Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism 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.
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Last week I spent a day preaching and connecting with the folks at a Heartland Presbytery meeting in Kansas City, MO. While I was there, the presbytery considered and rejected some difficult new business while also voting on an overture to the General Assembly that would give pastoral discretion to teaching elders serving in states where same gender marriage is legal to perform these marriages. The discussions were very civil and respectful, yet at the same time seemed painful for some and at least uncomfortable for many. The presbytery, like many others, is also concerned about congregations moving through discernment processes to leave the PC(USA). In meetings like this, it is easy to lose hope about the denomination.
Yet when Executive Presbyter Charles Spencer gave his report, he pointed to hope. Sure, he acknowledged the difficulties facing the church at all levels, but then he pivoted to exciting news. I was glad to hear his affirmation of the presbytery for being one of the top ten most generous presbyteries to give to the Presbyterian Mission Agency (where I serve), but even more important was his next point.
That was when he talked about the folks who are in the process of becoming pastors, and who are in their first five years of ministry. He spoke of their zeal, their theological commitment, their sacrifice, and their gifts for ministry. He reminded us that they do not just see a future for the church, but they are crafting their lives around the future that they want to live into and to create. He didn’t use these words from an old hymn, but my sense is that these emerging pastoral leaders give him “bright hope for tomorrow.” Indeed, it is God's faithfulness which calls these leaders to whom Charlie points as a sign of hope.
I think he’s right. While many of us bemoan the many (and I do mean many) challenges facing the PC(USA), we are missing the reality that the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ (to quote another hymn), and Jesus is continuing to draw fresh ideas and creativity into the church, so that it can live out his mission in an ever-changing context.
I am part of a team looking at how the Presbyterian Mission Agency can develop transformational leaders (both teaching elders and ruling elders) who can lead change in congregations so that they more faithfully witness to their communities. Having a bright hope in the leaders who are even now committing themselves to serving the PC(USA) despite its challenges leads me to a bright hope for tomorrow.