Yesterday I attended the May meeting of the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area held at Presbyterian Church of the Way in Shoreview. I came early as Friends of Chain of Lakes (FOCOL) met before the meeting. I was very pleased to learn when FOCOL met that six congregations have already signed up to sponsor Sundaes on Wednesday at Chain of Lakes this summer with two other strong possibilities.
As always I set up a table to share the story of Chain of Lakes—one of the Presbytery’s New Church Developments. I was joined by Sally Narr and John Ivers. We talked with people about the new growth our new church has experienced along with sharing many of the children and youth ministries we have planned for this summer.
After the start of the meeting I attended a workshop led by Tim Hart-Anderson and Julie Champ called “The Gospel and Generosity: God loves a Cheerful Giver.” Tim talked about how our theology of stewardship comes from the fact that God is a generous God. He shared stories of God’s generosity and how that relates to local congregations when we ask for money. He spoke about tithing as a spiritual practice and the importance of pastors to tithe.
He went on to share nine principles in local church financial stewardship. None of these ideas are really new, but they are so practical that they are worth sharing. They are: a) relationships matter most of all; b) don’t apologize for asking: the best cause around; c) don’t protect people from their own generosity; don’t say No for them; d) ask: a specific target is best; e) don’t ask someone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself; f) there is always more money in the congregation than you think; g) think big: people like a challenge; h) pastors are like development officers; i) pastors should know who the best prospects are.
The group gathered for the workshop spent a lot of time talking about the importance of not protecting people from their own generosity. Many times pastors and leaders in the church limit people’s generosity by not thinking big and challenging them.
The heart of the Presbytery meeting was the vote to dismiss Hope Presbyterian Church to ECO (A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians). This was a final vote held by the Presbytery. We had already approved in March the general terms of an agreement between Hope and the Presbytery. The congregation voted on May 4th by a vote of 522-17 to leave for ECO. All of this information can be found on the Presbytery web site—presbyterytwincities.org and the Hope Church web site--hope-pc.org/denomination.
The vote and following talks and prayer were done very graciously. Tim Hart-Anderson, the chair of the Administrative Commission that negotiated an agreement with Hope, started his talk by quoting a poem from TS Eliot, “the end is the beginning.” The Presbytery voted unanimously in a voice vote without discussion to approve the settlement. David Lenz, Teaching Elder at Hope, gracefully thanked the Presbytery. He shared that because of Presbyterian polity he would be renouncing jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church, but he wasn’t renouncing the Presbytery.
I felt like I was watching a divorce done with beauty and grace. Nonetheless what happened is painful—it still seems like a divorce. Even though four other congregations in the Presbytery are exploring a departure, I am praying, perhaps naively, that none do leave.
During the Speak Out time some folks helped me pass out seeds with the people present. I shared that the Presbytery is planting new seeds in the ministry of Chain of Lakes Church in Blaine and Lino Lakes. I hope that everyone who plants their seeds will be reminded of this as their flowers and plants grow.
A lot of significant work was done later, but it felt anti-climatic after the vote on Hope. I cling to hope that this end will be a new beginning.