Monday, November 17, 2008

Presbyterians for Renewal—Their Plan Forward.







A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. These dahlias are from my 2008 garden. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Islander, Jax, Jayleene G and Kari Quill.

Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) has been an important renewal group within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). PFR has been instrumental in reaching out to pastors of smaller congregations through it’s Wee Kirk Conferences. PFR has also been a group that has labored to keep G-6.0106b (the “fidelity and chastity” section) in the Book of Order.

The 218th General Assembly of the PCUSA has caused PFR (as well as most renewal groups in the PCUSA) look at if, and how, the PCUSA can move forward. Historically, PFR has been in the “stay, fight, win” camp. “Stay, fight, win” is the philosophy of staying in the denomination, fighting for biblical faithfulness and standards and eventually winning the battle. News flash—PFR has moved away from it’s “stay, fight, win” position.

Paul Detterman, Executive Director of PFR, was making a swing through the Northwest while holding regional gatherings. He met with a group from the Presbytery of Olympia, on October 28th. Tacoma was not one of his scheduled stops. We had just over an hour to hear what he had to say and to ask him a few questions. Here is a summary of the information he gave us (written and verbally).

PFR has a four step process AND a vision for a restructuring of the PCUSA.

Step One: “preparing hearts and minds to participate in what God is doing in and through us” – Step one is designed to return Christ’s followers to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading scripture, worship and fellowship.

Step Two: “offering faithful witness to God’s transforming power and love in our current context” – PFR is offering resources to be used to educate individuals, congregations and presbyteries on sexual and biblical morals/theology/ethics. They are also providing information on a range of topics (along with talking points) to help frame a biblical witness to presbyteries and congregations.

Step Three: “reshaping the PC(USA) to provide a way for evangelicals to do ministry with integrity” – Concerning the Presbyterian Church and the 218th General Assembly, PFR’s says, “It is clear that the PC(USA)’s confession of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and commitment to our Reformed confessions has weakened to the point that we can no longer assume a common framework of conversation.” Their document says that PFR is working on how to move forward. (PFR has come up with their way forward and I will discuss it in just a moment.)

Step Four: “moving beyond impasse and political posturing into God’s mission & future” – PFR is calling individuals to “reorder” their lives for the sake of the gospel. PFR is calling congregations to open their arms to welcome all people so that they can experience the transforming power of God’s love: “relationships healed, addictions cured, sins forgiven and hope restored.” PFR is calling upon seminaries to change their vision and purposes. PFR is calling upon presbyteries to change their focus and begin fulfilling the Great Commission.

It would be nice if these four steps were to become a part of the fabric of the PCUSA, it’s members, congregations, presbyteries, synods and General Assembly. These four steps were framed BEFORE PFR came up with their “plan.” So… let’s take a look at the PFR plan forward.


THE SEVENTHEENTH SYNOD MODEL
The PCUSA has around 11,000 congregations that are organized into 173 presbyteries (“district governing bodies”) and 16 synods (“regional governing bodies”). Evergreen Presbyterian Church is a part of the Presbytery of Olympia—it stretches from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and from the King County southern boundary to the north edge of Vancouver, Washington (churches in Vancouver are in the same presbytery as churches in Portland since they are so connected to Portland.). The Presbytery of Olympia is a part of the Synod of Alaska-Northwest. The Synod of Alaska-Northwest covers Alaska, Washington and the upper “panhandle” of Idaho and is composed of the following presbyteries: Alaska, Yukon, North Puget Sound, Seattle, Olympia, Central Washington and Inland Northwest.

Let me begin by saying what PFR IS NOT proposing. PFR is not proposing what has been called the “two synod model.” The two synod model was first proposed several years ago. In this model, the PCUSA would be divided into two synods (basically, a progressive/liberal synod and an evangelical/biblically conservative synod. Every congregation would decide which synod it would be a part of. The criticism of this model is that it would cause serious harm to congregations as they decided which synod they would belong to. Ordination battle have been waged in our presbyteries and at the General Assembly levels—not at the local church level. The two synod model is not advocated by PFR.

PFR is recommending that the PCUSA should create a new, non-geographical synod. The new synod would have a different set of ordination standards than the rest of the PCUSA. This new synod would be an “evangelical” synod. Churches (and presbyteries) could choose to become a part of this new synod. The only churches that would have to deal with this issue are the ones that choose to do so.” This new structure would necessitate some major changes in the PCUSA structure: a new Book of Order, new ways to amend the denomination’s constitution, two sets of ordination standards, new ways for the denomination to communicate to the world the stances of the denomination, etc. Many (if not most) of the details of the 17th synod model have yet to be worked out.

Here is the bottom line: PFR is trying to find a way for evangelical congregations to stay in the PCUSA. End of story.

Paul Detterman, and others in PFR’s leadership, are holding regional gatherings and introducing the 17th synod model.

Tomorrow I will give my critique of the 17th synod model.

5 Comments:

At 1:57 PM , Anonymous Lawrence Wood said...

Lance, 30 of us met with Paul two weeks ago in Boise, Idaho, re 'the Plan'. As usual, the discussion often turned down sideroads leading from and around 'the Plan'. If PFR, which I support, gets really gets this going, count on Louisville, etc., fighting us tooth and nail.
Larry Wood, Retired PCUSA Pastor
Idaho

 
At 8:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not merge with the Metropolitan Church and let congregations realign in accordance with their affinity to ordination issues? Wouldn't this create the same effect as a new synod of any form?

A merger would bring the added benefits of increased cost sharing of denominational costs, broader mission funding, and it would bulk up our pension and medical plans.

 
At 10:03 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

Anonymous,
The liberal/progressive side of the PCUSA would never merge with the Metropolitan Church. The Metropolitan Church has no political clout. The Metropolitan Church is viewed as the gay church that lets you believe anything you want to believe. The liberal/progressive side of the PCUSA wants to change “systems” to bring about change. It takes political clout to accomplish this. The PCUSA is a part of the good-old mainline denominations. For years and years it carried a fair amount of political clout. In my opinion, that is the major reason that the liberal/progressive wing of the PCUSA has consistently refused to leave the PCUSA.
Pastor Lance

 
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