Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Moving Forward into a New Presbyterian Future - Part 3

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

  1. Repentance: On Monday’s blog…
  2. Prayer and fasting: On Monday’s blog.
  3. Move off of the sidelines: On Tuesday’s blog.
  4. List the essentials and make them essential: I will never forget the presbytery gathering that I attended within a few days of the ending of this past General Assembly meeting. We were going to be “debriefed” by our delegates and General Presbyter. The person who had served as the moderator for our Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM) had the “floor” and was asking some questions. She was totally shocked when our General Presbyter told our gathering that the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly said that there is no list of “essential tenants of the Reformed Faith” for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It seems that our CPM had been teaching inquirers and candidates a particular list of “essential” of the Reformed Faith. Now, as a denomination, we have arrived at a place where there is no “list” of essentials and that any ordaining body can determine if our essentials are really essential. The PCUSA has reached the point of insanity! THIS IS A TIME FOR RIGHTEOUS ANGER AND ACTION!
    The “anger” part is already sweeping through the denomination. Presbytery after presbytery are defying the denominations Stated Clerk and setting their own “essentials.” It is now time for a national set of essentials that are written out. The New Wineskins Association of Churches has a very good list of essential tenants. Here is my very brief summary of the topics covered: God; the Bible; humanity, sin and redemption; the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the sacraments; making disciples of all nations—evangelism and mission; Christ’s return. We need thirty or forty presbyteries to adopt these essentials and overture the next General Assembly to adopt them as the essentials that MUST be adhered to by all ordained persons in the PCUSA—no scruples, wavers, exemptions, etc. This leads to my next point.
  5. The Book of Order can only be amended in years that end with “0”: We must change the way we “do” General Assembly. It is ridiculous that the major task of the General Assembly is amending our constitution. We can’t be “changing the rules” every time the assembly meets. Between assemblies the “rules” will need to be rigorously enforced. If an assembly votes to ordain sexually active GLBT persons and it is ratified in the presbyteries then it will be “church law” for at least ten years. The same can be said for banning such ordinations. We can get on with being the church when we stop fighting over changes to the constitution. The meetings of the General Assembly would look and feel very different. Pastors and elders would have time to network and learn from each other. There would be laughter, and maybe a few tear. We could talk about strategies for stopping the catastrophic membership loses of the PCUSA. Any pastor or elder could attend meetings of the General Assembly. General Assembly meetings could offer workshops for various ministry areas: choir directors, worship team leaders, evangelism, technology, prayer, small groups, blogging, networking, children’s ministry, etc. The facilitators could be the folks in our churches that are doing fabulous work in these areas. I DO NOT believe that the PCUSA has the guts to make this kind of powerful policy! No one would want their pet “theology” or “belief” to have to wait ten years for the chance of becoming church law. I believe that the vast majority of Presbyterians are tired of the constant fighting and would embrace such a change.

Check back tomorrow for additional thoughts on this subject.


At 8:30 AM , Blogger Dave Moody said...

Ok- for one, I can't believe you even thought about letting fullcourt die. Humility is a necessary Christian virtue, but I suspect many are tempted to fane (sp?) humility, when in reality- courage- putting away falsehood and speaking truth one to another (Eph. 4) is the pre-requisite virtue. These are great thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.

grace & peace,

At 2:35 PM , Blogger Dan Dermyer said...

Here's a variation of the only change the constitution in years that end in 0. If the GA would meet every three years then changes could happen only every 30 years (with Presbytery approval, of course.)

At 7:07 AM , Blogger Quotidian Grace said...

Your idea of limiting changes to once a decade is a good one. I think we can already see the benefit of having bi-annual instead of annual GA's because every other year offers a rest from these constitutional joustings. If 4 out of 5 GA's were free of polity arguments, then maybe mission and evangelism would become a true priority.

At 8:47 AM , Blogger Rockabilly Pastor said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:06 AM , Blogger Rockabilly Pastor said...

In your post you wrote a description of a recent presbytery meeting. You wrote that the presbytery was '"debriefed” by our delegates and General Presbyter' As I recall from a Presbytery polity class I passed over a decade ago, Presbyterians do not elect or send minister or elder delegates to General Assembly. We do send Youth Advisory Delegates and Theological Advisory Delegates; however, they do not have a vote on the floor of the General Assembly. They simply give their advice. However, we do elect and send minister and elder commissioners to General Assemblies who do get to vote on the floor of the General Assembly. Delegates can be told how to vote, but commissioners are free to vote as he or she wishes.
As to the content of your post, I think it would be a horrible mistake to limit changes to the Book of Order to one a decade even though it would limit our fighting. However, it would have at least one unintended consequence.
For instance, the way we currently start new churches, which might have been effective back in the 1960's, is horribly outdated. As slow as the PCUSA moves and if what you suggest became a reality, we would be cursed with this outdated system of new church development until the year 2030.
One of the characteristics of vital and healthy church are that they can make turns on a dime. When they decide something doesn't work or something works better, they change instantly. I know this is radical, but if the PCUSA wishes to be a vital and healthy denomination ten years from now, then we must turn on a dime.

At 6:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are commissioners to GA not "delegates". Get matters in order.

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