…Always being reformed

September 6, 2011


Last month I attended the Fellowship of Presbyterians gathering in Minneapolis. I think it’s fair to say that the organizers of the event are driven by concerns over the effect of the new ordination standard in the Book of Order – G-2.0104b – as well as by how the church in general can proclaim the gospel both effectively and with integrity in the 21st century. With nearly 2,000 in attendance, obviously the issues and concerns raised by the organizers struck a chord in many.

I was thankful that the tone of the gathering was not angry; rather, it was, “Where do we go next?” There was much energy, much conversation, and much discussion – all of which, it seems to me, is good for the church.

What’s even better for the church is that these conversations about how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can retool itself to be an effective and persuasive agent for ministry and mission are not just happening within the Fellowship, They’re taking place across the broad spectrum of our denomination – at the “Next” Conference in Indianapolis earlier this year, for example.

Those conversations are also happening within General Assembly groups that are tasked with figuring out what it means to do ministry in our present context: the Middle Governing Body Commission, the Committee on the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century, the Task Fore on Racial Ethnic and New Immigrant Church Growth, and more.

As a denomination, we face a daunting task that I like to describe this way: We have to rebuild the 1950s era black-and-white television set that tends to be the PC(USA) organization today into a new, flat-screen, HD TV – all the while ensuring that programs will continue to be shown while the rebuilding takes place.

The Fellowship organizers talk about creating a “new reformed body.” I appreciate the energy and commitment they are bringing to that task. But, in a sense, all of us across the entire PC(USA) are caught up in creating a “new reformed body” – that new flat-screen, HD PC(USA) that most effectively brings to a 21st-century world the good news of Jesus Christ.

Read the column in Korean. (PDF)

  1. As I see things, the FOP is firmly committed -- to the past, and is determined to get there. The PCUSA may not yet have a clear vision of what the future holds (who truthfully could claim that?), but is determined to move in a forward direction, by the grace of God, even if it is hard to move a denomination too comfortable in a bad rut.

    by Reford Nash

    September 8, 2011

  2. Yes! There is anger, there is dismay, there is confusion and a pressing need to change- and the Holy Spirit is at work in hearts and minds and conversations where we seek the mind of Christ together. Thank you for offering an image that speaks of the magnitude of our task, and a tone that is hopeful and constructive.

    by Sandy Tice

    September 8, 2011

  3. I find it interesting, and a little disheartening, that what the Moderator began with a note about what we have in common, fairly quickly degenerated into what are the differences. I don't deny the differences, but would hope, and pray, that we could all follow the Moderator's example of looking first to the things we have in common.

    by Merritt Schatz

    September 8, 2011

  4. Another way to describe the process of this reformation is that we in the Church are seeking, with God's help, to build a bridge while walking on it. This is "liminal space" in which the past will no longer satisfy and the future is not certain. I find this prayer from the BCW most appropriate for these days: "Eternal God you call us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with courage, not knowing where we are go, but that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord."

    by Roy Howard

    September 7, 2011

  5. Thankyou, Madam Moderator, for your conciliatory and reasonable approach to the Fellowship of Presbyterians. Unfortunately their track record of obstructionism and "my way or the highway" gives them little credibility in a good faith dialogue between liberals and conservatives in our church. Fortunately our Lord Jesus was neither a conservative or liberal but a lover of compassion.

    by Rev. George Taylor, Honorably Retired

    September 7, 2011

  6. Madam Moderator, you point out that you were glad the tone was not angry. Were you expecting anger? I appreciate your letter and found a hope for American Presbyterianism I have not felt in my 16+ years of ministry. Thank you for attending. Those who didn't, missed something special.

    by Ben Seller

    September 7, 2011

  7. Not sure the HD TV analogy works--It still implies that we communicate a message to a passive, inert audience who will remain politely seated through the duration of the program. We don't simply need to add color and high-def. What we need is to radically alter the way we do church so that it is an interactive and dynamic relationship between God and the people of God. Our proclamation of the Good News isn't to an inert group of people, but a population that wants to interact with a relational God. We don't need new bells and whistles--we need new and deeper relationships, centered on Christ.

    by Keith Jones

    September 7, 2011

  8. As I was reading this I couldn't help but think, "You know, my youth group kids don't watch TV much anymore." Give them a smart phone or an iPad and they are happy as a lark. What if the problem is everyone is trying to come out with the next great TV and no one is watching anymore?

    by Rev. Jeremiah Knabe

    September 6, 2011

  9. There is one difference between the PCUSA and the FOP: The PCUSA is 'reformed and always reforming' The FOP is 'reformed, and always being reformed according to the Word of God.

    by Jake Horner

    September 6, 2011

  10. With all due respect Moderator, but what you mean as a new reformed body and what the Fellowship means as a New Reformed Body are two entirely different things.

    by John Stuart

    September 6, 2011

  11. I like the way you have made the tech connection. I would simply add one comment the Flat Screen TV is showing programs that were not available in the 50s and thank God for that.

    by Sharon M. Davison

    September 6, 2011

  12. That's it...That's the best response you could come up with to the flagrant attempt of the "Fellowship" to leave the denomination when they did not get their way. Not to mention the overt effort to consolidate and keep their power as privileged white men. This is not the church reforming. This is the church in it's shadow.

    by Angela Maddalone

    September 6, 2011

Leave a comment