Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Moving Forward into a New Presbyterian Future - Part 2

Last week I looked at the possibility of a future in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) without synods and presbyteries. Yesterday I started giving my suggestions for how the PCUSA can move forward into a new present and future.

  1. Repentance: On Monday’s blog…
  2. Prayer and fasting: On Monday’s blog.
  3. Move off of the sidelines: One major problem with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is that too many people sit on the “sidelines.” The tendency for the sidelines runs rampant at all levels of our denomination.
    1. The local church: How many people sit on the “sidelines” at my/your church? Our churches have “members” who attend church less than once each month. The local Rotary club would never allow that kind of attendance by its members—and Rotary is JUST A CLUB!! The church is supposed to be the body of Christ and yet we set the participation “bar” lower than a local service club! There are “members” of the church I serve that are kept on the active roll because of the fear that other family members will leave the church if their loved one is place on the inactive roll. These “seldom attenders” are not the only ones on the sidelines. Our churches are filled with people who attend worship, and that’s it-- they are on the sidelines. We have faithful church attenders that never crack open their Bibles or pray—they are on the sidelines. We need to get off the sidelines. We need to get others off the congregational sidelines.
    2. The presbytery: The sidelines of the presbytery are even more crowded than the sidelines of the local congregation. There are pastors that never/seldom attend presbytery meetings—with good reason. For the past year I have been in this category. I do not have the seven or eight hours to waste by attending a presbytery meeting. Presbytery will never attend until we all attend and DEMAND that things change! We have to stand up and say what we believe even if the “major players” in the presbytery will disagree with it. I/we need to get off of the sidelines. We have pastors who faithfully attend presbytery meetings and yet NEVER speak out or take a theological stand—they are on the sidelines. There are pastors in my presbytery that have never taken a theological stand on the floor of a presbytery meeting. How can they justify their silence to their elders who attend the meetings? We need to develop backbones that are Biblically grounded and theologically orthodox. We need to change the way delegates are selected for synod and GA. GET OFF THE SIDELINES!
    3. The synod: It is time to “fish or cut bait” concerning the synod. If we are going to keep synods then they have to provide a NEEDED service to our presbyteries and local churches. The only way to do this is to have a serious discussion at each presbytery within our synod to talk about the future of our synod. There should be discussions between the various presbyteries in each synod to see what those discussions have yielded. If there is agreement that the synod is not providing needed services then a plan for fazing out the $$$ support should be developed. I would tell the synod that we will pay the synod per capita one more year and then they will not receive ONE ADDITIONAL PENNY! They would be free to try and raise funds by contacting local churches and if they receive sufficient funding then they will be able to keep their doors open. If the synod goes out of existence it would then be up to the presbyteries to build new partnerships for common ministry.
    4. The General Assembly: I am aware of one church in our synod that has a committee that monitors the actions of the General Assembly. Needless to say, that church is informed about what is happening at the national level of our denomination and they have experienced righteous anger toward the PCUSA. We can no long keep our congregations in the dark about what is happening in the PCUSA. Our churches need to know that Louisville seminary was the site of a lesbian wedding – a wedding that our denomination says is sin. Our churches need to know what is published in “Horizons.” Our churches need to know when our Stated Clerk files “friend of the court” briefs in court cases. Our churches need to know that the PCUSA gives more per member support to the Natioinal Council of Churches than other denominations and they need to know what the National Council of Churches is doing. Our churches need to know that the Social Witness group is doing at the national level of our church. This denomination will not change until the people in the pews DEMAND that it changes. We need to change the ways that our presbyteries select delegates to General Assembly. As pastors, we need to begin attending General Assembly meetings and speaking at the committee meetings. We need to take elders to do the same. Most churches are working on their budgets for 2007. We need to ensure that those budgets have sufficient dollars set aside to send pastors and elders to important national and regional meetings (GA, GAC, Social Witness Policy, New Wineskins, etc.). We need to demand that all meetings of national groups are open meetings unless they are dealing with personnel issues. We can no longer allow the “few” at the national level drive this denomination to ruin. YOU AND I MUST GET OFF THE SIDELINES OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY!

Check back tomorrow for additional ideas on this important topic.


At 10:02 AM , Blogger Presbyterian Gal said...

Right on about sitting on the sidelines! As a social observation, it appears that sitting on the sidelines is now not only tolerated, but encouraged. It takes energy, attention and time for a body such as a church, presbytery, synod or GA to be responsive to the questions and concerns that arise when individual people or groups become involved and aware. And it always upsets the status quo.

Supported by the dwindling requirement of accountability and the growing demand for politically correct "inclusiveness", sideline sitting is becoming our way of life. I believe this is where we have become so disconnected.

Thanks for hitting the nail on the head again.

At 3:30 PM , Blogger Quotidian Grace said...

"Get off the sidelines!" A powerful call, Lance!It's sad that both pastors and elders fail to do this and then complain about their church, presbytery, synod and GA. You've served up a lot of food for thought.

At 4:51 PM , Anonymous Larry said...

All of your ideas make sense. Not only that, the ideas are not something that it would take a rocket scientist to uncover.

The answers to solve PCUSA's woes are really quite obvious.

When enough members, elders, and particularly ministers care, then perhaps they will invoke the easy answers.

In the meantime, the PCUSA will muddle along with membership declines increasing.

At this point the jury is still out as to whether the PCUSA will survive or not.

At 6:56 AM , Anonymous Neil Cowling, Westland, MI said...

You said "There are pastors that never/seldom attend presbytery meetings—with good reason. For the past year I have been in this category. I do not have the seven or eight hours to waste by attending a presbytery meeting."

I serve on the Board of Directors of Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit. On several occasions the President would say to us "Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules." Learned as he was, and appreciative as it was, I feel it is a rather silly comment. If I am going to take "time out" I would not do it at a Board meeting. Since I was there as a representative of the Presbytery of Detroit--we have 2 reps--I thought it was, in secular terms, "part of my job."

Presbytery meetings may be dull and tedious and at times a waste of time, but have we not the patience to take the time to waste time? We Ministers of Word and Sacrament have a calling from God through the Presbytery. We vow when ordained or installed to "be a friend among [our]colleagues in ministry, working with them, subject to the ordering of God's Word and Spirit?" In secular terms, Presbytery meetings are "part of the job." To stay away because one does not have time means that something else should probably go. Perhaps even the time one spends on this blog.

At 10:21 AM , Anonymous Busy Bee said...

Thank you for the insight on the problem of this denomination. You want us to move from the sidelines to the playing field and choose sides. The implicatin is that being in the game is to choose sides, speak up, be active in our Presbyteris and Synods.Is this the mission God has given us. What about the mission of serving, loving, leading people to Chirst. In order to do what you propose, we need to give up leading the women's bible study, visiting those in hospitals, caring for children's ministry,menoring new Christian toward discipleship and all the other activities that go on in our church. For what, to play the game that the leaders of the denomination have set into play.
The presbyteries and Synods are the real ones that are on the sidelines and the GA is out of the Ball Park! I think I am beginning to feel it is time to leave this denomination - I mean game.

At 5:26 PM , Anonymous John Foreman said...

If I was a football player sitting on the sidelines, what incentive would I have for wanting to get in the game if I knew that the rules and the referees were all biased in favor of the other side?

(He who has ears, let him hear...)


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