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:
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:
Some of the blogs that I’ve found to be helpful on this issue are these:
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.