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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

a box of crayons, the mid-council report, and the status quo

John Vest, a member of the mid-council commission, recently posed the question of whether the General Assembly will embrace some of the change recommended in the mid-council recommendations or whether we will protect the organizational status quo.  I'm with John on that question and am hopeful that we will hear and respond to the good work and vision of the mid-council commission.  Here's how I answered one question about that report in the moderator candidates' booklet.

In the Mid-Council Commission report a great deal of the narrative spoke to the emerging shapes and forms for mid-councils. In your view, what do you find especially promising in the narrative and why?

Pastor to youth director 1:

I want you and the kids to have an incredible lock-in.  I can’t wait to hear about all the amazing, creative, and fun things you do with them.  Just remember not to break anything, to clean up afterwards and make sure that on Sunday morning we can’t tell that you were here.

Pastor to youth director 2:

I hope you and the kids have an incredible lock-in.  I’ll be praying for everything you do and can’t wait to tell the congregation about it.  Don’t worry if things get a little messed up.  I’ll remind them that it’s a sign that we’re doing something right!
There is an interesting parallel between the narratives of the report and our attitudes towards youth and young adults.  In both cases, established leadership wants things to flourish, but we often hover, ready to swoop in if things get out of our control.  There is a necessary tension between risking “failure” and risking “success”; perhaps we need to redefine both and change the conversation altogether.

I find great promise in the mid-council commission report because of a willingness to allow presbyteries to adapt from organizations that “regulate” everything within their bounds to Christ-connected partners that encourage, equip, and connect local congregations in their mission and ministry.  This is the same move we have been trying to make in my presbytery (Charlotte) for some time, as well as in the church I serve (where we seek to equip and partner with each member for ministry and mission).  For us, a key question has become,

“What is God doing in and around us
and how can we be a part of that?

Similarly, I am drawn to the creative language in the MCC report about a large canvas and a palette of colors for experimentation; but I’ve had the experience of giving children a sheet of paper and four crayons.  It invites creativity but can also limit it.  What if the Spirit moves beyond the canvas or paints with a color we have not defined?  Will we shut it down or call it “out of order?”  What if a new ministry or worshiping community forms that is “beyond the frame” we have drawn?  If it ends up not bearing the name PC(USA), what is that to us if it honors and serves Christ in the world?  Let’s bless it and give thanks that God has moved among us and out from us!

Finally, the report names a crisis of trust as “the single greatest threat to the vitality and future existence of the church.”  Indeed, I have found in my presbytery that challenges of money and ministry are only symptoms of underlying issues of trust and relationship.  I welcome the encouragement to create, envision and experiment; but we must also take seriously the invitation to build relationships and develop “theological friendships.”  The significant value of these relationships is, perhaps, a hidden jewel in this report that we dare not miss.

For the mid-council report in various forms and sections, see the page here.

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