Friday, February 16, 2007

My Dad—My Denomination: Dealing with Health Issues.

Many years ago my dad joined millions of Americans with adult-on-set Type II diabetes. He was the third person in my immediate family with diabetes. When he developed diabetes he was over weight, didn’t get very much exercise and didn’t eat what he should be eating—sound familiar? Today he is 100+ pounds over weight, gets no exercise, doesn’t eat right, has lost the feeling in his fingers and has serious circulation problems in his feet.

His health issues scare me. I am 30 pounds over weight. I love to eat (why is it that everything that tastes good is bad for you?). Exercise—does walking from my car to the office count as exercise? That was in the past! Five weeks ago I decide to make some life changes so that I do not end up like my dad! My wife and I joined the YMCA and exercise five or six time per week. My fitness program includes cardio and weight lifting. I am working with a coach to help me set and meet fitness goals. My diet is changing—darn! I haven’t lost a single pound—I have lost most of my “love handles” around my mid section.

You may be wondering why I am talking about my dad’s health, my health and the changes in my life? That is because there are too many similarities between my dad’s health and the PCUSA. My dad is seriously ill and doing very little about it. The PCUSA is seriously sick and I see very little that is being done about it.

Just today I received the “official” letter from Kirkpatrick and Valentine saying, “We have heard that a few Presbyterian congregations may soon announce their intention to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).” They are sad that some churches may want to leave the denomination. The letter is meant to calm Presbyterian fears about churches leaving the denomination. Why do they not say what is being done to address the issues bothering those churches—and many other churches? They are just like my dad in that they are doing nothing about what is making our denomination sick.

Our denomination is “over weight.” There have been many staff reductions at the Louisville office. We still have LOTS of staff—at all levels. At all levels of the church we have meetings for the sake of having meetings. We may have too many churches. We have lots of small churches in relative proximity that can’t afford a fulltime pastor. Why not merge? I know—pride and history. We are “over weight” in that we publish too many position papers that NO ONE reads. Every time I hear that the denomination is starting another “study” I am tempted to find a brick wall to pound my head into. “Over weight!”

Our denomination has lost feeling in its extremities. The denomination does not want to know what is going on in our local churches. It appears as though they could care less that their actions are harming our local churches. I have seen absolutely no evidence that senior staff with the PCUSA feel the pain that they are causing in our churches.

Our denomination has gets no spiritual exercise. I am saddened by poor quality of biblical scholarship that is put forth by our denomination. Some of our local churches are doing an outstanding job of writing their own materials. Others (like our church) turn to other sources for good Bible study material. Some material (like the Horizons Bible Study) is poison. We need to get our people reading the Bible, praying, fasting, tithing and practicing the rest of the spiritual disciplines. Spiritual exercise is needed. Now!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Dad—My Denomination: Hiding the Truth?

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that it has been silent for the past week and a half. I have been out of town visiting my dad in California and on our Presbytery’s Clergy/Spouse Retreat. I’m back!

Many months ago I had set aside time in my schedule to attend the New Wineskins Association of Churches meeting in Orlando. I was looking forward to that trip. Until… I had several phone calls from my dad. His voice seemed very weak. I learned of some of his health problems. Orlando could wait; I changed my plans so that I could go a visit my dad. I am very glad that I did!

Driving back from Northern California I had a lot of time to think. I love my dad. I am extremely frustrated with my dad. I came to realize that the things that frustrate me with my dad are almost exactly the same thing that frustrates me with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)!

Several months ago my dad was in the hospital and almost died. The doctor told my mother-in-law that he was treating my dad for kidney failure (among all of the other things that were wrong with him). She was shocked. In talking with dad’s “regular” doctor she found out that the doctor had been treating dad’s kidneys for two years!! My dad had failed to tell her about his kidney problems.

Does that sound familiar?!? I feel as though our General Assembly moderator is the only person in Louisville that “levels” with the church. Our Stated Clerk’s end of the year (or was it the first of the year) message about the church had next to nothing about the true state of the denomination. 2006 was a HORRIBLE year for the PCUSA! I have heard nothing from the head of the General Assembly Council (or the Council itself) about the “true” state of the denomination. If they don’t know the state of the church then they are incompetent. If they know the state of the church and fail to accurately communicate it and address it they are unethical and untrustworthy.

There is a way to deal with my dad’s failure to communicate his health difficulties—my step mother goes into every doctor’s appointment with him! There are no more health secrets. I wish it was this easy for the PCUSA.

I am glad that there is going to be some conversations on the future of middle governing bodies. There have been major struggles in those bodies for years—unfortunately, it seems to me that the conversations had to be started by the leadership of our middle governing bodies. Why didn’t the national staff spot these difficulties? Maybe they did and they just didn’t tell the whole church!

Some national “committees” hide behind closed doors as they dream up new “policies.” Are they afraid of the light of public scrutiny? The Bible tells us that darkness doesn’t like light (John 3:19-20). The light exposes what the darkness hides. It is time for the PCUSA to experience “light.” The national church needs to conduct its business in plain view so that there are no secrets (except when dealing with personnel issues). No more closed meetings! No more hiding the state of the PCUSA! No more painting a “rosy” picture of our current reality. We need openness and honesty from Louisville. If not, there will be suspicion. Louisville has lost our trust. They will have to work hard to regain it—if it can be rebuilt.