If you are new to this blog....

Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ichabod or scribbling on the wall?

"Ichabod" means "the glory has departed." Some say that has happened in the institution of the Presbyterian Church USA, but I disagree. I see God's glory all around me, including within this part of the Body of Christ. I would assert, rather, that the "lighthouse" and "searchlight" that God has designed us to be is, human failings notwithstanding, still a vessel for God's glory to be manifested.

I would go on to say that God is not only able, but intends to show His glory through whatever He does with the PCUSA. That may be redeeming the institution; it may be a long period of preserving a faithful remnant in the midst of human brokenness and disobedience; or it may be the destruction and judgment of that human institution.

Further, I believe God is not only able, but purposes to use those who are obedient to bring about His glory, regardless of the particular trajectory of the denomination. Believing this, we see that we are not called primarily to fix OR to abandon the PCUSA, but to be faithful in personal obedience and public ministry. I believe that in so doing, we will participate in God manifesting His glory.

I long for that obedience to take the form of complete redemption of the institution; alternately, I would admit relief to have clear release to minister somewhere that is a better “fit” theologically. But finally I choose obedience (if reluctantly) if the present reality is persisting obediently in a broken institution.

Does that mean I am “letting go and letting God” and not engaged in being a change agent, as some might suggest? On the contrary, I am as engaged in denominational renewal as anyone I know. But I do so out of a sense of calling rather than the frustration of “one more battle in the big war.”

There is a deep stream of strength and peace that flows out of that calling. I write to remind my brothers and sisters who are weary of the "war" that you are called not first to “fight” but rather to faithful obedience to the One who called you to service of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

These are thoughts that I have wrestled with for years, but which I find myself needing to verbalize more of late. This morning I read the following quote from The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis. His words resonated deeply with what I'm trying to put words to:
Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted. He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration. Do we suppose that they can do Him any good, or fear, like the chorus of Milton, that human irreverence can bring about ‘His glory’s diminution’? A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. If we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God - though it may be the nearest approximation to God, which our thought and fantasy can attain. Yet the call is not only to prostration in the Divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires. We are bidden to ‘put on Christ’, to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little. [h/t: Shane Duffy]
See also the elaboration HERE

Monday, July 14, 2008

searchlight-in-training

Last night at bedtime a scene played out at my house that happens more frequently than I'd like. One of my beautiful, precious, beloved young daughters (seriously - they are amazing) lost it, started yelling, hit her mother, and kicked her sister. Having been warned only 5 minutes earlier (not to mention every day of her life) that she may not hit her mother, I took her up to her room to go on to bed. For nearly 30 minutes she alternately yelled and cried, "It's not fair! It's not fair!" After a long time of this, realizing she could not and would not listen to me, I left her alone for a time and only later was able to talk to her. What happened was also familiar - she had wanted something and was not getting her way. Though we responded to her with boundaries and expectations (like, "you need to wait for 2 minutes until this show we are all watching is over") she wanted what she wanted NOW. And despite the fact that she desperately also wanted to see the end of the show (the really not fair part!), her desire for her own wants took precedence over the rest of the family, the "rules", and even the carefully explained boundaries.

I describe all this in detail because we really do bend over backwards to be fair to our kids (as they are constantly comparing their treatment to their siblings treatment). But, despite all the fairness we could muster, when my daughter didn't get what she wanted, the whole world became unfair.

What was I doing anyway? Was I trying to make her miserable? Was I trying to control everyone around me? Was TV more important than what she wanted? Did I make up arbitrary and meaningless rules to rob her of her happiness? No, ultimately - and maybe you can't explain this to a five year old - I was trying to teach her that trickiest of human lessons, that she is not the center of the universe. I don't mean that in a mean way - in many ways, she IS near the center of my universe! But I believe from the depth of my soul that one of my chief purposes as a parent is to show her the face of God and that God is the center of the universe. This is the "missional" or "searchlight" lesson played out in the parent/child setting. Ultimately that involves teaching her that loving and serving God is more important than self. And closely tied to that (says Jesus), loving and serving others is more important than self. [But then, just to keep it challenging, I'm also supposed to teach her that she (herSELF) is important because she is created in God's image to reflect His glory.]

And as a parent, I "train" her for this by walking her through the steps of gracious submission to God and others again and again until it becomes habit, then desire, then character.

And anyone who has trained, coached, or parented knows, that process comes with many, many hours of "that's not fair" and even an occasional, "you hate me!" That's what stinks. It's no fun having your child rail against you claiming you aren't fair and don't love them, when nothing could be further from the truth. What I cling to as those cries rip my heart out is the conviction that I am being faithful as a parent and the hope that one day they will "get it."

I often tell people that becoming a parent was and is one of the most significant things to happen in my own spiritual life. That's because I finally got a first-hand glimpse at how God sees me and God's infinite patience and love toward me when I rail against Him in frustration. I get reminded of it every day, and that's a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

vbs on the road

Lest readers wonder if I have lost the searchlight/lighthouse theme... I have not... just felt like reporting on General Assembly was the responsible thing to do. I may have one or two summary pieces left to write, as I have been asked to do so for publication... but on to the searchlight!

Tomorrow night we are doing a first for Good Shepherd - in response to the call to become more of a searchlight church, we are taking our Vacation Bible School (held at church two weeks ago) on the road to one of the housing projects behind the church. We have a community room and are hoping to have lots of neighborhood kids turn out to play with us and share the love of Jesus. I'll let you know how it goes!

Update (Thurs pm, post VBS):

We had the first VBS tonight (Thurs) and it was far beyond my wildest imagination. We were expecting 5-10 kids and more like 30 showed up, with some older siblings joining in the fray. I was also blown away by the response from our church - about 12-15 people... a middle schooler, a high schooler, a college student, a 20-something, a couple of parents of small children, several in their 50s... and here's the part that really got me pumped (okay, there are several things...): this was not a church program, but a group of people who have heard me for two years running challenge every member of the church to find a personal ministry and mission. The staff didn't plan this... we had nothing to do with it. The elders didn't form a committee or call planning meetings. This was initiated by two parents who caught a vision for the children of our neighborhood and they ran with it. They didn't recruit volunteers heavily - just said, "If you can join us, come on!" So everyone who came did so because the Lord moved them to do it... everyone there wanted to be there, wasn't guilted or pressured in to it, but sought out this opportunity to love our neighbors.

Here's the other thing that blew me away... I just about melted into a weepy puddle when a single mom and her 11 yr. old daughter conducted the lesson (again, not handed to them, but planned entirely on their own 'cause they felt called to this)... and they did a skit on the parable of the wedding banquet. The 11 yr. old was dressed up fancy and was throwing a party and sent out invitations to all her rich and powerful friends - her mom delivered these to various kids sitting around, who had been dressed up as baseball star, doctor, mayor, etc... - each then read the excuse on the back of the invitation as to why they wouldn't make the party. Finally, the mom returned to say that no one could come - all the powerful people were busy. And the 11 yr. old sends her mom back out to invite everyone to come to the party. Then they read the verse about how Jesus came for the poor, the lame, the blind... and man, the Gospel was preached to all those gathered 'round. It was electrifying.

One bonus... near the end of the invitations, one was given out to a really cute 4-5 yr. old girl who couldn't read. Instead of reading her line and making an excuse to not go to the party, she went running up to the 11 yr. old (who had been playing with her for the past hour), hugged her, and said she would come to her party. I'm about to start crying again typing it on my screen. Wow. For those who have ears to hear...

I've been at Good Shepherd for 6 1/2 years... I've been preaching on being a searchlight church for two years. Change and growth is slow; but tonight I saw the light shining bright as day. God is on the move!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

god on the move

The story of item 04-28, a commissioner's resolution I wrote, is a story of God on the move. That the resolution would go anywhere was a surprise. I saw seemingly impossible hurdles fade away and doors open that I wouldn't have imagined possible. The story is still unfolding, but on a personal level, I had a fresh and direct experience of how God shows strength in the midst of our own weakness. I told that story to my congregation in Sunday's sermon (July 6), linked below:

"Five and Two is What?" (John 6:2-14) (audio and text available)

Click the following links to see the text, rationale, and presentations of the "gracious witness resolution" in committee, against 03-21 (legal fund), and speaking for 04-28.


Addendum: a commenter asked for an "official link to this action" - it can be found, with
text, rationale, and vote counts here on PC-Biz: PC-Biz 04-28

a fragile flower...

I'm getting lots of traffic from Bruce's "Moderator Monday's" post. The story of that prayer is, in my mind, part of a longer story that I plan to preach on this Sunday and then post Monday. So, wait for it.... :)

But, for those who have not read it, I include the prayer below. I was honored when, on Thursday morning, an aide appeared at my C-05 seat with a note authorizing him to seek me out and tell me that the moderator had asked me to give the Friday pm closing prayer. I planned to play guitar and sing a hymn (they already had it loaded for the projection), but as Friday unfolded, God put this prayer on my heart. As much as we (and I) may disagree with others in the church, they are not the enemy. For the most part, folks are seeking what they believe to be God's deep desire for the church. Now I realize that we can't all be right; but we can seek both truth and justice (somehow God holds those two together, right?) as we wrangle over church polity. For all that Bruce and I do have very different theology, we seem together on this point, and for that I am hopeful. It was a significant sign of trust for Bruce to entrust the "last word" of the day to a known evangelical, and a sign, I believe, of his desire to trust "the other side."

There are opposing sides in the polity debates, but there is just one family of God... that's a hard reality to grasp. And it's easy to give that lip service and then denounce those with whom we disagree as not being in the family of God, as not being Christian, but that is too easy an out. Surely our own families teach us better than that - we can be bound to family and disagree significantly, even to the core of our being! Those disagreements can last years and years. Will we say, "You are no daughter of mine... you are no brother of mine" or will we continue to strive, perhaps broken-heartedly, to love in the face of substantial disagreement? How we understand these dynamics and act on them will shape much of our life together moving forward.

Lest one think I am swimming in the "mushy middle" or giving away the farm, know that these thoughts and the prayer below do not come easily. I am strongly convicted about biblical teaching on human sexuality; I am also strongly convicted about my own calling to be faithful in the context of the PCUSA, and I have been laid hold of by God's grace, despite my own significant weaknesses, sins, and errors. That is why it's amazing...


General Assembly Plenary: Closing Prayer, Friday pm


Would you please stand and hold the hand of those on either side of you, stretching across the aisles as well?

Let us pray…

Heavenly Father,

We are divided on much. Chances are that the person beside us voted differently on significant issues, passionately held. It is so easy to see one another as “the enemy” and yet you declare those who hope in the Lord Jesus Christ to be family.

You declare it – in Christ, we are one family! Yet, we struggle so to experience it! Some of us believe truth is at stake; some of us believe justice is at stake; some of us distrust each other, and we struggle with other issues that would drive us apart. Some leave rejoicing; some leave in sorrow; some are not sure what they feel.

What hope do we have apart from your grace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? What hope? Grace seems a fragile flower in a room full of elephants.

Give us a vision for your grace – unconditional, true, winsome, and strong. Help us see the person on our left and on our right, not as the enemy, but like us, a broken son or daughter for whom Christ has died. Help us cling to your Word and live in your Spirit.

We ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen!

gracious witness resolution, pt. 3

This is my 60 second testimony on the plenary floor in favor of the gracious witness resolution (04-28).

This resolution urges presbyteries to communicate and implement a gracious and pastoral process in use with churches seeking dismissal from the denomination. This resolution also explicitly urges a move away from litigation to address this situation.

But to the deeper point, let me say that the deep dream of this resolution is not that it simply be mailed, but that the whole Assembly consider it as an opportunity to signal to the whole church and WITNESS to the watching world that we are more interested in shepherding the sheep with grace than through litigation. We are more interested in caring for ALL involved in church conflict through gracious dismissal and helpful re-location than in any legal or material focus. Earlier tonight, I said that there was a better way for the church than litigation, and I believe this resolution points us toward that better way.

This resolution calls on presbyteries, to whom belongs the responsibility of dismissal, to be the initiators of GRACE. And beloved, grace is both unconditional and winsome. The resolution points us to the appropriate resources, but for this resolution to make any real difference, YOU will need to catch the spirit behind it and communicate it back to your presbytery and to your own church. Beloved, there is a better way! I ask you to vote yes not just to approve some words, but to embrace and carry home what I believe to be the wind of the Holy Spirit.

See also the text, rationale, and presentations of the "gracious witness resolution" in committee, against 03-21 (legal fund), and speaking for 04-28 (this post).

gracious witness resolution, pt. 2

This was my testimony against item 03-21, which called for the creation of a two million dollar legal fund for presbyteries in litigation with churches seeking dismissal.

Brothers and Sisters, please vote ‘no’ on this motion.

There is an immeasurable cost to what this motion proposes. And brothers and sisters, that cost is not the two million dollars, which is inconceivable enough as we struggle to support our missionaries. The immeasurable cost is the damage done to real human beings in our midst and to our witness to Jesus Christ in the world as “Christians sue Christians.” Friends, there is a better way!

One might say that we are experiencing a kind of divorce between some congregations and the PCUSA. In a local congregation, when a divorce is in process, a sharp attorney might advise one spouse to get all they can while the getting is good. But, as pastors and elders, we have a different perspective, particularly if one or both parties are Christian. We must be concerned that in these church dismissals, we function first as pastors and elders in Christ, rather than as legal counsel for one party. Brothers and sisters, there is a better way!

But what if a church initiates action? Jesus doesn’t call us to stockpile arms, but to lay down arms and shepherd his sheep. Will this encourage more churches to leave? On the contrary, grace is inviting and winsome while legal threat or retaliation further divides. In the big picture, litigation is a lose-lose situation for the people in our churches and it is deadly to the cause of Christ. Beloved, there is a better way!

I urge you to vote NO on this motion.

See also the text, rationale, and presentations of the "gracious witness resolution" in committee, against 03-21 (this post), and speaking for 04-28.

gracious witness resolution, pt. 1

This was my 3 min. presentation on the gracious witness resolution (04-28) to the church polity committee.

To give you a brief overview – this resolution urges presbyteries to communicate and implement a gracious and pastoral process in use with churches seeking dismissal from the denomination. This resolution also explicitly urges a move away from litigation to address this situation.

What I want to share with you in these moments, though is why this resolution... Feelings towards churches seeking dismissal from the PCUSA range from sadness to anger. I have experienced those feelings and more. Nonetheless, whatever our feelings may be, the pastoral commission from Christ remains: do you love me?... shepherd my sheep.

One analogy for our situation might be that we are experiencing a kind of divorce between some congregations and the PCUSA. In a local congregation, when a divorce is in process, a sharp attorney might advise each spouse to get all they can while the getting is good. But, as pastors and elders, we have a different perspective, particularly if both parties are Christian. We must be concerned that in these church dismissals, we function first as pastors and elders in Christ rather than as legal counsel for one party.

I didn’t write this resolution to wrangle about property trust issues. I didn’t write this to validate or invalidate the EPC, New Wineskins, or anyone seeking dismissal. I wrote this resolution because the Holy Spirit has convicted me that our witness to each other, to the larger body of Christ, and especially to those outside the church is paramount. We are to be salt and light in the world and the witness of how we treat each other is absolutely essential to our sharing in God’s mission.

Finally, this resolution is bigger than getting a letter written or getting something into the minutes of the Assembly. In what, I hope, is humility, and with the validation of you and the Assembly, I believe this resolution to be the gentle moving of the Holy Spirit through a complex mix of emotions, legislation, leadership, history, conflict, mistrust, and circumstance.

Here's the dream: If I could envision a complete movement of the Spirit; it would be for you and the Assembly to enthusiastically embrace this vision; it would be for the stated clerk to come before us and tear up the so-called “Louisville papers”; it would be for us to signal a ceasefire to Christians suing Christians over their buildings and land; it would be for each commissioner to go back to our presbyteries and communicate that THIS – tending Christ’s sheep and bearing gracious witness to Jesus – this is where the Holy Spirit led this Assembly.

If you love me… shepherd my sheep.

I urge you to heartily approve this resolution and put it before the Assembly. I have tried not to repeat here the resolution’s rationale, which fleshes out reasons for the wording and principles listed. Please take time to read it. If appropriate, I am happy to clarify anything I need to. I thank you for being open to God’s Spirit and for allowing me time here tonight.

See also the text, rationale, and presentations of the "gracious witness resolution" in committee (this post), against 03-21 (legal fund), and speaking for 04-28.

gracious witness resolution - rationale

This is the written rationale for item 04-28. Unfortunately, the rationale section doesn't always get passed on with the action portion.

There are many scenarios and reasons for dismissal of churches. Furthermore, presbyteries have constitutional discretion in how to respond to such requests. Nonetheless, it is not sufficient to follow the letter of church law and miss or transgress the Spirit of Christ in that law. This resolution is deeply needed for two reasons.

First, it is easy for us to emphasize the property trust responsibilities of presbytery/synod oversight to the exclusion of the pastoral responsibility of caring for the congregations (members staying and leaving) and the responsibility of public witness to Christ with the larger body of Christ and the community and world.

Second, across the church our presbyteries are inconsistent in communicating how they will respond to churches seeking dismissal. There are several helpful and gracious processes available on the middle governing body website (and by the example of some presbyteries), but many presbyteries and councils are guarded about the local application of G-11.0103i. This fosters a pre-emptive all-or-nothing posture from a church seeking dismissal. Our desire is to urge each other into a more grace-filled exchange.

Our concern is practical and is rooted in the commission to care for Christ’s sheep. To be direct, if a church goes through the trauma of an internal split, wouldn’t we rather the members go to church anywhere than end up disillusioned and quitting on a local church and presbytery that have been to court in a protracted legal battle? Wouldn’t we rather lose some dirt or brick or even lose face than poison the well of witness in our community? As the resolution states, we believe litigation by Christians against Christians is deadly to the cause of Christ.

What do we envision? We call on local church leadership and presbytery leadership to care pastorally for majority and minority groups in a church seeking dismissal. This could result in a final picture, not of two embittered enemies in court, but in mutual blessing and partnership in the midst of the sadness of parting. We envision presbytery leadership and local church leadership working together to bless and make way for a majority group and to take great care to re-locate and shepherd a minority group. This could be the last great joint mission effort of two parts of Christ’s body who are focusing on different mission fields.

Brothers and sisters, we can do better than we are doing! But it will take a re-prioritizing of how we exercise responsibility and power and a commitment to act. Failure to act will perpetuate communication and practice that we believe is not only harmful to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) but to our witness to Jesus Christ in the world. Choose to act by endorsing this resolution for the cause of Christ in the world.

See also the text and presentations of the "gracious witness resolution" in committee, against 03-21 (legal fund), and speaking for 04-28.

gracious witness resolution - text

COMMISSIONER'S RESOLUTION
"Urging a Gracious, Pastoral Response to Churches
Requesting Dismissal from the PCUSA"

RESOLUTION

The 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) directs the stated clerk to send this resolution to the presbyteries, synods, and sessions, indicating the will of the Assembly that presbyteries and synods develop and make available to lower governing bodies and local congregations a process that exercise the responsibility and power “to divide, dismiss, or dissolve churches in consultation with their members” (G-11.0103i) with consistency, pastoral responsibility, accountability, gracious witness, openness and transparency.

Furthermore, we believe that trying to exercise this responsibility and power through litigation is deadly to the cause of Christ, impacting the local church, other parts of the Body of Christ and ecumenical relationships, and our witness to Christ in the world around us. The Assembly therefore urges presbyteries and synods to implement a process using the following principles:

Consistency: The local authority delegated to presbyteries is guided and shaped by our shared faith, service, and witness to Jesus Christ.

Pastoral Responsibility: The requirement in G-11.0103i to consult with the members of a church seeking dismissal highlights the presbytery’s pastoral responsibility, which must not be submerged beneath other responsibilities.

Accountability: For a governing body, accountability rightly dictates fiduciary and connectional concerns, raising general issues of property (G-8.0000) and specific issues of schism within a congregation (G-8.0600). But, full accountability also requires pre-eminent concern with “caring for the flock.”

Gracious Witness: It is our belief that Scripture and the Holy Spirit require a gracious witness from us rather than a harsh legalism.

Openness and Transparency: Early, open communication and transparency about principles and process of dismissal necessarily serve truth, order, and goodness, and work against seeking civil litigation as a solution.

See RATIONALE

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

ga summary and analysis

Note: This was written for my congregation in the church newsletter; it assumes their general theological position and anticipates their particular questions.

What Happened?

A. Elections
Bruce Reyes-Chow was elected as moderator for a two-year term. Bruce was the youngest candidate at 39 (by 20 years), is a self-described progressive, but also highly committed to everyone interested getting a seat at the table. He demonstrated himself to be a fair and even-handed moderator. Gradye Parsons was elected to a four-year term as stated clerk. He has served as assistant stated clerk for a number of years. There is concern that he will continue previous policy and style, but it remains to be seen if he will distinguish himself from his predecessor.

B. Human Sexuality (this is where MOST of the controversy falls)
There has been an interlocking “web” of support for biblical standards on the subject of practicing homosexuals serving in church leadership. This Assembly spoke and acted on a number of these support statements to remove all denomination-wide barriers to ordination of practicing homosexuals. All previous “authoritative interpretations” and “definitive guidance” were removed. A portion of the catechism was re-translated (needs 2/3 presbytery approval). The only significant barrier to such ordination is the now infamous G-6.0106b (requiring "fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness" for ordained people), which the Assembly voted to remove, but which a majority of presbyteries must also approve. Nonetheless, however that Presbytery vote goes, authority to determine essential belief and practice is now assigned to presbyteries rather than a national standard. The Assembly did deny an overture to change the definition of marriage to allow for homosexual marriage. Formation of a task force to study the implications of “civil union” was approved, to report to the 2010 Assembly.

C. Focus on Mission (good intent; questionable implementation)
One of the significant emphases throughout the church today is that of mission. Our own lighthouse/searchlight emphasis is in line with this. This emphasis was clearly seen in a number of overtures to the Assembly. I see this as a good intention, though the means of achieving it varied from questionable to confusing to irrelevant. For example, many hours went into a suggested overhaul of our Book of Order. This “New Form of Government” was intended to provide a more missional constitution, but many found it too complicated a change and others argued that the current Book of Order was not what was keeping us from being mission-focused. The “new FOG” got little support for immediate implementation; it was sent back for two years of further study and development. Easier to understand, but seemingly only a name change, the executive council of the denomination, the General Assembly Council got a new name: the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC). We’ll see if the reality follows the name change. A significant mission focus entitled “Grow God’s Church Deep and Wide” was approved, focusing on evangelism and discipleship.

D. Getting Along with Religious Neighbors Near and Far
There was great potential for controversy here, but the Assembly modified or voted down the most controversial approaches. An overture stating that Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God (of Abraham) was amended to note the “different understandings of God” and focused rather on calling the monotheistic faiths to work together for humanitarian aid, peace, and similar endeavors. Closer to home, several overtures tried to hinder the reality of PCUSA churches leaving for the EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church). Nonetheless, the Assembly amended or defeated these overtures, and finally affirmed my own resolution calling presbyteries away from lawsuits against churches leaving.

E. Numerous Calls for Social Action
It was mind-boggling how many overtures had to do with one or another social issues. There are at least two denominational committees whose full-time job it is to generate these overtures. Any one of the overtures comes with 30+ pages of background and rationale. To expect commissioners to comprehend as many as 25 of these study papers is unrealistic, and yet, they did. What is surprising is that the Assembly came to as balanced a position as it did on issues like Israel/Palestine (though many would still say the "Amman Call" is pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel), reporting relief of conscience dues stream for pastors’ medical/pension fund; the Iraq war; and more. In most of these cases, the initial overtures were radically progressive, but the committees and Assembly moderated them down to something that balanced out the disparity of views. More info. is available on specific topics.

What is Next?

In the coming weeks, I will be exploring the implications of this Assembly with our session, with other pastors and elders in our presbytery, and with leaders of the national renewal organizations.

One option is to be functionally independent – hunker down, put blinders on, and be the best local church we can be. This is not an option for me, and is not a long-term solution.

Another option is to begin considering departure to another denomination. There is great cost to this – including consuming a church’s focus for at least two years. There is also great potential to split the congregation. This is an absolute last resort for me and not where I believe us to be.

A third option involves some combination of finding a way to be both a change agent and faithful in ministry and mission within the PCUSA. For numerous reasons, I believe this to be my own calling and the journey Good Shepherd is on. In the coming weeks I will share more of my rationale, both corporately and in smaller settings. In many ways, this is the hardest path, but it is one I believe God has left open before us. I believe we are in a unique position to be an effective witness for Christ within the PCUSA while we continue our vital ministry in the neighborhood and to the world. I also believe that God used me in a specific and Spirit-directed way at the Assembly and I look forward to sharing that with you in more detail.

You’ll see variations of these positions from various churches and renewal groups. I’m including a link HERE if you want to read more about the Assembly or a particular renewal group.

Readers are invited and welcome to contact me for clarification or further conversation at robert@gspc.net.

links to GA summaries

Renewal Groups
PFR Statement
Presbyterian Renewal Network Joint Statement
Vic Pentz for Presbyterian Global Fellowship

Denominational Sources
Bruce Reyes-Chow, PCUSA moderator
Michael Kruse (Vice-Chair of General Assembly Mission Council)

Bloggers
Steve Salyards - the "GA Junkie"
Bob Davis - Presbyblog

marooned with presbymergent

Several folks have asked when I am going to post about General Assembly. It's coming... it is an inordinate amount of material, action, and implication to try to process, and I'm just now (Wed) rested enough to begin that process. "Oh, come on," you say, "You can't be too tired to say SOMETHING."

With the promise that I am working on my church newsletter tonight and will hopefully post that content later tonight, here is the story behind my slowness in posting on GA.



Marooned with Presbymergent

During the eight days at General Assembly, I typically was out at official stuff until 10 or 10:30, then attended and led worship at the "joint renewal network" evening meetings, which ran close to midnight once the plenary sessions began. Starting on the first day of the Assembly, I also became strongly convicted that I should submit a commissioner's resolution, which required several hours of writing and follow-up each day. With all this, I got to bed most nights around 2am, and then would wake up at 6:30 or 7:00 for the next day. On the last two nights of the Assembly, I was up even later getting my comments ready for when that resolution came to the floor.

GA ended on a Saturday. The previous night I got 4 hrs. sleep. I flew out around 1:30 p.m. and was supposed to fly to Dallas/Ft. Worth, then to Knoxville, TN, where I would drive on to Montreat to lead worship at the Christian Life Conference.

We left San Jose on time, but within an hour were informed that there were problems with the right engine and we would have to land in LA. We did so rather quickly, and saw a whole line of fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars (at least 7-8 total) speeding out to our runway and then following us into the gate. We sat in the plane for about 30 min., then were told that we could get off - it would take 1 1/2 hrs. to service the engine. Eventually we got back in the air... to arrive at D/FW about 4 hrs. late (near midnight). By the time I waited in line to get a new connection and a hotel room, it was about 1am. By the time a shuttle came and took me 20 min. away to the hotel, and I waited in line there, I crawled into bed at 3am. My alarm went off at 5am to catch the shuttle back for a 6:30 boarding time. We were re-routed through Charlotte to Asheville, which was closer to Montreat... but the luggage still went to Knoxville, which is about 2 1/2 hrs. from Montreat.

So, I arrived to lead worship at Montreat with 5 hrs. sleep in the last two days, the same clothes I had worn for 48 hrs., no contacts (they were in the suitcase) and a 3 hr. time change just to stir the pot a little extra. Needless to say, I was pretty gone and more than a little disoriented.

I did finally reunite with my clothes, and last night slept a good 8 hrs. or more... so today was the first day I've been well rested and begun to process all that happened at GA. And a LOT happened at GA, even beyond the headlines and "hot issue" votes. I hope to share that soon through this blog as well as locally at my church.

One final note - this adventure was made bearable by sharing all of it (well, not the hotel) with Karen Sloan. Paul Detterman, the director of PFR, had talked Karen into going to the Montreat conference, though Paul ended up taking an earlier flight. I enjoyed visiting with Karen and hearing more about her life, calling, and ongoing ministry with Presbymergent. If you don't already know her, I think you'd find her story fascinating. She has a website HERE; she wrote a book which I read on the plane (and people around us heard us talking and asked for one) - it is called Flirting with Monasticism - read the reviews on Amazon... it's truly a captivating story. While I don't use much of the lingo of the emergent (or missional) church, Good Shepherd does share much in common, while staying rooted in the evangelical stream of Presbyterian Christianity. I enjoyed swapping stories with Karen about her experiences and my own at Good Shepherd.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

preview of post-ga thoughts

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is over and I'm working my way back home via the Christian Life Conference in Montreat.

I have several stories to tell that I will try to get up on the blog over the next week... don't know what order yet... but should have something up by end of Wednesday (July 2).

1. The crazy, crazy flight adventure of getting from San Jose to Montreat and the sweet reunion with my luggage that happened two days later (which includes making new, fascinating friends along the way).

2. The ongoing story of item 04-28, a commissioner's resolution I wrote... much to say personally and beyond

3. A summary of the actions taken... That's relatively easy; what will be somewhat slower is thinking through the implications of those actions.


Check back soon!

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