Monday, August 29, 2005

Peace Unity and Purity -- some initial thoughts

As I alluded to last week, I had the opportunity to go to Chicago to observe the gathering of the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s Task force on the Peace Unity and Purity of the Church, and to preview the release of the final report.

For those of you not in the know about our little corner of Presby-dom, a quick whirlwind explanation is in order:

The Presbyterian Church (USA) for the past few decades has been embroiled in a rather unpleasant free-for-all fight regarding a number of issues, including the authority of Scripture, the person of Jesus Christ, religious pluralism, and human sexuality (just to name a few minor issues). In 2001, the General Assembly (that would be the highest governing body) assembled the task force of 20 people. These were representitives from all across the theological spectrum: liberals, conservatives, and everything in between. Their task was to think through how (and if) we can maintain the peace, unity, and purity of the Presbyterian Church in the face of such conflict.

They've spent the past four years meeting, studying, worshipping, and working on their report. Along the way, they've released resources and encouraged members of the denomination to mirror their process. They've released drafts of their report -- but this final version also included some heretofore unseen recommendations for moving forward.

One of these recommendations is controversial -- and I have some serious reservations about it. However, the folks on the task force also spent a lot of time preparing theological reflections, thoughts about process, and resources for peace unity and purity. These items comprise the bulk of the report and are quite encouraging. I heard one member of the task force say it would be a shame for the denomination to go straight to the controversial recommendation without first heeding these earlier parts of the report. I agree -- so in that spirit, I'll be reflecting on the report one section at a time (beginning with section I: The theological basis of the report).

I hope you'll download the report and give it a read. There you'll also find biographies of the task force members, their original charge, and some of the resources they've already produced.

You might also be interested in some of the preliminary comments coming out about the report:

From the liberal More Light Presbyterians
From the more mainstreamPresbyterians for Renewal

I'll try to link to other commentary as it becomes available (though I suggest Presbyweb as a great resource for keeping abreast of the issue). And for those of you who aren't Presbyterians, have no fear -- I have a few other topics that will appear this week as well (might be doing double duty to make up for last week!)

Soli Deo Gloria