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 weekend I was glad to be able to visit Hopewell Presbyterian Church, a 250-year-old congregation in the outskirts of Charlotte, NC. The pastor, my friend Allan Purtill, invited me to come to lead an officer’s retreat on spiritual disciplines and to preach. It was a terrific weekend—the officers were quite engaged and the worshipers made it a great place to preach!
One of the most interesting conversations I had there revolved around the marriage study that the General Assembly has asked my colleagues in the Office of Theology and Worship to prepare. In order to make sure that the study is as effective and as faithful as it can be, thirteen churches are pre-testing the study, and Hopewell is one of them. (You can find out more information about the marriage study here.)
After the officer retreat, the ruling elders who had been a part of the sermon met with me to give me feedback about the study. Their perspective was mostly positive. They thought that the study helped them to discover many nuances about what marriage means—for instance, that marriage is not just a relationship between two people who are in love with each other, but that it is a part of God’s plan for human and societal flourishing.
They did have a couple of helpful suggestions for the study. First, they suggested a week in the study helping participants to wrestle with the question of same-gender relationships in the first place, before considering whether or not Christian marriage between people of the same gender are acceptable. Secondly, they asked that the study make clear that its purpose is to facilitate conversation around issues of marriage from the perspective of Reformed theology, not to hand down from on high what Christians ought to think about marriage. (Some participants in the study were expecting the latter and it would have been helpful if they had realized earlier that the study was designed to accomplish the former.)
The other pre-test churches will also be giving their written feedback about the study in the coming weeks, and all of it will be considered closely before the study is finalized. Please join me in praying that the study will indeed be faithful and useful for the whole church.