The Presbytery of Twin Cities Area met at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis for our January meeting. I arrived early to set up a table for Chain of Lakes Church, a ministry of the Presbytery. In preparation for a two-week sermon series I’m sharing at Chain of Lakes called “Identity,” I asked folks who came to the table to answer two questions. “What is non-negotiable about being Presbyterian? If we stopped doing _____, then we would stop being Presbyterian?” I asked those questions of almost everyone I met last week. A fascinating conversation took place on a January 6th posting on my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/hmoorepaul
I also shared some of my own responses to these two questions in my sermon at Chain of Lakes on Sunday. A video of the sermon can be found at: http://vimeo.com/83996621
After preliminaries we started with worship. Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, new President of United Seminary did a terrific job of preaching. She talked about the opportunities and challenges of New Beginnings. During the Officer’s Reports we learned that the Presbytery is projecting a $90,000 budget deficit for 2015 and that the Presbyterian Church in Albert Lea has requested an Initial Response Team from the Presbytery to discern whether the church wants to stay with the PC(USA). Barbara Lutter shared a very informative report on the new Presbytery Leadership Team, the old Presbytery Council.
A highlight of the meeting was listening to the statement of Faith by Jeff Foels. The statement can be found on page seven of the Committee on Ministry Report which can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/rr9ndpgq6jdq6j0/K3QN6hBGNy/January%202014/01-11-14%20COM%20Report%20to%20Presbytery.docx
A moving moment for me was when he talked about how his home church (First in Stillwater) ministered to him when his mom passed away. He shared that the church (because of sexual misconduct issues) was broken at that time, but was still able to help him. He shared, “if a broken church can minister to me when what does that say about the church?” He is going to be a new Associate Pastor at House of Hope Church in St. Paul.
Three Presbytery conversations were then offered along with lunch. I enjoyed visiting with my colleague and long-time friend Lyle Rozeboom during lunch. After lunch the Presbytery elected commissioners to General Assembly. I remember past bruising fights in the election of commissioners. I was grateful that this election was decent and in order.
During the Committee on Ministry report the Presbytery indicated its willingness to live into the new nFOG opportunity for a church to elect its Associate Pastor to Head of Staff. Michael Olmsted, the current Associate Pastor of Westminster in Austin was called to the Head of Staff position of the church. It was terrific to see a large delegation from the Austin church attend that portion of the meeting.
During the Bills and Overture report the Presbytery voted to approve overtures redefining marriage as a commitment between two people and repealing a past Authoritative Interpretation that disallows pastors from performing marriages for same-gender couples. The debate did not last long. Many of the conservatives in the Presbytery were not present at the meeting. The General Assembly will discuss these overtures this summer at their meeting in Detroit. The overture that brought the most discussion was one brought by the St. Luke Session asking for divestment by the Board of Pensions and Presbyterian Church (USA) Foundation in fossil fuel companies. The overture advocates were young adults (teenagers?) from the St. Luke church. It was encouraging to have their voice and presence at the Presbytery meeting.
The hardest part of the meeting was the vote to close the Presbyterian Church in Farmington and the Arlington Hills Presbyterian church.
The meeting closed with a fairly lengthy report that approved the merger of Knox Presbyterian church in St. Paul and North Como. This merger is an exciting opportunity for this new congregation to develop a thriving ministry.
It’s hard to see Presbyterian churches close and to know that six Presbyterian churches are exploring leaving the Presbyterian church. I believe deeply in the Presbyterian church and have faith that God wants a vibrant Presbyterian church. We need to cling to this desire from God. It is this hope that will help us navigate the current times.