Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Not Ready to Die

According to the News (September 26), the “gathering” was going to look at eleven issues/questions during their two day meeting. Those issues/questions are:

1. The search for a common vision;

2. The question of purpose;

3. The care of relationship and connections;

4. The question of leadership — who leads, why and how — issues of polity, governance and power;

5. The congregational dilemma — from membership focus to missional focus;

6. The congregational dilemma — what is job one? (“The denomination has not lost members; local congregations have lost members.”);

7. Do we have a fundraising problem, a stewardship problem, or a spiritual problem?

8. Who’s talking … who’s listening…? — communication, interpretation and new technologies;

9. Beyond compartmentalization into cooperation and coordination;

10. Developing an immune system for the PC(USA) and in each presbytery (“In the best sense the many advocacy groups and their publications raise questions that need to be addressed, but in the worst case they spread dis-ease, disinformation, distrust and a negativity that is hard to overcome.”);

11. Can we discipline ourselves to focus on what is most important?

This blog has been asking if it is possible for the PCUSA to be redeveloped. I have specifically us the term “redevelop.” I wanted to use a term that the folks at “higher headquarters” are familiar with. They know all about the redevelopment process. They know that redevelopment is IMPOSSIBLE without a total transformation of how a church operates.

The questions that were going to be discussed at the “meeting” begin in the right place—vision and purpose. I have found next to nothing on the internet that reports how those discussions went. Typical! This leadership group could have been THE GROUP that started the redevelopment process for the PCUSA. Either the “cone-of-silence” (from Get Smart) is very effective or the opportunity has been missed.

Change WILL NOT happen when people who are vested in the current system are the ones leading the change. These are good folks. However, their church lives are on the line—as well as the source of income for many of them. They can put the wheels of change in motion but that is all. The common vision and purpose have to come from our congregations and presbyteries. The vision and purpose HAVE to be firmly grounded in scripture and in Jesus Christ.

Here is my suggested process (I realize that it will never happen).

  1. Four or five regional gatherings happen in six months to envision the future of the PCUSA (all at the same time).
    1. The only people who can attend are lay persons from congregations who have never served on a GA committee, task force or been employed by a presbytery, synod or GA.
    2. The gatherings will be led by people outside of the PCUSA who are gifted in leadership, church transformation, spiritual discernment and prayer.
    3. Each church will send representatives based on average worship attendance (1 person for each 200 persons in worship).
    4. There will be no food served at the meetings (except to those with health needs) so that it will be a time for prayer and fasting.
    5. They will seek God’s leading concerning vision and purpose.
  2. The findings of the regional gatherings will be made available to every congregation in the PCUSA. If each of the groups, working separately, comes up with the same vision and purpose it will be evident to the entire denomination.
  3. Failure to come up with a common vision and purpose would automatically set the wheels in motion for gracious separation. The denomination would divide into as many new groups as there are visions and purposes.

Look back at the list of eleven issues/questions that the “gathering” was to look at. Items three through eleven are about rearranging the seats on the Titanic if there is not agreement on the first two.

Now you see why redevelopment of a church or denomination is so difficult. I do not hold out much long-term hope for the PCUSA. Those in leadership are not willing to pay the ultimate price for the survival of the PCUSA. Additionally, those in the pews are probably not willing to pay the price either. It is easier to just keep doing the things we have always done.

Last weekend there was a telelvision program on a powerful hurricane that hit the Florida Keys on September 2, 1955. This was before the days of hurricane hunting planes and satellite imagery. The local residents saw their barometers begin to fall quite quickly. They knew that a powerful storm was on the way. They put their personal emergency plans in motion. There were camps in that section of the Keys for military veterans who couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. They had no knowledge of how to predict approaching storms. The leader of those camps refused to make the “evacuation order” until he received reports from outlying weather stations. When those reports came in it was too late to evacuate the veterans. Oh, they tried. The order was passed “up the line” to Miami. The person who needed to act on that order was playing golf. It took four hours for him to order a train to go to the Keys for the evacuation. The train made it as the 200 mph winds and tidal swell were at their worst. The tracks were under water. Portions of the train were tipped over. Hundreds of veterans lost their lives because the leadership of the camps failed to act in time.

I fear this same fate for the PCUSA. The time for our leaders to act is NOW.


At 2:23 PM , Blogger Quotidian Grace said...

Very interesting idea, Lance. I don't know if anyone can stand any more group meetings, but your suggestions for who could attend and what they are to accomplish are intriguing.

At 7:12 PM , Anonymous Reformed Catholic said...

Just a quick correction, the 'Unnamed' hurricane occurred in 1935, not 1955.

And I agree with what Q.G. just said, the list of requirements for the attendees has merit.

At 8:00 AM , Blogger Becky Ardell Downs said...

so if you have average worship of less than 200 you don't get to go? Doesn't this eliminate about half the churches in the denomination?

At 9:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your BLOG of the last couple of days matches another book that I am studying "Creative Destruction" by Dan Sullivan. It is geared more for Financial Services but the Industry LifeCycle and the twelvepredictions of how a service destructs unless changes are made. Examples are the IOOF, Elks, Granges etc. When the perceived needs change and the people do not, then it is gone.

Lin Jones

At 9:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A big THANK YOU to reformed catholic for the correction. The hurricane was indeed in 1935.

Churches with less tha 200 in average worship attendance would send one representitive. Churches with 300 in average worship attendance would send two representitives. The church I serve averages around 100 in worship each weekend, so our church would send one person. This may seem unfair at first glance-by both the large and small churches. Small churches would say that it isn't fair that the larger churches get to send more than one delegate. However, it isn't fair that the church with over 1700 in worship each week would have the same number of delegates as a church with 100 in worship.

At 11:52 AM , Blogger Becky Ardell Downs said...

Oh, okay. I thought you were saying that when you got to 200 you got to send a rep, then when you got to 400 you could send another rep. I don't think its unfair that larger churches get more reps, but I was concerned that so many people would be unrepresented. Now I see what you're saying.


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