However, one of the great pleasures was receiving the narrative report of outgoing moderator Rick Ufford-Chase. Rick and I have different perspectives on particulars of theology and practice. However I share his love of mission and his heart for evangelism. I'm excited by his passion for engaging people where their gifts are and inviting them to live into Ephesians 2:10 "For we are God's good workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (this coming just after the glorious passage about justification by faith alone).
In Rick's report, he expressed concern for those who would tear apart the church and dismay at the violence we would do to one another as Christians. But then he highlighted some areas of hope for the future:
1) Missional development within congregations where we consider every member a missionary. Such missional development doesn't see people as "staffing" for church committees, but ponders how to develop within each individual a deep passionate love of Jesus Christ.
2) Openness to immigrant fellowships and multi cultural fellowships -- this seems to be a running theme of the GA, as that was one of the issues on the floor from last night's moderator election
3) Engaging a new wave of leadership at all ages. Don't just ask people to fill committees -- identify specific gifts that match up with specific mission needs. Be more ad hoc and more in the moment.
The thrust of his comments was that we need to move away from institutional preservation and move toward Holy Spirit empowered ministry. Then his report lists several recommendations for moving forward -- Rick writes as follows:
This new kind of church will look a little different, because it will be all about encouraging Presbyterians to constantly seek to live their faith in the world. It’s clear to me that this kind of mission can’t be done by proxy. The energy of this emerging generation, if it is to be sustained, will demand a greater level of commitment from all of us. Their patience will quickly wane if they do not see a clear, unequivocal desire in all of us to live changed lives because of who Jesus calls us to be.
Many of the most exciting expressions of the movement of God’s spirit have been on the margins of the institution of church. We would be wise to be attentive to those places on the margins. For instance:
- What if our Christian education programs were transformed into lifelong spiritual formation, providing consistent, theologically grounded biblical study to anchor each Presbyterian’s growing experience in mission in their communities and in the world? What if that kind of formation was the very center of our life together as church?
- What if we treated the Presbyterian colleges and universities, and our Presbyterian campus chaplains at other schools, as genuine partners? Perhaps they could provide real renewal for our church, renewal that would come from a clear commitment to use the college experience as the best time to nurture young adults into the vocation of living their faith in Jesus Christ.
- What if we developed new leadership academies to work cooperatively with our seminaries to teach our pastors, commissioned lay pastors, and members the leadership skills they will need to create the missional and multicultural church?
- What if the Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association and all of its related facilities would become the hands-on, outdoor classroom for students of a new eco-theology that will inspire the next generation of Presbyterians to give their lives to the care of God’s creation?
- What if we were to reach out to the Presbyterian Council for Chaplains and Military Personnel, and ask how we might better support our chaplains as they minister to the young adults who are serving in the military?
- What if we built on the partnership we’ve begun with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship to develop the Colombia Accompaniment Program, encouraging hundreds of Presbyterians to become involved in nonviolent direct intervention work in situations of violence, and uniting Presbyterians around a common commitment to stand, together with the Jesus who calls us to love our enemies, against the increasing insecurity and violence that characterizes our world?
- What if our congregations tested every new passion we pursue against God’s call to us from Scripture, and what if we sustained that passion through a sacred covenant to pray for one another? Imagine the unbelievable energy we could discover as we step up ourselves to pursue our passions instead of waiting for a professional class of church workers to do it for us?
Reporting from Presbypalooza
Soli Deo Gloria