Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Tipping Point: A Response – Day 1

February 28th’s edition of Presbyweb carried a link to an interview that General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick had with Presbyterian News Service (PNS). The Stated Clerk said that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is “in a potential tipping point of renewed growth and vitality.” This is a bold statement! What would lead the Stated Clerk to say such a thing? Additionally, he said that he is thinking about running for a fourth term as stated clerk of the PCUSA. His statements in the PNS article need closer examination.

First, on a personal note, I want to congratulate the Stated Clerk on the birth of his granddaughter. I hope that she as she grows she comes to the point of knowing Jesus Christ as her Lord and savior and that she knows she is loved by her grandpa. May they have many memorable times together. Now, onto the analysis of the article.

What exactly did the Stated Clerk mean when he said that the PCUSA was at a “potential tipping point of renewed growth and vitality” and how did he come to that conclusion? There are individual churches in the PCUSA that are showing growth and vitality. People can get VERY excited about their local church. There is no doubt that many, if not most, local churches will survive our current season of crisis in the denomination. It is a HUGE stretch to go from growing and vital local churches to a growing and vital denomination!

To become a growing denomination we first have to stop the membership losses. When was the last time that the PCUSA did not have a membership loss? Could it be thirty years ago? How about thirty-five? According to the PCUSA statistics it has been forty-two years (1965) since the PCUSA and its two predecessor denominations had numerical growth. That is almost a half of a century!!! It would be nice if the Stated Clerk would give his reasons for thinking the denomination’s membership loses are going to stop—especially, during this time of unrest in the PCUSA.

What will it take to turn around the membership statistics? That is the big question!

There are times when a corporation spins off multiple smaller corporations. Typically, this type of move happens when a corporation is too diverse—it has too many dissimilar areas of operation. Such a move makes it possible for the new, smaller corporations to specialize in their area of expertise.

Personally, I think that the fighting over the authority and interpretation of scripture will continue until a non-revocable position is taken by the denomination. Such a decision would cause one or more of the “groups” to leave the denomination. I believe that there could be three growing denominations that spring forth from the PCUSA: a liberal/progressive denomination, a conservative/evangelical denomination and a middle-of-the-road denomination. Such a move in the PCUSA would be daring—but it might be the best possible solution to our constant fighting.


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