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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

deep(er) thoughts - presbytery meeting

Some days I have more deep thoughts than others... and a full weekend prompted reflection on a number of things.

The weekend (incl. Monday): confirmation retreat, Valentine's Day guest sermon on "The Five Love Languages," and a presbytery meeting.

Here are the thoughts on the presbytery meeting - briefly and in a bloggy nutshell.

Presbytery of Charlotte Meeting: Feb. 15, 2010

We were to meet last Saturday, but snow resulted in postponing until Monday. I officially finished serving as presbytery moderator in December 2009, but was filling in for new moderator, Jane Sumney Mullinax, who had to be out of town. Two standouts from the meeting were the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Steele Creek Presbyterian Church (Pastor: Jeff Pinkston - new on twitter @preacherpink) and guest, Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA. Bruce had Q&A, preached, and led a workshop on social media. His broad theme was a challenge to "get out of the boat" of the way we've always done church and to step out in faith into new ways of being the church.

Later Monday night, he had some more Q&A at a reception for the younger pastors in the presbytery (woo! - they let me come!). One standout question (to me) was from the Rev. Kate Murphy, who asked what he thought a presbytery might look like that embraced this new way of being church together. His response is what I've come to identify as perhaps his strongest contribution to the church as moderator: the conviction that we best discern the mind of Christ and will of God together, which he notes is not the same as unity at any cost. Interestingly enough, my mind immediately went to Kate (who asked the question) and my experience of working on the Presbytery of Charlotte reconciliation policy with her. I think she and I experienced just what Bruce was talking about - we came to the table with radically different opinions and convictions, were able to forge a healthy and helpful policy, and left without having compromised or dropped core convictions. And in the process, we forged a friendship and a genuine respect for one another's faith and integrity. Even in conversation last night, Kate and I acknowledged that we may frequently line up at different microphones, but not as enemies, but as fellow believers who legitimately and earnestly desire the mind and heart of Christ.

Don't let that last sentence flit by undigested - it's the significant point here and one worth chewing on thoroughly.

This reality is what endears Bruce to me, gives me hope for a future with my local colleagues in ministry, and makes me long for the opportunity to explore deep theological division with friends among whom there is a deepening reservoir of trust that we won't run screaming from the room or turn and lash out in anger. While I do not lessen or turn in any way from the importance of truth, I am more and more convinced of the need to speak truth in love, which is to say, in the fertile field of trust and hope.

PS - I am encouraged to see more and more presbyteries picking up the language and approach of the commissioner's resolution I wrote which resulted in GA action 04-28 (2008) in creating gracious and pastoral local policies like this one in the Presbytery of San Francisco.

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