GA backgrounder: the 21st century church

Special committee report addresses new forms of ministry, vocation and compensation, seminary education

June 28, 2012

LOUISVILLE

Like the rest of society, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is experiencing a time of great change, with a great diversity of opinion on matters such as evangelism, stewardship and membership.

Formed by the 219th General Assembly (2010), the Special Committee on the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century was directed to “help to increase understanding of the church from a Reformed and Presbyterian perspective and assist current and new members in forming faithful plans for our common future.”

The committee is presenting 10 recommendations to the 220th General Assembly.

The first four recommendations relate to new ministries and fellowships. Mid councils should identify and assist congregations in looking at the future and support those congregations that are closing, the committee recommends. Mid councils are also called to use assets from closed churches to start new churches.

Bi-vocational ministry should be affirmed as a “critically viable” form of ministry, and the Assembly should form a task force to study and make recommendations about support and resources for such ministries, the committee recommends.

The committee also urges seminaries to develop courses that address new church development, congregational transformation and cross-cultural experiences. The Committee on Theological Education is also urged to worked with seminaries to intentionally recruit racial ethnic and immigrant students as well as scholars and faculty from underrepresented communities.

The committee also addresses compensation of teaching elders and other church workers, especially as related to underrepresented racial ethnic groups. It recommends that the Office of Vocation study how to address the debt load of recent seminary graduates who face inadequate compensation.

The committee also urges presbyteries to offer training on how white privilege and other discriminatory attitudes limit the potential of building up the Body of Christ.

Finally, the committee calls the PC(USA) to live out its faith publicly, “to reach out holistically with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to participate in God’s just peace and sociopolitical transformation.”

Matters related to this report will be considered by Assembly Committee 16 — Report of the Special Committee on the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century.

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