Pillars of the Church champion sees work ahead for PC(USA)

Educator says social witness ‘is central to the mission of the church universal’

December 28, 2015

Robert Trawick.

Robert Trawick. —Photo provided

LOUISVILLE

For Robert Trawick, joining the Pillars of the Church campaign was a no brainer. He strongly believes in the work the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), adding that the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and the Office of Public Witness conduct some of the most vital work the church can do.

With a background in theological ethics, Trawick is thoroughly connected with the church. He teaches at a Dominican school, is a ruling elder and has served as moderator for Hudson River Presbytery. He has also been involved with the Israel/Palestine Mission Network among others and has written for the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.

“I sense there has been a pushback in the Presbyterian Church that political involvement and social witness in general are not appropriate for the church,” he says. “A lot of my work has been around the idea that not only is it appropriate, but it is central to the mission of the church universal. I think it’s poor theology to suggest that Christianity is about personal salvation only.”

Trawick’s interest in social witness work grew out of his involvement at the 220th General Assembly in 2012. Serving on the Middle East Committee allowed Trawick to immerse himself into the work around divestment and boycott.

As times have changed, Trawick has seen the role of the church change.

“I think we need to prayerfully let go of this sense that we as a church are going to return to our place in American culture,” he says. “The 1950’s are gone and the church’s cultural pre-eminence is gone. I don’t think our central mission is to make more Presbyterians. I’d like for us to understand what it means to be a smaller church. I’d like for us to understand what it means to be a church that is visibly faithful to a particular message.”

Trawick says the church has an opportunity to be more prophetic in its work and stand for issues it has not embraced before. He believes being part of Pillars of the Church allows him to make that a reality.

The Pillars of the Church campaign was publicly announced last April during Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day in Washington, D.C. Leaders say the idea is to encourage a sustaining and generous community of donors who are committed to the church and its programs.

Approximately 125 pastors, members, presbyteries and congregations have committed to joining Pillars of the Church.

“My identity and the most vibrant work I do centers around the church. I would be sad to see the church lose its vitality and public witness and so to me, it’s an exciting opportunity to support what I see as a vital piece of the future,” says Trawick. “There’s still something we have to say that can be game changing if we continue to have a voice. But we’ve got to have the resources to have that voice.”

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Individuals interested in joining Pillars of the Church can designate a monthly, sustaining gift to support a specific ministry of Compassion, Peace and Justice. Gifts can also be made in honor or in memory of a loved one. Gifts can be made online at presbyterianmission.org/supportcpj.

For more information on the Pillars initiative, contact Rev. Rosemary Mitchell, Mission Engagement Advisory for Public Witness and Advocacy, at Rosemary.mitchell@pcusa.org

  1. Amen Michael. If the upcoming General Assembly does not turn from its rapid move to the left m ore people and churches will leave.

    by Jimmie Weigel

    January 4, 2016

  2. I agree with Mr Spires. Non-Democrats have been made to feel unwelcome. And several million have left us over the past four decades. Mr Trawick's desire that we be a smaller church has been realized. If we get much smaller we shall cease to be. Someone better think fast and hard about how social justice issues will grow the church; there is little time left.

    by Louis S. Lunardini

    December 29, 2015

  3. I agree with Mr. Spires. The leadership of the church seems to be disdainful of a significant number of its members. And there also appears to be a very un-Christian lack of humility in the process. I think that hope for PCUSA lies in dropping the push for group salvation through liberal politics and focusing instead on individual salvation through repentance and acceptance of Christ as savior. If we get that right, the world will know us through our works. Get that wrong, and the world will have no use for the church.

    by Todd Capitano

    December 29, 2015

  4. Sadly, the sentiments expressed by Mr. Trawick summarize the challenges we face in the PCUSA. While I agree with much of what he states (that it's poor theology to suggest Christianity is about personal salvation only; that political involvement and social witness are central to the message of the church universal) the tone of his comments will likely be considered condescending by those who feel that personal salvation is also important theologically, particularly his comment that the church's mission is not to make more Presbyterians (it isn't - but what about more Christians?). It's also telling that our rapidly shrinking and declining denomination is promoting a foundation to support this work, rather than the broader church.

    by Mark Siegman

    December 29, 2015

  5. Amen Michael!

    by Steve Gons

    December 28, 2015

  6. It is not so much that the church should not be involved in politics as that our leadership is uniformly leftist and supports many causes that at least a significant minority of its congregants (and would have been a majority if those who disagree have not left out of frustration) disagree with and is openly disdainful of those congregants. As a denomination, the leadership brings up issues (same sex marriage, divestment from Israel, Bellhar, etc.) multiple times until they get the "right" answer and the discussion is closed and you are a bigot or worse if you still disagree. Was the Holy Spirit not at work the first x number of times an issue was brought up?

    by Michael Spires

    December 28, 2015