Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Good Ship PCUSA – Day 4

For several days we have been looking at the “unsmooth sailing” in the PCUSA. Today we are going to look at how “the crew” has an impact on sailing the boat.

There are many world cruisers who have never encountered a major storm. These cruisers do their research concerning yearly weather patterns, they track current weather and make wise choices as to when and where to sail. Having said this, there are still unexpected storms which must be dealt with. The “crew” will play a HUGE role in how the boat makes it through the storm.

Training: It is amazing how many incompetent sailors there are. To be sure, most of these folks can get the boat from “Point A” to “Point B” – at least under normal conditions. These sailors have minimal skills when it comes to navigation, knowing the laws governing vessel traffic, safety equipment, crew-overboard rescue techniques, storm tactics, etc. Did you know that most men who drown are found with their zippers open—they fell overboard while taking a pee. It is frightening how many people boat without wearing a PFD (personal flotation device). Too many people drink alcoholic beverages while the boat is under way. Poor decisions. Poor training! Proper training is important – in fact, crucial! Most pastors in the Presbyterian Church are not trained to guide a local church through troubled waters—let alone the hurricane the PCUSA has been experiencing for the past thirty years! I do not believe that the leadership of our denomination has any more skills for facing the hurricane than the average pastor in our churches. I have been assured that the national staff is well aware of the fragile state of the PCUSA but nothing they are doing communicates that fact. They lay off staff and reorganize the remaining staff—without substantial changes in how we go about being a church! It is time to bring in people to head up this denomination who have expertise/skills to lead us through the hurricane.

Failing to Check the Forecast: Too many boats experience rough conditions because the crew failed to check the weather forecast. Years and years ago I was a college student at Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska. The student government had a skiff that students could check out. Three of us headed down to Silver Bay to go salmon fishing. It was a beautiful day—part of the day we fished with our shirts off. The problem was that we had failed to check the weather forecast. Our beautiful day quickly became a stormy mess. I got us back to the harbor in one piece—but it wasn’t fun! General Assembly delegates and staff members need to do a better job of checking the “forecast” on key issues. There will be times when God leads them to make difficult decisions. They should know the “cost” of their decisions! This is not to say that God will never lead our denomination to make decisions that cost us 25% of our churches. We just need to be aware of the costs before making those decisions. Church and denominational leaders need to check the forecast!

Fatigue: Fatigue causes sailors to make poor decisions. When I helped deliver a sailing catamaran to Belize we were on watch four hours and off four hours—for four days. You never get more than three-and-a-half hours of continuous sleep. Staying constantly alert while experiencing sleep deprivation causes fatigue. I am experiencing fatigue with the PCUSA. The thirty fear fight on ordination is taking its toll. People on all sides of the fight are experiencing the fatigue. Marge Carpenter (on the floor of this past General Assembly) said she was tired of the fight. The time has come for the PCUSA to decide once and for all whether we are going to ordain those who are sexually active outside the bounds of a marriage between one man and one woman. Last year I was secretly hoping that the GA would vote to ordain those folks. I could then leave the PCUSA in good conscience because the PCUSA would no longer be a Christian church. Fatigue has set in!

The navigational chart on today’s blog shows how to navigate Beef Island Passage in the British Virgin Islands. The channel is not marked. There are coral heads that must be avoided. An experienced crew, in the right conditions can make it through the passage. A fatigued crew could easily put their boat on a coral reef!

The PCUSA needs to be concerned about its “crew.” We are in reef filled waters!


At 6:36 AM , Blogger Quotidian Grace said...

I'm not a sailor, but I'm enjoying your series here. You do a good job of making your analogy clear to us landlubbers!

What type of training or preparation would be helpful for pastors in times like this?

At 9:04 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

That's a great question!! I will be making some suggestions at the conclusion of the series.


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