with the idea of shared housing. Shirley helped out with the payment on the mobile home; Lavern helped Shirley with things some things that she could not do on her own. The living situation worked well until Shirley’s health took a serious turn for the worse and she had to move into a nursing home.

Shared housing could be one way of coping with these challenging financial times. Our churches have people that have “empty” rooms in their homes. Maybe, just maybe, these rooms could be opened up to those in the church family that are in need. Many seniors live by themselves in larger houses. Is it possible that they could share their housing with a friend in need?

Just a thought.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

“Out of the box” thinking needed—part 2.

A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. These dahlias are from my 2008 garden. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Mingus Tony, Miss Rose Fletcher, Ms Kennedy and Nanna’s Kiss. Check out my dahlia web site (The Dahlia Guy) for the complete set of photos and more dahlia information.

After taking some time off for the Thanksgiving holiday---I’m back!

“Lance’s Lectern” is my column in our church’s monthly newsletter. My December column was very different than a “typical” December column. Yes, I did comment on Advent and Christmas. Yet, the bulk of the column was about the current economic crisis in America (and the world). It has been said that “the cream rises to the top.” Now is the time for Christ’s followers (and the church) to step up and make a difference.

What can Christ’s followers and his church be doing to assist the folks in our communities that are hurting. “Out-of-the-box” thinking is encouraged! This is a time for brainstorming—no negative comments about suggestions will be tolerated! (Note: I know that people all around the world need assistance—right now I am just focusing on our neighbors.)

Idea #2—Free lunches for seniors two or three times a week. Children from lower income families receive free or reduced lunches and breakfasts at school. There is no senior center (or any other organization) offering free lunches for seniors. You may ask, “Why free lunches?” or, “Why for seniors?” Many seniors are on fixed incomes. Many others have had their retirement accounts decimated in the past few months. Senior are being faced with buying food or paying for heat. Offering free lunches for seniors will address both of these needs—food and heat!

What are your ideas?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

“Out of the box” thinking needed!

A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. These dahlias are from my 2008 garden. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Kream Kerkrade, Lilac Time, Markie Re, and Midnight Moon. Check out my dahlia web site (The Dahlia Guy) for the complete set of photos and more dahlia information.

After taking some time off for the Thanksgiving holiday---I’m back!

“Lance’s Lectern” is my column in our church’s monthly newsletter. My December column was very different than a “typical” December column. Yes, I did comment on Advent and Christmas. Yet, the bulk of the column was about the current economic crisis in America (and the world). It has been said that “the cream rises to the top.” Now is the time for Christ’s followers (and the church) to step up and make a difference.

Each region of the country has its own economic challenges. However, there are some things that remain the same. They are:
• Lines at food banks are longer than they have been in years.
• Retirees are going back to work because their retirement funds have been decimated.
• Food bank shelves are very bare—donations are down.
• Ministries and agencies that help people who are behind in paying bills are strained to critical levels.
• Businesses are laying off employees.
• Restaurants are empty.
• The list goes on and on and on.

Evergreen is helping more families than ever for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We get our “families” from a local school. The kids all receive free or reduced breakfasts and lunches due to family income level. For Christmas, we provide at Christmas dinner, presents for everyone in the family and food for breakfasts, lunches and some dinners for the entire school break. It is a HUGE project! It is worth every penny that it costs. Yet, this is not enough—it should be just the beginning.

The time has come for our churches to begin thinking outside of the box. How are we going to meet the ever expanding needs in our community?

There are two fronts that we need to be aware of. These fronts are:
• Front #1: People in our congregation—There are people in our congregations that are struggling financially. We need to provide a safe setting where people can freely talk about their current economic situation. We need to let them know that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. The book of Acts is filled with examples of Christ’s followers selling their possessions to help other believers who are in need. These passages should cause us to ask, “What can I do to help the needy who are in my church?”
• Front #2: People in my community—Each of our communities is filled with people who are struggling financially. Some of these folks have never been in such a position before. These folks need a social safety net at a time when such services are overwhelmed. The Bible is filled with calls to assist those in need. These passages should cause us to ask, “What can I do to help the needy in my community?”

This week I would like this blog to be a place for people to post their “ideas” for how to make a difference. “Out-of-the-box” thinking is encouraged! This is a time for brainstorming—no negative comments about suggestions will be tolerated!

Idea #1 from Evergreen—We are going to host a free community garden this year. A family in our church has a small business (three greenhouses) that sells flowers and vegetable plants. Last spring they sold out of their entire supply of vegetable plants. People who never had a garden were longing to learn how to grow and preserve their own food. Most of these folks were wishing to do this for economic reasons. We are planning on setting aside a portion of our property for the garden. Our local water company is providing the water line and meter (free of charge) so that we will have water for the garden. We will offer classes on gardening and food preservation.

More ideas in the coming days.

What are your ideas?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Presbytery Approves New Discernment Process!

A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. These dahlias are from my 2008 garden. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Kelvin Floodlight, Kenora Spirit, Kenora Wow and Kidd’s Climax.

The Presbytery of Olympia approved the following policy document at yesterday’s presbytery meeting. This was the second “reading” of the document. The task force is still looking at writing a fourth section that will deal nets-and-bolts of the process for departure.

Following the document I will briefly comment on some aspects of the meeting.

Presbytery of Olympia
Discernment and process for Presbytery and Congregations
Considering Withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church (USA)
PREAMBLE: As we consider issues of denominational affiliation, we recognize and affirm that our indivisible unity is dependent upon our relationship through the Lordship of Jesus Christ, not the result of voluntary association (see also Book of Order, G-4.0200, the unity of the church).
Consideration by presbyteries and congregations of a church’s withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PC(USA)) must begin with agreement upon principles of discernment. Spiritual discernment is a focused effort to sort out the will of God, distinguishing God’s Spirit from other spirits that may be influencing us, such as the spirit of tradition, legalism, anger, loyalty, self-will or control. Discernment of God’s Spirit requires intentional prayer, careful study, and deep listening to God and to each other.

Let us be led by the words of St. Paul: “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-5)

We, the members of the Presbytery of Olympia, will seek to honor Jesus Christ, Scripture, the Book of Confessions, and the Book of Order through respectful process and open dialogue. The premise upon which our process is built is that when we approach discernment together with intentionality, sincerity, openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and through the authority of the Word of God, the will of God will be revealed.
Discerning God’s Leading Together guides congregations and the Presbytery, working in partnership, toward answering the questions, “Is God leading this particular congregation to disaffiliate from the PC(USA)?” And if so, “how can that be accomplished in a way that honors Christ’s mission in the world and that seeks to strengthen both the congregation and the Presbytery”?
The ultimate goal of the Presbytery will be to discern whether God is calling a congregation to reconciliation and continued relationship with the PC(USA), or to withdrawal from the denomination. This discernment will be accomplished in a spirit of pastoral consideration, not by formal confrontation. The following process outlines the principles we will use as a presbytery, and that will be used by our congregations, to respond to situations where our congregations are considering withdrawal from the PC(USA).
We will seek to respect both freedom of conscience and the essentials of Reformed Faith and polity as expressed in The Book of Confessions and the “Form of Government,” subject always to Scripture and the movement of the Spirit. We will work in good faith toward a mutually agreeable solution, but ultimately the decision reached through this process should reflect what would best serve not ourselves, but the cause of Christ.
1. Faithful departures. A congregation discerning that it must leave the PC(USA) may be faithfully following the will of God for that particular church body.
2. Commitment to avoid litigation. In fulfillment of Resolution 04-28, adopted by the 218th General Assembly, we recognize that the exercise of the process to “divide, dismiss, or dissolve churches in consultation with their members” (Book of Order, G-11.0103), if accomplished by litigation, “is deadly to the cause of Christ . . . and our witness to Christ in the world around us.” Therefore we will carefully follow the principles of consistency, pastoral responsibility, accountability, gracious witness, openness and transparency.

3. Open Communication. We affirm the right of Pastors and Elders to discuss options for responding to the actions of the Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly.
4. “Early entry” conversations. Pastors and/or Sessions which begin intentional and sustained discussions about separation from PC(USA) will invite Presbytery participation through the General Presbyter and the Care Team representative, or other Committee on Ministry designee. The General Presbyter would also be expected to make pastoral contact with any congregation that is understood to be struggling with its future in the PC(USA).

5. Congregational Gatherings. Whenever any congregational gatherings involving withdrawal considerations are held, Presbytery representatives will be invited to participate and speak.

6. Presbytery teams. To ensure adequate communication between the particular church and the Presbytery, teams will be formed as needed. These are as follows:

A. For the Discernment Process (Section Three) a Discernment Team will be formed, comprised of balanced representation from the affected congregation and COM appointees [representation detailed in Section Three]. The Discernment Team will assist and support the congregation as it discerns the future of its affiliation with the PC(USA) and will ensure that the Council is apprised of ongoing conversations and discernment. People trained in conflict resolution will be available throughout the process.
B. If the process proceeds to final negotiations over terms of separation, the Presbytery shall elect an Administrative Commission as its representative, with clearly defined responsibilities established by vote of the Presbytery. COM is encouraged to nominate members of the Discernment Team to be considered for the Administrative Commission.

7. Presbytery – congregation contacts. Presbytery has a responsibility to ensure that all active members of a congregation are involved in any discernment process.

8. Commitment to negotiate. If a congregation and its leadership faithfully follow this policy and reach the conclusion that separation from the PC(USA) is the will of God, then the Session and Presbytery will negotiate in good faith to reach a fair, just and reasonable dismissal agreement.

9. Trust clause. All property in the PC(USA) is held in trust for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (Book of Order, G-8.0201). Decisions about property will be made around future ministry and mission concerns for both the congregation seeking dismissal and the PC(USA).

10. Faithfulness to past members’ intentions.

11. Media contacts. Presbytery and the Session will work together to create a media plan, designating who will provide information to the media from the Presbytery and the Session, and committing to work in concert on such contacts in order to maintain a witness to Christ in the world.

12. Case-by-case application of principles. This policy establishes principles for discernment in situations where withdrawal from the PC(USA) is being considered. Each situation will be uniquely addressed on its own merits, using the principles set forth in this policy.

13. Book of Order. This policy is expressly subject to all existing provisions of the Book of Order. No statement herein may be interpreted to contradict any specific provision of the Book of Order. Further, in the event that the principles stated in this policy are not being followed, Presbytery may invoke other Book of Order process as needed.


1. Pastor(s) or Session(s) of congregation(s) which are considering the possibility of separation from the PC(USA) are encouraged to pray and openly discuss with one another the issues confronting their individual congregation. When they begin intentional and sustained conversations concerning separation, they shall meet with the General Presbyter and a representative appointed by the Committee on Ministry (COM) to initiate communication between the congregation and the Presbytery.

2. To affirm the connectional nature of our relationships, those who are considering these matters are encouraged to hold shared discussions with other Pastors and Sessions for communal discernment.

3. If further conversation about disaffiliation is desired/appropriate, the Session will invite COM to appoint two representatives to seek resolution and to advise the Session on the implications of considering disaffiliation. The COM appointees will apprise the COM of the ongoing discernment of the Session.

4. The Session, in conjunction with the COM appointees, will arrange one or more congregational gathering(s) to invite the members into a time of discernment, education and prayer.

5. If the Session determines that the congregation desires to continue a process of discernment, the Session and the Presbytery will work together to form a Discernment Team (DT). The team will be comprised of the two COM appointees and two representatives chosen by the Session. The DT will be responsible for recommending a discernment process to the Session. Progress is to be reported regularly to COM.

6. The DT will meet with the Session and its Moderator as ongoing discernment progresses. If desired by either Session or the COM representatives, they will also meet with the congregation in appropriate gatherings. At any time during the discernment phase, a person trained in conflict resolution may be requested by the DT. Possible topics for conversation include the following:

• Reflecting on Scripture together and praying
• Rooting the identified issues in Scripture and our Reformed Tradition, as reflected in the Constitution of the PC(USA).
• The nature of discernment
• Exploration of church polity including implications of the Trust Clause for both the congregation and also the Presbytery and denomination
• Exploration of constitutional ways of influencing the polity of the PC(USA)
• Options and ramifications of options before the congregation
• Strategies for listening to any clearly identified factions within the congregation; in most instances, the decision to withdraw is a personal one, not a corporate one.

7. When the DT has determined that all pertinent issues have been addressed, including identifying the reformed body to which the congregation would be dismissed, and that disaffiliation may be God’s will for that particular congregation, the DT will invite congregation members to gatherings that “afford to all persons to be affected by the decision fair notice and an opportunity to be heard on the matters at issue” (G-9.0505b1).

8. The DT is required to be present at the gatherings and to serve as a resource for the congregation’s questions. They are also tasked with making sure that all members have an opportunity to voice their concerns. The DT will determine how many members wish to be dismissed to the identified reformed body, how many wish to remain part of an ongoing PC(USA) congregation, and how many are undecided at this time. The DT will report to the COM whether an Administrative Commission will need to be appointed to carry the work forward.


The meeting was an excellent example of what is happening in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
• Early in the meeting a 90+ year old pastor gave a wonderful account of how the PCUSA welcomed him into the fold when he left the denomination where he was a pastor. He stated that he felt the PCUSA was a loving place and that he would only leave the PCUSA when Christ called him home.
• During our time of dealing with the “proposed” new policy, another pastor gave an eloquent presentation on why he wished we did not spend time on the original policy in May or on the current revision of that policy. He felt that these efforts were keeping us from doing the work of Christ that desperately needs to be done.
• At the end of the meeting (during Miscellaneous Business), a wonderful pastor who had just retired for the second time, stood before the presbytery and said that the denomination which he was ordained into had left him. He instructed the Stated Clerk to remove his name from the rolls of the presbytery.

The depth of the brokenness of the PCUSA weighs heavily upon me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A critical look at the 17th synod model.

A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. These dahlias are from my 2008 garden. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Kasasagi, Keewatin Pioneer, Keith H and Kel Kel.

Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) is proposing that the PCUSA create a 17th synod. This synod would be a non-geographical synod that evangelical churches and presbyteries could join. This synod would have its own set of ordination standards.

The positive side of the PFR proposal:
1. It would provide a “place” in the PCUSA for evangelical congregations who disagree with the current denominational stance on the ordination of LGBTpersons.
2. Congregations/presbyteries would still have access to the millions/billions of dollars in the Presbyterian Foundation.

The negative side of the PFR proposal:
1. The 17th synod model does not address the root cause of the ordination standards debate—the authority and interpretation of scripture. There is no agreement on the person of Jesus: born of a virgin, did miracles, bodily resurrection, etc. There is no agreement that the only way to God is through Jesus—period. There is no agreement on the nature of God. The list of disagreements could go on and on. How can the churches of this 17th synod continue to be a part of a denomination that has moved away from orthodox, biblical Christianity?
2. The 17th synod model sacrifices biblical truths and teachings to the un-biblical position of unity at all costs.
3. The 17th synod model would necessitate a total reworking of the PCUSA’s structure—and thus, will never happen. The General Assembly would have to be modified to create a one headed monster with two bodies. How would the PCUSA create a curriculum that would be used by both branches of the denomination? How would the Washington D.C. office speak effectively for both branches of the denomination? How would mission be accomplished when one branch may want to support mission efforts that the other branch would view as heretical? How would the General Assembly and the General Assembly staff be divided to meet the needs of all PCUSA constituencies? The 17th synod model would necessitate a total reworking of the PCUSA—from top to bottom. It is never going to happen.
4. The 17th synod model would necessitate a reworking of our seminaries. The PCUSA does not “own” a single seminary. There are seminaries that are related to be PCUSA—they are totally independent. Would the seminaries have two sets of faculty—one set from the liberal/progressive camp and one set from the evangelical camp?
5. In the 17th synod model, how would pastors move from the 17th synod to any other synod or from any of the other 16 synods into the 17th synod? There are many churches that are made up of evangelical and progressive membes and not join the 17th synod. How would an evangelical pastor receive a call to such a church from the 17th synod? Would it be possible for a liberal/progressive pastor to become the pastor of an evangelical congregation in the 17th synod?

In summary, I do not understand how a person/pastor/church can believe that the PCUSA is doing “things” that are absolutely forbidden in scripture and still allow people and the denomination who are advocating the unbiblical positions to be in authority over them. Such a position is unbiblical and unacceptable.