Thursday, March 31, 2011

48 hours with Doug Cushing

Last week Doug Cushing spent 48 hours with us at Chain of Lakes Church. Doug is the coach for our new church. In the Presbyterian Church (USA) new churches are offered the opportunity to have a coach. Rev. Ken Mc Cullen—who is on the Steering Committee for Chain of Lakes—helped set up the coaching program. Research shows that it is vital for new churches and especially organizing pastors of new churches to have a person who can provide counsel and reflections.

Doug was the organizing pastor for Tyger River Presbyterian Church in South Carolina. That church started in 1997 and today has about 200 people come to two worship services. The following link shares history about the development of the church:

I have a monthly phone conversation with Doug. I started the conversations with him shortly after I received the call to serve as the Organizing Pastor of Chain of Lakes Church. He asks me to fill out a form and then we talk for about a hour. He lets me discuss what is of most interest to me. He’s occasionally directive, but usually listens and reflects.

Doug’s visit to the north metro last week was the third one he has made. We certainly kept him busy. On Tuesday he met with our staff during the afternoon. He shared with the staff some of his own stories. That evening he met with our Friends group. At the meeting he talked about the retention system of new guests that Tyger River has set up.

I was disappointed that Doug couldn’t prevent the half-a-foot of snow that we received in the north Metro on Wednesday morning. The snow stopped us from having a breakfast with others at Chain of Lakes. It didn’t stop the two of us from having a lengthy conversation about what is happening with Chain of Lakes Church. At lunch the two of us met with Chaz Ruark, Executive Presbyter of Twin Cities Area Presbytery, and Newell Krogmann, contract staff for church development for the Presbytery. On Wednesday evening a group of us from Chain of Lakes shared a meal and had conversation with him. Doug asked people to share their greatest joys and concerns about our new church. The conversation was rich, lengthy, and surely will be continued.

On Thursday he spoke at a luncheon for leaders in the Presbytery. I was pleased that approximately twenty pastors and elders attended the luncheon. Besides hearing from Doug I shared a status report on the progress of our new church, Jennifer Huehns (staff at Chain of Lakes) shared a terrific presentic about how our new congregation uses Facebook, and John Ivers shared a demographic report on our geographic area.

Immediately after the luncheon I whisked Doug to Bloomington where he caught up with his brother, who is the pastor of an Evangelical Free Church. In the next few weeks Doug will write a report about his visit that will be shared with the Steering Committee, the Church Development Team of the Presbytery, and anyone else who is interested in reading it.

It was very heartening to me to hear that of the eight churches Doug has coached, he has received the most enjoyment of any through his involvement with Chain of Lakes.

All of us need a set of outside eyes every now and then. We at Chain of Lakes are very appreciative of how Doug has helped us develop as a new church.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just War doctrine and rationale for war in Libya

I would guess that many people working hard in the north Metro haven’t had time to think deeply about what President Obama described as “the international effort that the United States has led” in Libya. (In my mind it’s a war.) I hardly had the time to read a newspaper last week myself.

But I took the time last night to try to understand what is taking place. I listened to most of President Obama’s speech last night and read every word of the transcript.

For me I will not support a war unless it can measure up to the Just War Doctrine. Wikipedia explains Just War at this link:

The seven criteria of just-war theory are just cause, comparative justice, legitimate authority, probability of success, right intention, proportionality, and last resort.

On a scale of 1-10 with ten being the highest I’ve tried to think through each criteria. I don’t know if this exercise of numbering is helpful, but it helped me clarify my own thoughts.

As I share these thoughts please know that I do it with humility and the understanding that I am not familiar with the country, politics, or situation in Libya. These thoughts are meant as a way to have an objective criteria for going to war. They have nothing to do with my thoughts about the military men and women from around the world who are implementing the war.

Just cause: "8" Defending civilians from genocide is a just cause. The question for me is under what conditions will the United States defend civilians from genocide? Right now the governments of Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, and Syria have killed the people of their nation. If the situation in those countries approaches genocide are we going to intervene?

Comparative justice: "2" I don’t think the current bombings are comparative. If our interest was only to protect civilians then why not put a wall of protection around the city of Benghazi, enforce a no-fly zone, and leave it at that?

Legitimate authority: "7" Being asked by the Arab League to intervene and having a United Nations Security Resolution is helpful. Not having Congress pass a resolution keeps this from being a ten.

Probability of Success: "2" If the purpose of the War is to protect civilians and not to remove Gaddafi from power, then what is going to change in the country? I understand that Obama said that regime change is costlier, but not trying to oust Gaddafi makes the probability of success much lower.

Right intention: "5" This is similar to just cause. I question the Europeans’ motives. Was their interest in preventing genocide more to stop a refugee crisis in their own country or truly to prevent genocide?

Proportionality: "8" I think the benefit of having Gaddafi out of power is proportional to the genocide he threatened to inflict. The only thing preventing this from being a ten is the lack of assurance that the new government will be committed to justice.

Last resort: "10" From what the Obama administration shared the United States had to act immediately or the people of Bengazi would have been slaughtered. If the information they shared is correct, they were at the last resort.

Adding up the numbers in this crude model, I’ve come to 42 out of 70. To me this means that military action is barely justified. I’m not sure myself which number is a threshold for military action.

I would be more supportive with a different strategy. I would rather see the goal of the war to be only protect civilians and not be aggressive or be aggressive and try to remove Gaddafi. I realize that the strategies in the preceding sentence are contradictory, but I would have rather seen one of those strategies compared to the middling strategy that has been articulated.

I am very interested in other people’s thoughts. Please share!

Friday, March 25, 2011

New Prague basketball--memories of Jeff Gravon

The State Tournament run by the Boys Basketaball Team from New Prague High School has brought back many precious memories. In January 2009, Jeff Gravon—the head coach—passed away from cancer. Jeff was one of my best childhood friends. I officiated at his two funeral services and organized a memorial plaque dedication to him at the Worthington YMCA.

I wrote about the plaque dedication before:

I also wrote about their game in the State Tournament two years ago:

New Prague surprised everyone—except themselves—by shocking St. Paul Johnson on Wednesday. Johnson was the number one rated team in the state for #3A. The Star Tribune was already using words like “Cinderella run” to describe New Prague’s achievements.

Yesterday New Prague played against Columbia Heights in the semi-finals. I was working so couldn’t attend the game. If they won I was planning on screaming my lungs out for the Trojans at the State Championship game tomorrow night.

New Prague was behind much of the game. Deep in the fourth quarter, They made six three-pointers to pull within three. But alas it wasn’t enough. Columbia Heights won 57-50.

The Star Tribune ran a short article today about how Jeff’s influence still is with the players and the New Prague fans.

Sports has become a multi-billions industry that is overexposed. I loved competing in athletics as a kid and watching games on television. I still enjoying watching games, but I get tired of all the attention which sports receives.

However stories like the New Prague basketball team make athletics worth watching. The coaches and players from New Prague deserve our applause. They’ll always be champions in my heart.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Doug Cushing speaking tonight for Chain of Lakes Church

Most new Presbyterian churches have a coach. The coach for Chain of Lakes Church is Doug Cushing. He is the organizing pastor for Tygre River Presbyterian Church in South Carolina. He does an on-site visit with us at Chain of Lakes once a year. Yesterday he flew to the north Metro to spend 48 hours with us.

Tonight the people at Chain of Lakes have the opportunity to spend time with Doug. We will meet at the Lino Lakes Senior Center at 6:00 for a meal. After the meal we will sing for a brief time. Doug will then talk about what new churches are doing to be successful, he’ll share his observations about Chain of Lakes Church, and he will respond to all questions. Child care will be provided. We plan on being done around 7:30 p.m.

Doug is a marvelous person. Many folks from Chain of Lakes have already met and enjoyed getting to know Doug.

If you are a leader at Chain of Lakes Church, then I strongly encourage you to attend tonight’s event. We at Chain of Lakes Church can hardly offer a better on-sight leadership development opportunity than this presentation that Doug will share. He knows the wonders and challenges of starting a new church. He will both inspire us and challenge us tonight.

Despite the weather we will be meeting. I urge everyone at Chain of Lakes to attend.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ugh--a night of basketball rooting

Last night throughout the state of Minnesota boys basketball teams played in sectional finals. I was most interested in two games—Worthington versus Marshall and Plainview versus Rochester Lourdes. I grew up in Worthington and served the Presbyterian church for 16 years in Plainview, so I was rooting for both of those teams.

I found the Worthington game via the Marshall radio station on the Internet. I turned the game on with Worthington ahead by seven and with about five minutes left. With such a lead I was thinking about how I could arrange my schedule next week to watch the Trojans in the State Tournament. But as any long-time fan knows chickens cannot be counted before they are hatched. Marshall rallied, Worthington took the lead, Marshall went ahead, Worthington tied the game, Marshall scored with four seconds in the game—Worthington lost.

I haven’t followed Worthington all year and don’t know any of the players on the team, but suddenly I was despondent. How can listening to a team lose a game half a state away bring out such sadness?

I went upstairs to visit with my family, and couldn’t help think about the Plainview game. They have been rated #1 in the state all year in class 2A. The only game they lost all year was to Osseo—a 4A team that has consistently been rated in the top five of class 4A. I was certain that Plainview would win. I was already thinking about watching them at the State Tournament next week and hoping they would be playing for the state championship on Saturday. I couldn’t find the game, but noticed a Facebook post by a youth from the church I served in Plainview. He said he was losing his voice by screaming his lungs out. That surprised me. I wasn’t expecting any suspense in the game. I asked the score. He gave the score, but didn’t write who had won. I found the Rochester Post-Bulletin web site on my I-Phone. The Rochester paper gleefully had already shared the shocker—Lourdes had beaten Plainview.

This morning I woke up to read via Facebook that my sister had sat by the radio listening to Redwood Valley play Windom in the sectional finals. My sister is not at all a sports fan, but she posted updates on my wall. First overtime, second overtime, third overtime, and finally a fourth overtime. Redwood Valley won in an upset. Even she—who quite possibly hasn’t seen a game in person all year—wrote that she could hardly bear the suspense.

These dramas are being played out right now in every state in high school basketball and in the NCAA I, II, and III tournaments. The agony and passion matches whatever is showing right now at the Guthrie. The suspense is irresistible.

We leaders in the church can learn lessons from this fandom. Until we can communicate the suspense and drama of faith we will continue to look at empty chairs in our sanctuaries while gymnasiums are packed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Presbytery meeting--nFOG & Chain of Lakes presentation

This past Saturday I participated in the second meeting of the year of the Twin City Presbytery. I had a slow drive to Valley Presbyterian Church as the freeways were partially covered with snow and ice. I took it as a good sign that when I pulled into the parking lot I met Ward Sessing, chair of the Property Task Force for Chain of Lakes Church. Both of us were excited about the presentation that folks from Chain of Lakes were going to share later in the meeting.

When I arrived I quickly set up a table for Chain of Lakes. At every meeting I hand out newsletters from our new congregation and take time to let people know what is happening. I was able to distribute all 15 newsletters while still talking to Martha Rockenstein, the POINT person for the Presbytery with whom I shared a table.

The meeting quickly got interesting when Chaz Ruark shared his reflections on the recent disciplinary case against Erwin Barron. Chaz shared his regret that the media had reported on the case. He wrote a blog about the case at:

I am still unclear about the rules and regulations regarding privacy in a Disciplinary hearing. At a small group in which I later participated, many of us wondered if the privacy regulations are in the Book of Order or are Presbytery policies. I think the policy of waiting until the Presbytery meeting to announce the decision of a case didn’t serve us well in this situation.

Tim Hart-Anderson spoke and appealed to the Prosecuting Committee in this case not to appeal the decision of the Presbytery’s PJC. To learn more about the case go to:

Someone pointed out to me later in the meeting that we Presbyterians have a judicial system where even if someone is declared not guilty of a charge that an appeal can be made—unlike the secular courts.

We then transitioned into discussing the New Form of Government--nFOG. I thought the discussion was wonderfully run and conducted. Our Presbytery has vastly improved the way we discuss overtures and contentious issues. People against nFOG were allowed to speak for ten minutes. Some of the arguments that were raised against nFOG were it will blur the distinctions between governing bodies and that it will be too easy for Interim pastors to become Installed pastors. I rose and spoke in favor of nFOG. I argued that in our Form of Government we we need a constitution and not a manual of operations. Issues like whether an Interim can become the Installed pastor can be in a manual of operations. The vote in favor of nFOG was 118-35.

By far the highlight of the meeting for me was the presentation by folks from Chain of Lakes for the Presbytery. This was one of the first time where members of Chain of Lakes were able to share with the Presbytery their excitement about our new church. Tiffany Godfrey shared her passion for social media and on-line media and what we are doing at Chain of Lakes. She said she wants to get all of her unchurched female friends to come to Chain of Lakes. Jonathan Tse talked about how appreciative he was at how the people at Chain of Lakes welcomed him and his family. He said he was very unsure what sort of reception he would receive. Jonathan became Presbyterian when he lived in the Cameroon. Both of his daughters have been baptized at Chain of Lakes. Dave Nyberg talked about the many times he’s witnessed a “wow moment” at Chain of Lakes. He talked about the Grand Opening service, and watching Bill Fink be baptized last Easter, and watching a man who has never participated in a Bible Study learn about the Bible.

I could hardly have been happier about these presentations. I know pride can be a sin, but I’ve rarely been more proud of the folks at Chain of Lakes. They were terrific.

After these presentations, I left the meeting—I had to get finish my own preparations for worship at Chain of Lakes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

nFOG and the quorum

I am very much looking forward to the next Presbytery meeting of Twin Cities Area Presbytery which is this Saturday, March 12 at Valley Presbyterian Church starting at 9:00 a.m. In the afternoon folks from Chain of Lakes will be giving a report about the progress we’ve made at our new congregation this year. We’ll have members of the Steering Committee share their experience of being at Chain of lakes. I’m very pleased that already in 2011 we’ve had 10 new families visit Chain of Lakes during worship—some of them have already indicated to us that they want to connect to our congregation.

I am also looking forward to voting on the new Form of Government, nFOG. Last week I wrote a brief blog about why I believe nFOG should be adopted by our Presbyteries.

The main principal that attracts me to nFOG is its attempt to make our constitution an actual constitution and not a manual of operations. A blog which I follow that addresses specific arguments against nFOG is

I’m please that the Bills and Overtures Committee of our Presbytery voted in favor of nFOG by a vote of five to one.

Let me share one example of why we need nFOG. It’s on an issue that I think would be non-controversial—the issue is the setting of a quorum by the Session.

According to our current Form of Government,
“A quorum of the session shall be the pastor or other presiding officer and one third of the elders but no few than two, except for the reception and dismission of members, when the quorum shall be the moderator and two members of the session. The session may fix its own quorum at any higher number.” G-10.0202

Since when did “dismission” become a word?

The proposed nFOG says this about a quorum:
“Sessions shall provide by rule for a quorum for meetings; such quorum shall include the moderator and either a specific number of ruling elders or a specific percentage of those ruling elders in current service on the session.” G-3.0203

The nFOG stays on the level of principle; the current FOG is too descriptive.

I haven’t taken the time to explore the history behind this part of the current Form of Government. I’m sure that this section (like all sections) has evolved over time. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in the last hundreds of years the Presbyteries voted on an amendment about a Session setting a quorum.

I don’t think we need the Form of Government telling a Session how to set a quorum. I trust that all Sessions can be smart about setting their own quorums.

Is having a quorum important? Yes
Should the Session think through the issues of a quorum? Yes
Should the Session have a higher quorum for receiving and dismissing members? Maybe, but this regulation need not be in the Form of Government. I have a feeling (though I don’t know this) that the regulation was put in the Form of Government because a Session tried to dismiss members of a church at a meeting that wasn’t well-attended.

I understand the desire to put this regulation into the Form of Government; however it’s my experience that we can’t regulate every situation in a local congregation. Let’s learn to trust the wisdom of the Session and not make a regulation.

Vote for nFOG! Have fewer regulations about a quorum!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thanks Dad & Mom

Forty-seven years ago I came into the world at the hospital in Primghar, Iowa. I shared the story of my birth on my blog last March 3. My wife, Amy, has taught me that the people who are forgotten in a birthday are the parents. My parents were far from perfect, but my sister and I both have benefited from their parenting skills. Today I want to acknowledge two things my parents did two things well.

1. They always took my sister and I to church. I didn’t like going to church when I was a child. I have great respect right now for Westminster Presbyterian Church in Worthington, Minnesota, but as a child I found it to be very cold. I went to Sunday School and sat in cold chairs in a cold room, and listened to cold people lecture from the Bible. When I went to worship I was expected to sit still, listen to the sermon, and try to understand words that were way over my head. No child care, no children’s bags, no children’s time, no getting up to share the love of God. The church wasn’t kid friendly. I didn’t like to go, but my parents always took my sister and I to church. It would have been more convenient for them to skip church—they wouldn’t have to listen to my raucous complaining about going to church. They endured—and today my sister and I are Presbyterian pastors.

I’ve always believed that the decision for a child’s participation in church is up to the parent. Going to church is not like attending a precinct caucus. Nobody should take a vote in a household on whether to attend church. If the parent wants the child to attend, then the child will attend—no matter the preference of the kid.

I apologize in advance if I sound harsh. I’m not intending to sound harsh. I just want to thank my parents for not taking a vote in the Moore household about whether I should have attended church.

2. My parents supported me in what I wanted to do
Besides forcing me to go to church, my parents supported and helped me live out my interests. In Junior High I became passionate about playing the violin. The best violin teacher lived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota—60 miles away. My dad got out of bed early on a Saturday morning, so we could leave the house at 7:30 a.m. so that I could take violin lessons. He gave up almost most of his Saturdays so I could play in youth orchestra and then have a violin lesson. We would get back to Worthington at 4:00. That was how we lived our Saturdays during the school year for four years. Without their support I never would have learned to play the violin or learned the discipline it takes to succeed at a craft.

On this 47th anniversary of my birth, I am a blessed person. My parents helped make it so.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The humility of Moses

This year I’ve been reading through the Old Testament. It involves reading about two to three chapters a day. So far I’ve been able to keep up on the reading. Doing this type of reading involves quick reading and doesn’t allow time for more detailed study.

This week I was stopped right in my tracks as I read through Numbers. Yes, I know that Numbers isn’t known as the most scintillating book of Scripture in the Old Testament. In my reading this week I’ve become captivated by Moses’ response to all of the criticism he received as he led the Israelites through the wilderness. In particular I was touched by the verse in Numbers 12:3 where Moses was described as the most humble person on the face of the earth. The verse in the NRSV reads: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth.”

It’s remarkable that Moses could be so humble given the pressures he had endured. His own brother, Aaron, and sister, Miriam were questioning his leadership. In fact they were criticizing Moses for marrying a non-Israelite. Moses also had to endure consistently the complaining of the Israelites as they expressed their desire to go back to Egypt.

Many of us in the north Metro have challenging work situations. I’m guessing we have times when we would like to yell or perhaps scream at our boss and/or employees. I would encourage all of us to remember Moses. He was able to stay humble despite tremendous pressures and responsibilities.

Staying humble doesn’t mean we sacrifice our own beliefs or ideas; staying humble doesn’t turn us into a patsy whom our aggressive co-workers can roll over. We can stay firm in our convictions. But we can do it in humility.

What is one quality that all of us would like from our political leader? I’m guessing humility would rate close to the top of the list.

May Moses be our example today of how to negotiate with humility the tricky world of 2011.