[The following is my own opinion and rantings related to published words shared this week in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). For the original documents, go to the Presbyterian Outlook (www.pres-outlook.com) or the denominational website (www.pcusa.org).]
I volunteer in my son’s second grade class each week. I find that time to be enjoyable for me, exciting for the children (After all, not many dads get to volunteer in a classroom!), and an exercise in the practice of discernment for all. There are times when I can watch a child’s face as they “get it.” There are times when I worry because the idea or knowledge just hasn’t sunk in. Each time I am in the classroom, there are the moments that make me chuckle and wince as a ‘seven and eight year old drama’ plays out.
I’ve come to realize, over the past few days, that the drama doesn’t end with second grade. It doesn’t end in junior high or even high school. The subject matter merely changes.
I share these thoughts in the days following the latest ‘drama’ in the life of the Presbyterian Church. A Letter to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) made its way to my email inbox last Wednesday and a response by leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) soon after. I don’t mean to belittle the letter or response but I cannot help but equate these events to a ‘second grade drama.’
Come on, letter writers, our denomination is not in perfect health. But to suggest that “the Presbyterian Church is deathly ill is not editorializing” is to kid yourselves and insulting to your readers. These words are your editorial comment on the state of the church. Would you say that the United States is “deathly ill” because we are in a time of economic difficulty and not believe them to be considered editorial? Certainly not, because I suspect you are loyal Americans and even though statistics show an economic decline in the U.S. economy overall, you’d never want your words to be reflected as “acknowledging reality.”
So why can’t you be loyal Presbyterians? You advocate the need for something new but clearly indicate that new means not within the denomination to which you currently belong. Beneath your proposal I hear no new idea but a reordering of the old ways of doing things in a different structure.
How about this? If you’re the pastor of a congregation of more than 500 members, why not suggest to your leadership that your church divide its membership and encourage people to join those “Wee Kirks” you express concern about? You can work on the formula for splitting up your larger church; but I suspect you’ll keep the “wealthier” members for yourself and gladly plant the “troublemakers” in someone else’s church. You’ll do that because you want to keep your church “like-minded.”
You want something new, but what you don’t want is to lose control. I get the feeling that if your idea takes hold, you’ll soon be thinking of how the ‘new’ doesn’t apply to you. Large churches have always done this: adhere to the mentality that nothing the denomination does applies to them.
So guys, quit the drama. Be the adults you should be and the leaders who are willing to risk something personally for the sake of the future.
Now, a word for the leaders of our denomination. This is yet another cry from below that something needs to happen: Change. Another commission, more dialogue is not what we need. A special committee at a General Assembly meeting is only going to extend the agony that many are feeling in the local pew.
You have an opportunity to begin acting; to show the Presbyterian Church what the future can be. Announce a reorganization of the denominational offices in a way that puts congregations and individuals first. How about putting mission dollars where they will be most effect: the local congregation or presbytery and not in the budget of some new commission to study mission?
How about limiting the size of a presbytery to 5000? Boise Presbytery has less than 2600 members and we work together very much like a family. We have different opinions and varying theological positions, but we are small enough that we depend upon one another and recognize the value of each other in the work of the church.
Sure, Jesus used parables to teach but Jesus also reached out and touched, he sat at tables to eat. He acted in the knowledge that the Kingdom of Heaven was here, not merely talked about the Kingdom of Heaven as some future event.
It’s time for the second grade drama to stop. It’s time for us to wake up to Christ’s hope for our future.