Friday, September 14, 2007

So Long, Clif—Part 3.

Dahlia of the day: Pam Howden.

Clifton Kirkpatrick, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will not be seeking another term as Stated Clerk. Today is the third day of critiquing Kirkpatrick’s self assessment of his time as Stated Clerk.

In looking back at his service as Stated Clerk, Kirkpatrick said:

“Serving as Stated Clerk has offered me a platform I would never have dreamed possible—to serve the church I love and to give expression to my passions, my sense of call, and my gifts for the things that really matter. It has been a tremendous privilege to give voice to the witness of our church to the gospel and to justice and peace in the world, to be a leader in the ecumenical movement, to guide the church (even in our contentions) toward unity in diversity, to uphold our Constitution, and to pioneer in new ways to express old truth as we seek to discern the mind of Christ and develop a polity and a church for the 21st century.”

“…to give voice… to justice and peace in the world…”

Clif has been a consistent advocate for justice and peace in the world. He has worked to promote justice and peace—even when particular situations were not popular among all Presbyterians. While Kirkpatrick has done a good job in this area I believe that he kept his focus on “issues” that were popular in some corners of the PCUSA when there were even larger peace and justice issues going on around the world. Where is the rallying call from his office for the poor, oppressed, hurting and HIV/AIDS victims in Africa? The Israel/Palestinian conflict is a major focus for the PCUSA when there are millions of people dying in Africa. Our denomination’s peace and justice folks are having “talks” with Caterpillar Corp about divestment while the continent of Africa is going through massive droughts, civil wars (with mass murder of civilians) and unrest and an HIV/AIDS pandemic (or is it an epidemic at this point?). Read the news… in China Christian house-church pastors being arrested and sent to jail (no outcry from Kirkpatrick), Christians are killed in India for their faith (no outcry from Kirkpatrick) and in several areas of the world Muslim’s are killing folks who have converted to Christianity (no outcry from Kirkpatrick). It is my hope that the next Stated Clerk will have the guts to expand our efforts in peace and justice to situations beyond those causes deemed popular by our current peace and justice efforts.

“…to be a leader in the ecumenical movement…”

In this area I would give Kirkpatrick a grade between acceptable and good. He has worked the “normal channels” of the ecumenical movement very well. He works well with the big named ecumenical groups. I believe his commitment to the ecumenical movement kept him from taking a hard line with some ecumenical groups when they were not being fiscally responsible. The PCUSA has the right to demand fiscal responsibility from those groups where we are the major financial contributor. Our local churches have to be fiscally responsible—the General Assembly doesn’t come to our aid if we have financial shortfalls due to irresponsibility. Once again, I would have like to see Kirkpatrick be truly ecumenical. At the national level the PCUSA works well with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Disciples of Christ, the United Methodist and the Episcopal Church. I have served as a pastor in four communities. In only one of those communities has those churches been regular participants in the local pastors/churches group. Independent and conservative churches have been more than willing to partner in those groups than the so called “progressive” denominations. The PCUSA seems to think that “ecumenical” means hanging out with those who are most like you. The PCUSA would be building bridges with the Assemblies of God, Southern Baptists, Conservative Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, Church of the Nazarene and independent churches (to name a few) if it was truly interested in being ecumenical. In recent months there has been some movement to build bridges with some of these denominations. There might be some hope in this area! I hope that our next Stated Clerk will be truly ecumenical.


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