Where is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) headed?
I wish I knew.
Serious, engaged, and exciting discussion about what our future will, or should, look like is going on all around the church.
The discussion is taking many forms. Presbyteries are talking about what a “missional polity” really means as they debate the merits of the proposed new Form of Government. The Commission on Middle Governing Bodies is actively seeking input on how presbyteries and synods can best help us proclaim the gospel effectively (check out commission moderator Tod Bolsinger’s engaging blog posts.
A group of pastors and elders calling themselves the Presbyterian Fellowship issued a white paper in February called, “Time for Something New.” The paper prompted responses from across the spectrum, including one from Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Linda Valentine, Executive Director of the General Assembly Mission Council, and me. A number of other responses are out there. And, just a couple of weeks ago, over 300 people attended a conference in Indianapolis on what the “Next” church might look like.
My guess is that if you dip into any, or all, of these (and I urge you to do so), you’ll find things with which to agree and disagree. There is, however, one common denominator: the recognition that the denomination has to change. The question, of course, is how.
We’re not going to answer how overnight. To me, the most important part of all of this is that the dialogue is happening. We are recognizing that persons on all points of the theological spectrum within the PC(USA) have valid viewpoints, even if we don’t agree with those viewpoints. We are struggling — together — to discern what and who God is calling us to be.
Wasn’t it Mao Zedong who said, “Let a thousand flowers bloom?” I may be making Presbyterian history here by quoting Mao. But can we have a thousand discussions bloom over the next few months? Can we open our eyes, and our ears, to all sorts of ideas, proposals, possibilities?
Let the conversations continue!
Elder Cynthia Bolbach is Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).