Are there winds of change afoot? Certainly in the theological conversations, I'm hearing troubling things. Apparently the committee considering the report on the Trinity has amended the report to refer to Jesus as "an image of God" as opposed to "the image of God." (Russ note -- this is different from mankind being made "in the image" of God -- there is a difference from being the image and bearing the image).
But that's not the kind of change I'm talking about -- it's a change that bodes ill for the institution. I've had several people comment that the official staff members are not receiving the deference that they had received in years past. I've been told that once upon a time, when our Stated Clerk came in the room, there was an air of gravitas. When he or his staff made their pronouncements, most committees basically functioned as rubber stamps.
Things are a bit different this year. Our committee, after some extensive discussion, recommended disapproval of the proposed Per Capita overture (see the fine summary by another committee member). Then today, we've spent the whole day discussing the Overtures pertaining the Montreat conference center. Our first decision was to disapprove the COGA's recommendation to close the center -- however, we're not done with the issue yet. Don't start celebrating until the final word is written, you Montreat fans!
I've heard buzz from other committees too that the official staff isn't getting their way -- and if they are, it's an uphill battle. We even got a sense of this in former Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase's testimony to our committee -- he contrasted a church that is interested in institutional preserveation with a church that is interested in missional action empowered by the Holy Spirit. I'm with him -- see my posts from last year on Renewal (post 1 post 2) to get a feel for the difference.
Now I know that I for one have intended no disrespect toward our staff -- I respect them and I'm thankful for their work. But make no mistake -- Clifton Kirkpatrick is our employee, not our pope. And it seems that this General Assembly is starting to reflect that understanding.
Could it be that the winds are blowing us away from the idolatry of institutional preservation. Could it be that we're getting the idea that the world is flat? Could it be that we're starting to see that engagement is more than treating churches as branch offices or franchise holders? I don't know -- but I'd sure be interested in hearing what other folks here on the ground have to say.
Soli Deo Gloria
PS -- special thanks to Presbyweb for their excellent coverage of this GA and for the ever growing list of GA bloggers -- I commend you for your courage in acknowleging the new media!