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.
You can follow Chip on twitter (@chiphardwick) or find him on Facebook (Chip Hardwick).
This post gives me a chance to synthesize some of what I have been learning over the past couple of weeks through my travels. I have recently traveled to both the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta and the Presbytery of Northern Kansas to facilitate the marriage study published by the Office of Theology and Worship (which is a key part of my ministry area). This study is explicitly designed not to drive participants toward consensus or toward problem solving, but rather toward allowing everyone who participates to hear the others’ points of view, so that they gain empathy and understanding.
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to visit Ghost Ranch, NM, for the first time, for a meeting of the Presbytery of Santa Fe. The presbytery had invited me to come to facilitate the marriage study, which my colleagues in the Office of Theology and Worship had prepared at the request of the 220th General Assembly (2012). This study provides questions and resources from our theological tradition in order to understand what the church has said about marriage, and, by extension, what we might say about same gender marriage.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Presbytery of Arkansas and one of its churches, First Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith. I led a Friday Q&A lunch with members of FPC Fort Smith, and then on Sunday morning preached and gave a presentation about the state of the denomination and some of its controversies (including the definition of marriage). On Saturday I was glad to facilitate a conversation about Christian marriage at the presbytery meeting.
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.
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.