Friday, December 29, 2006

The Good Ship PCUSA – Day 2

The church has many aspects to its life and ministry. Regular readers know that I believe that the church is to be passionate about evangelism, mission, reaching out to the poor and needed, etc. The church is a place where people need to be spiritually challenged—we are to be constantly growing and maturing in Christ. The church is also a place where people come to find rest and refreshment—to get their spiritual, emotional and physical batteries recharged so they can go into the world to serve Christ.

Getting back to the sailing example of yesterday, the constant battering of rough seas takes its toll on everyone on the boat. As mentioned yesterday, there are several factors involved in dealing with “unsmooth sailing.” Today I want to talk about “the boat” as one of those factors.

Not all sailboats are created equal! A boat made for day sailing in Seattle is not a boat that you would want to take down the Washington coast. A boat designed for sailing the high seas is made to withstand the rough conditions offshore. The hull is thicker and stronger. All of the systems are designed to take a beating. The sleeping accommodations are modified for the passage. It can take months and months to get an appropriate boat ready to head off shore.

At the same time, the crew needs to be convinced that the boat is ready for the difficulties that may lie ahead. The crew needs to have the skills necessary for the passage. Last year a group from my sailing club took the US Sailing Offshore Passagemaking Class (the most advanced class US Sailing offers) as they helped deliver a new catamaran sailboat for the Chesapeake Bay to Tortilla, BVI—there were four people from the club and two licensed captains. They experienced several days of EXTREMELY rough conditions! They encountered difficult/dangerous sailing conditions. They had confidence in the boat due to the extensive preparations that had been done on the boat prior to the trip. They had confidence in the delivery captains. All of their years of classes and training were put to the test.

The “unsmooth sailing” in the PCUSA causes problems in that most churches (and church members) have not been sufficiently prepared for the rough sailing. Throw a bunch of conflict into a church and people will begin to leave. Throw constant conflict into a church and only the stubborn or very determined will stay. Why? It all has to do with preparation and readiness to face the troubling waters ahead.

There are those who believe that the PCUSA will weather the current Force 12 storm that it is experiencing. They believe that the PCUSA ship is strong enough to make it through. They should recognize that the journey will be difficult. They should also realize that some people may be lost overboard.

There have been many examples of the toll of rough weather sailing off of New Zealand. Latitude 38 (the Bay Area sailing rag) has a good article covering some of those events. People have lost their lives. Boat have been damaged or sunk. The crews of those boats looked at the weather forecasts and chose to leave port – the storms conditions were worse than predicted.

Those choosing to stay on the good ship PCUSA had better take a good, hard look at the storms ahead. They also need to look at the direction in which to sail the boat. They also need to look at the boat itself.

Let’s use the 2006 General Assembly meeting as an example. I believe that the General Assembly failed to understand that storm that would be created by the approval of the PUP and Trinity Reports. The General Assembly sailed us right into a hurricane! They had to believe that the good ship PCUSA was strong enough to make it through the storm.

Thirty-plus years of fighting the same old theological battles have taken a toll on the good ship PCUSA. The PCUSA has been in the storm for a LONG time. The constant battering has taken its toll on the denomination. I am not convinced that the Presbyterian Church in its current form will survive such a prolonged Force 12 (hurricane) storm. Many sailboats can survive such storms IF the crew makes wise decisions. A wrong move by the person at the helm can put even the best ship is peril.


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