The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with major budgeting issues have prompted leaders in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to cancel plans for Big Tent in 2021. The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), and the Reverend Dr. Diane Moffett, President and Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, made the decision last week.
“These are uncertain times in the life of our denomination. While we believe that God has placed us here at this particular moment, we recognize that presbyteries, churches, and the national office are facing huge financial challenges,” said Nelson. “We are continuing to look for new and innovative ways to be the church in the 21st century.”
The first Big Tent was held in 2009 and has been held every other year since. It has been described by leaders and attendees as a “big Presbyterian family reunion,” drawing attendees, speakers, and workshop leaders from across the country.
“While I will miss Big Tent, there is one opportunity that remains,” said Moffett. “The opportunity is that we can be the church in this moment, actively engaging the world so that it wakes up to the new possibilities in Christ.”
Nelson said he and Moffett decided to cancel now because of the uncertainty of how long the pandemic may last, adding that in order to plan for Big Tent, decisions would need to be made soon as it relates to location, hotels, and other details.
“We also have to consider budgeting for such an event,” he said. “Big Tent has always been a wonderful opportunity to energize Presbyterians and help us discover where God is leading. But financial resources are scarce, and it would also be difficult for presbyteries and churches to take part.”
“The world is changing before our eyes,” said Moffett. “As we work to rid ourselves from the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and structural racism, it is up to us to heed the moment and reimagine how to proclaim the love and justice of Jesus Christ.”
The last Big Tent was held in Baltimore last year under the theme "Called to a Movement Beyond Institution."