Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Worship and Education Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
Last week while I was traveling in Asia I had the opportunity to do ministry at Union Church in Hong Kong. One unique opportunity I had while there was to moderate the ordination panel for a recent seminary graduate who is serving at the church. Since he is a member of a non-denominational congregation, Union Church wanted him to experience some kind of ordination exam similar to what Presbyterians undergo.
There were eight of us on the panel—a number with doctorates, some professors, a Methodist bishop, and some local pastors. Dozens of members of the congregation watched as the candidate ably and faithfully answered our questions.
The candidate had prepared statements of faith, of his spiritual journey, and of his philosophy of ministry. Because of the composition of the panel, I was expecting most of the questions to be about his statement of faith. However, nearly all of the questions revolved around his call to ministry.
Largely, the questions (which had not been coordinated ahead of time among the panelists) centered around three matters: pastors’ need to rely on Christ daily, to demonstrate servant leadership shared with their congregation, and to love the world and the church. The questions called me to re-examine the extent to which I live out my call in this largely administrative position at the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Perhaps they will help you consider your call, or the call of your pastor. (Pictured from left, me, Steve Gaultney (Panel Member), Greg Anderson (pastor of Union Church), and Matthew Fredericks (ordinand).)
Thankfully, I had a great example of a pastor who loves the world and the church looking over my shoulder while there. The youth pastor I had grown up under is the pastor at Union Church, and sharing time with him reminded me of how he helped me to feel loved thirty years before when I was a hesitant ninth-grader. On this trip I was still grieving the loss of a beloved aunt, and he gave me pastoral care almost as soon as I got off the plane.
Loving the world and loving the church was what I experienced both in those conversations, and in the ordination panel. It’s a high calling, but that’s where our daily reliance on Christ comes in, and it’s why we need to share leadership and ministry with our congregations. May the Holy Spirit guide us as we join God’s mission to transform the world through Christ’s love!
Our goal in producing this guide is to help the church think in nuanced ways about the issue of marriage—in particular same-gender marriage. The General Assembly did not ask us to write a paper marking a specific position, but rather to ask questions designed to help congregations and participants understand more clearly what they themselves believe. Please pray alongside me that the Holy Spirit will use this guide to do just that.
The weekend before last I was pleased to be a part of the installation of the Rev. Owen Stepp to be pastor at the Clairmont Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. As at all PC(USA) ordinations and installations, Owen was asked a series of questions. Here is the one I want to draw attention to:
Will you be instructed and led by [the] confessions [of the church] as you lead the people of God?
This question reminded me of another question that I ask whenever I have the chance to teach about these statements of faith that fill the Presbyterian Book of Confessions: are the confessions historic or contemporary?
Can we possibly find God in popular culture? In what ways can books, movies, and TV shows help us to understand who God is?
And what does mid-20th century theologian Karl Barth have to do with all of this?
Check out my recent article in Presbyterians Today to get some insights on these questions.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to preach fairly regularly as I travel throughout the church. I will post them periodically, as I do three recent sermons here.
Presbyteries around the country are considering a new translation to the Heidelberg Catechism which was jointly undertaken by the Reformed Church in America, the Christian Reformed Church, and the Presbyterian Church (USA).
I wish when I traveled to Great Rivers that I had had access to an excellent new video completed by Dr. Gary Neal Hansen of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Gary served on the special committee that looked into this translation.
So as I stay in Louisville this week, I’m praying for pastors. If you’re a pastor, know that I’m praying for you, and pray along with me for your colleagues in ministry. If you’re not a pastor, please pray with me for these servants during this joyful but often overwhelming week.
Last week I was glad to visit Cascades Presbytery, which invited me to lead a pre-presbytery workshop on the Nicene Creed, to give a summary of that workshop during the actual presbytery meeting, and to preach. During the workshop, I gave some background to the Creed, which is the most widely used statement of faith throughout all branches of Christianity, and which was written in response to heretical claims that Jesus was not actually God, but rather a part of creation.
Last week I attended the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches. This commission brings together ecumenical scholars (both professors and pastors) from approximately twenty Christian denominations to engage in multilateral discussions of theological issues around a common table. While the plurality of attendees are from Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopalian backgrounds, participants also come from as broad a range as Christian Scientists, Roman Catholics, and Churches of Christ.
During my first year in this call, I have sought to visit as many seminaries as I can, and last week I had the opportunity to visit the Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico. Its president, Dr. Sergio Ojeda Cárcamo, spent the morning helping me to understand its ministry.