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.
During my recent visit to the Dumaguete City, Philippines, for a consultation on theological education in Asia (which you can read about here and here), I had an amazing opportunity to visit a ministry called the Little Children of the Philippines (LCP). This decades-old ministry reaches out to the poorest of the poor in multiple sites around Dumaguete City, housing orphans, running community centers, giving job training and opportunities, and holding Bible studies and worship.
It was especially meaningful to me because the church where I formerly served, Second Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, IL, has been a long-time supporter of this ministry. In fact, one of the LCP housing developments (somewhat similar to a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood) is called “Bloomington Village” thanks to the connection between the church and LCP. Many friends in Bloomington, IL, sponsor children at LCP; it was incredibly moving to meet one of the children sponsored, and to record him thanking her for her support.
Although not related to the Presbyterian Church (USA), LCP lives out one of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s goals in a very rich way: compassionate and prophetic discipleship. This goal encourages the PC(USA) to encourage an ever-deepening discipleship so that we become more and more like Jesus…and that when we become like Jesus, we witness more fully in both word and deed. LCP witnesses in deed with its wide-range of social services, helping kids and their families to thrive with better education, housing, psychological support, job training, etc., etc., etc. The breadth of their social justice ministries was very inspiring. At the same time, they are witnessing in word, so that these children understand God’s love for them in Jesus Christ through worship, neighborhood Bible studies, memorized scriptures, devotions, etc.
In my experience, the PC(USA) has historically been a church with more passion for witnessing in deed (social justice) than for witnessing in word (evangelism). Many parts of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s strategic plan emphasize witnessing in word much more prominently (e.g., 1001 new worship communities, World Missions’ focus on evangelism, poverty, and reconciliation).
We sometimes discuss whether the PC(USA) is most faithful if it is a denomination which witnesses in word in some ministries, and which witnesses in deed in other ministries. I firmly believe that we are at our best when we witness both in word and deed, in an integrated way, every chance we get. My visit to LCP was just one example of a ministry which lives out its faith in this way. Thanks be to God!
I was in Dumaguete City, the Philippines a couple of weeks ago for a consultation on theological education in Asia. There were about twenty representatives from South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the United States. Most who were there were professors, but some denominational staff members, a bishop, and some mission co-workers were also present. The event was very well-coordinated by the World Mission Office for Asia.
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.
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.