Thursday, January 16, 2014

What is non-negotiable about being Presbyterian?

This past Sunday I had started a new sermon series called Identity.  The purpose of the series is to help our new congregation be even clearer on who we are.  

On Sunday I preached about our own Presbyterian identity.  I got into the sermon by asking two questions.  First, what is non-negotiable about being Presbyterian?  Second, if we stopped doing ______, then we would stop being Presbyterian?

Last week I asked a lot of people these two questions.  I enjoyed an extended conversation on my Facebook page when I asked them.  Then on Saturday I asked the two questions when I set a table up at the Presbytery meeting.  The Facebook conversation can be viewed here:

I get that for most of the world, these questions are not significant.  But some of us are staking a lot in how we answer the questions.   No doubt that in this era denominations are much less important to people.   However some of us want to stay true to our denominational intent while also not letting our denomination weigh our congregations down.  

I ended up developing a list of ten non-negotiables.  In the sermon I went into depth about two of them.  The sermon can be viewed here:

Here is my list in no order of importance.  

Shared authority—pastors and elders work together to lead the congregation.
The community and especially worship is informed by the Word
Engaged in the wider community
Baptism and the Lord Supper are the sacraments that we celebrate, and we celebrate them often. 
Connectional—what happens in one Presbyterian church matters to people at other Presbyterian churches
Informed by the Book of Order and Book of Confessions
The gifts of women are recognized and celebrated in leadership
God alone is Lord of the conscience--we’re not subscriptionist
Committed to the Reformed Tradition of theology

If we stopped doing any of those ten, then in my mind we would stop being Presbyterian.

Please note that my list is not a response to what is non-negotiable about being a church.  For example I just assume that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  All churches recognize that. 

This list is not cast in cement.  I could see myself changing it.  I'm committed to the Reformed Tradition of theology, so I'm personally evolving and growing in my understanding of what it means to be Presbyterian.

Please share your ideas in the comment section to this blog.  In this age when the Presbyterian denomination as a whole is struggling, it’s imperative to be clear about our identity.  

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