Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thoughts on the recent large-church pastor proposal


Last week a group of mostly large church pastors published a letter declaring the denomination to be deathly ill. In the letter they shared a desire to create something new, shared their values, a proposal and invited like-minded people to a meeting in Minneapolis in August.
The entire proposal is here: http://cpconline.org/uploaded_files/A%20Letter%20to%20the%20PCUSA%20February%202011-final.pdf

A web site has been set up that shares more information from the group. That site is here:
http://cpconline.org/fellowship_pcusa

The leaders of the PC(USA) quickly shared a response to the letter. In their letter they shared that the current time is a time of rich ferment and discernment of who the PC(USA) is going to be.
Their letter is here:
http://www.pcusa.org/news/2011/2/4/time-discernment/

Some of the blogs that I’ve found to be helpful on this issue are these:
http://blog.gajunkie.com/2011/02/05/further-thoughts-on-the-pcusa-fellowship.aspx
http://insideouted.blogspot.com/2011/02/response-to-deathly-ill-church-letter.html

I’ve sat around the table with John Crosby—who is one of the seven on the steering committee of the group. He is the head of staff of Christ Presbyterian, whose web site is hosting the information about this group. And I’ve sat around the table with David Lenz, pastor of Hope Church in Richfield, listed as one of the concurring pastors. I was very encouraged by the comments by David Lenz at the September Twin Cities Area Presbytery meeting.
I wrote about that here: http://chainlink-chainoflakesncd.blogspot.com/2010/09/reflections-on-september-presbytery.html

I have great respect for the ministries that the two have developed. I think both of them have much to contribute to the PC(USA).

The men on the steering committee of this initiative have come under sharp criticism for not having any women on their list of signers. In a response to this criticism, they shared that the letter and proposal came out of a network of large church pastors who meet every year for fellowship and to share best practices. These leaders are made up of white males.

It’s not surprising to me that a group of large church, conservative pastors is made up of white males. How many females lead a large, conservative Presbyterian church? The lack of females in the list is more a reflection that large, conservative Presbyterian churches haven’t made the commitment to employing females as their head of staff.

I completely believe that this group of leaders believes in female ordination. If they didn’t, they could have easily moved over to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church—who doesn’t support female ordination.

I completely agree with the statement in the letter that the PC(USA) is divided and fractured. Statistics share the fact that we are much smaller and have less influence than in the past. I also agree with the statement in the letter that “how we got to this place is less important than how to move forward.”

So let's move forward!!

I would take more seriously the values and proposals a lot more if the seven leaders on the Steering Committee had gotten together with leaders of seven large liberal churches in our denomination and from that conversation a proposal came forward. Until more theological diversity is shared in this and any effort, this and any proposal will come across as a “shot-across-the bow” from the conservative or any other like-mided movement within the PC(USA).

It’s my experience that when willing (for the most part) people of different minds are put in a room with a charge and a deadline, they can come up with something that will appeal to the majority.

Example #1—on a much smaller scale. I was part of an effort last summer to put together a strategic plan for Twin Cities Area Presbytery. The group was made up of willing people of different minds who had a specific charge. Through vigorous conversation we were able to come up with something that appealed to the majority of the Presbytery and has already starting making a difference in the life of our Presbytery.

Example #2—on an even smaller scale. One of the eight Core Values of Chain of Lakes is healthy disagreement. We understand this to mean that “when we disagree we will encourage discussion while valuing all opinions. We will speak truth in love, treat others respectfully with dignity, and seek to remain in community.” This value has already helped us move through the inevitable disagreements that all faith communities encounter.

One of my dreams for Chain of Lakes Church is we will be a place where people of all theological and political convictions can land. I believe that the Presbyterian Church needs to have many more congregations who can model and successfully live through these tricky differences.

I am very interested to see what comes out of this initiative started by the conservative, large-church pastors. Wishing for more theological diversity within the group may be a fantasy, but until it happens even the best proposals put forth by the group will not be trusted by many Presbyterians.

7 comments:

scdobo said...

In reading the initial letter and responses I found to the letter I had a couple of thoughts. First while I disagree with the much of the ideas in the letter, I looked for a response or two in support of the letter to balance out those against it. I think for good dialogue to take place we need to hear from many views, not just those we agree with. I think this fits in with your idea of theological diversity. I also feel that words used by the letter writers and those responding hamper a sense of good dialogue, words like deathly ill and tall steeple.

The notion of essential tenets of the reformed faith or what we believe is important as Presbyterians is an interesting thing to ponder. I love the diversity of views in the PC(USA) and the freedom we seem to have in terms of differing views but I wonder if our lack of a clear consistent view hampers us as we try to grow as a denomination.

A few comments I read talked about the lack of care for one another when we get into these discussions. One thing I think we all need to look at is how to we demonstrate genuine care and concern at all levels from the local church and middle governing bodies to the GA. Being a connectional body I think this should be at the core of everything we do.

Chainoflakesncd said...

Thanks, Scott for responding. I agree with you that the PC(USA) is hampered because we don't have a clearly defined essential tenets. I'm not into developing tenets that are used as a hammer; however without clearly defined tenets it seems that we accept everything.

I also agree that we have to treat each other respect and compassion. It's critical that we care for people with whom we disagree.

Kristine Holmgren said...

T.E. Eliot wrote - "let them go - they were meant to go."

The majority of these pastors are from the South. I'm old enough to remember when their Presbyterian Church begged for union with our church - the one with offices on Riverside Drive in New York City.

This is a great big world with room for all sorts of Presbyterians. Let them take their money, their complaints and their wild love for Jesus and begin again.

God bless them, every one.

Chainoflakesncd said...

Kristine,
I understand the temptation to say "let folks go because they are so different." I think we in the Presbyterian church have not done enough to find common ground between people who are different. We all need to let known the walls of our own camps and look for ways that we can work together.

Kristine Holmgren said...

With all due respect, this conflict is not about "difference." This about the movement of the spirit. If a large group of men (and yes, they are indeed, men!) want to run off and form their own little church, let them do so. They will not, however, take the property, the capitol, the assets and or our legacy. Let them leave behind the church buildings our families constructed and the pensions paid by our faithful stewards.

But by all means - - let them go. They were meant to go. From the start, those who cannot change with the times, move away from those of us who do.

I too am tired of the things that tire and depress these men. You and I, Paul - we choose to stay.

The others?

Let them go. They need to go. I'm happy to see them go.

Chainoflakesncd said...

Kristine,
You are right that the people who wrote the letter and the proposal are men, and you are right that if they want to leave they are going to leave.
I hope they don't because I think we're poorer in many ways without them.

Kristine Holmgren said...

Hey Paul - - We're not at all "poorer" without them, anymore than we are "poorer" without Lutherans, Methodists, Jews or Jehovah Witnesses in our fold. People come to faith through many doors. You must remember the larger fabric of our American life when you consider people who want to retrench and withdraw. If you believe history is God's epiphany, you must let them go.

I don't feel called to hold fast to anyone when they are called elsewhere - nor do I feel compelled to possess anyone else. Our church is strong with or without them. we are not at all "poor" when they depart.

Our first tenant is "God is the Lord of the conscience." A still, small voice calls these men. Let them go. They were meant to go.