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.
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This past weekend I visited Los Angeles for two events. You can read about my time at Fuller Seminary here; the second of the two events was the regional conference for the Fellowship of Presbyterians, about which I am writing now. This was a meeting at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. This organization is a group mostly made up of theologically-conservative churches and teaching elders who remain committed to the denomination (rather than seeking dismissal to another Reformed body).
The day was rich and full. It started off with inspiring worship before moving into an overview of the Gospel of Matthew by Dale Brunner. Scott Weimer, pastor of the North Avenue Presbyterian Church, challenged the one-hundred in attendance to follow the Spirit out into the streets, and at the same time made me homesick for our time serving there together from 1999-2003. Over lunch, Paul Detterman, the executive director of the Fellowship, talked about potential changes from General Assembly concerning marriage. We then heard from the Bridges Project’s work to start new worshiping communities in Southern California.
The most thought-provoking presentation, however, was the most unexpected: Anna Kent’s discussion of missional affinity groups. Each Fellowship church is expected to connect its Session with those from other nearby churches, coming together annually over a period of hours to hold each other accountable to a variety of topics using a series of questions and vulnerable disclosure.
The topics which are discussed in the missional affinity groups revolve around the following questions (paraphrased here; click here for the exact wording):
Questions similar to these would be helpful across the theological spectrum within the PC(USA). If one or more of the existing questions seem suspect to you, with what would you replace it so that it fits better within your theological framework?
More importantly, how will you use questions like these? They could be helpful for a small group; they could be helpful for the Session within one congregation to explore; and of course they can be used in the manner in which they are intended, within missional affinity groups.
Imagine what would happen if we started asking ourselves how we can do better in these or other specific areas of focus, rather than simply bumping along without holding ourselves accountable. The possibilities, I think, are endless!