Thursday, October 19, 2006

Moving Forward into a New Presbyterian Future - Part 4

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: On Wednesday’s blog.
  5. Building relationships: The PCUSA has claimed to be a “connectional’ church—nothing could be further from the truth! Gathering for meetings does not make us “connectional,” it just means that we attended the same meeting. I have been a presbytery geek since coming under care, way back when. I started going to presbytery meetings while under care of my presbytery. During seminary (Fuller) I was youth director at a small church and attended San Gabriel Presbytery meetings with the pastor of the church. While doing an internship in Dallas I attended Grace Presbytery meetings. I was ordained in Presbytery de Cristo. Since that time I have served in Central Washington, Alaska and Olympia Presbyteries. The only presbytery where I experienced the connectional Presbyterian Church was Alaska—there was a close bond between pastors and elders throughout that presbytery. Synod and General Assembly keep us from being connectional—in my opinion. Our connectionalism has to be built from the bottom up. Presbytery meetings do not make us “connectional;” relationships make us connectional. The time has come for us to build relationships. The presbytery can’t do it for us. The New Wineskins Association of Churches has hit a home run (I’ve got the Mets-Cardinals game on) with their ministry networks. We need to start building networks today! Pastor… get on the phone and call some other Presbyterian pastors and set up a gathering (between 3 and 8 pastors). Meet together. Pray together. Hold one another accountable. Get our churches to partner together for ministry and mission. Elders… find what pastors your pastor is partnering with and begin meeting with some elders from those churches. Gather together. Pray together. Hold one another accountable. Get your churches to partner together for ministry and mission. BE THE CHURCH! Ministry networks can join together to form regional networks. These groups are not forced on us by the “system.” These groups form organically by brothers and sisters in Christ.
  6. Be informed—keep the church informed: Information can set people free. A person waiting for test results from the doctor is in bondage to his/her own imagination and fears. The same can be said for people in the Presbyterian Church. Keeping informed allows us to think critically, pray pointedly, act wisely and hope eternally. I am amazed at how few pastors keep up on what is happening in our denomination. Then there are pastors like me who have tried to shield our congregations from many of the denominational controversies for fear of losing to other, more biblical denominations (or non-denominational churches). I am coming to grips with my fears in this area and I am now willing to open the floodgates of denominational information. Web sites I regularly monitor are: Presbyweb (it is the best subscription I have--they give people a free 30-day trial!), New Wineskins, Confessing Church, Voices of Sophia, Constitutional Presbyterians, PCUSA, More Light Presbyterians and Presbyterian Global Fellowship. I follow LOTS of blogs! Here are some of the most helpful: Classical Presbyterian, Quotidian Grace, Mark Roberts, Truth in Love Network, Eagle and Child, Shuck and Jive, Tom’s Thoughts, Berkley Blog, PCUSA Pastor’s Blog, Kruse Kronicle, Reflections for Renewal, Curmudgeon’s Progress, Dr. Jack Rogers, Measuring Days and Experiences in Church Transformation. All of these can be found on my delicious account (http://del.icio.us/PastorLance) under the bundle called “PCUSAsources.” I have made a commitment to stay informed. I have just made a commitment to keep my church informed. Are you willing to make the same commitments?
Check back tomorrow for more thoughts on this topic.

5 Comments:

At 8:13 PM , Anonymous Larry said...

Lance,
I echo your comments on "connectionalism". It is an overused and underutilized word.

I find as a PCUSA elder that 99% of church members and elders do not know a single Presbyterian in another PCUSA church.

People like to say that being Presbyterian is being connectional. Words without action mean nothing.

Why be a Presbyterian Church if the members and elders act like it is an independent, non-denominational church?

 
At 8:20 PM , Blogger Presbyterian Gal said...

Remember the movement back in the 70's, I think it was called "Key 73"? It was an ecumenical drive to connect churches of different denominations within a community. It worked very well for awhile, then, obviously, petered out.

Perhaps a similar campaign is in order now for Presbyterians? Following Lance's lead would be a good basis, I think.

 
At 11:04 PM , Blogger Presbyterian Gal said...

P.S. If we can accomplish lighting a fire for "connectionalism", hopefully it will be one that grows and flourishes (unlike Key 73). I believe it can be done.

 
At 11:53 AM , Blogger Renee Guth said...

Lance,

What a huge point! I believe that we are so un-connectional, meaning un-relational, that we need to learn how!

There are congregational leaders who meet for theological reflection, prayer, and mutual support. From what I have experienced and heard through the grapevine, these efforts have been very encouraging, stimulating, and beneficial to those participating

I would love for folks to share ideas about how to connect and relate!

This is the way that we follow a part of the Biblical vision to be the Church. We are called to love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another daily, confession our sins to one another, etc. Connectional and relational efforts are needed to build up the church and so the church will know how to interact with those around us.

Blessings,
Renee

 
At 8:56 PM , Blogger Russell Smith said...

Lance -- thanks for the recommendation of the Eagle and Child -- and I heartily second your endorsement of Presbyweb -- one of the best resources out there on what is going on.
Russell

 

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