A gathering of storm clouds on the horizon

I have been pre-occupied by news of Hurricane Irene this week. The primary reason for my concern is that there are many people I know and love in the storm’s path. I am a native of the coast of North Carolina. Atlantic Beach is a part of the community where I grew up. Most of my family still resides there. Hence, my thoughts and prayers this week have been for the safety of that community as storm clouds gathered on the horizon.

It’s been quite a week for natural events in that area. Earlier this week my mother reported that she felt tremors from the earthquake in Virginia and this weekend they are experiencing the wind and driving rains of one of the largest hurricanes to strike the area in many years. This morning’s (Saturday) report is that the storm made landfall in the Atlantic Beach-Cape Lookout area and will be a major weather event for the entire day. The front side of the storm may have passed but they wait as the calm eye of the storm passes overhead and is followed by the harsh and sometimes more violent backside of the storm.

Preparation for Hurricane Irene was reported by national news as millions of people will be affected by its winds. Many boarded up windows and took precautions to preserve property from the storm’s fury. Some people decided to ride out the storm and others decided to evacuate to safety.

When this storm passes there will be much clean up to be done. There will be some rebuilding to do. There will be some grieving over what has been lost and cannot be recovered. There will be a celebration of survival.

Earthquakes and hurricanes have not been the only things to pre-occupy my thoughts. I’ve been pre-occupied by what I believe can be described as a gathering of storm clouds on the horizon for our denomination. The brief news reports I’ve seen from the gathering of the Fellowship of Presbyterians in Minneapolis appear to me to be the formation of storm clouds within the Presbyterian Church. Some might say that we are already in the middle of a storm and they may be right yet I am concerned that these storm clouds may bring something even more severe than what we’ve already experienced.

The steering committee of the Fellowship of Presbyterians lists four possible options:

  • Remaining within the PC(USA) but being more selective in participation in denominational matters;
  • Creating new presbyteries within the bounds of existing presbyteries for “like-minded” congregations;
  • Creating dual Committees on Ministry and Committees on Preparation for Ministry in existing presbyteries based on support for or opposition to the PC(USA)’s new ordination standards;
  • Creating a new Reformed body, with some churches departing the PC(USA) and others maintaining “dual citizenship, at least in the near term”;
They described their group as an “empty warehouse” and invited participants to fill it up.  Language such as “dead end” “broken badly” “cannot be fixed” sound less and less like a group praying or working for an antidote or cure for a ‘deathly ill’ denomination and more and more like a pronouncement of time of death.  I can see no attempts at bridging differences or creating unity within the denomination but a desire to build a separate wing complete with its own entrances and exits and dividing walls in the same house.
The words coming out of the Fellowship gathering certainly sound like a request to evacuate the PCUSA in face of the coming storm but behind those words I perceive a meaning of  abandon ship or an even more harsh ‘abandon all hope.’
There is a gathering of storm clouds on the horizon and unless we begin doing something in preparation for this storm we will not survive.  While I do not always agree with decisions made by our denomination or by its leaders I cannot abandon it.  I believe that God has a purpose for the Presbyterian Church.
What preparations can I make in advance of this storm?  First I must be in prayer for God to guide our denomination and our presbytery.  I must remind myself and others that God has both the power to calm the storm and the power to see us through the fury of the storm.  Second, I must engage in honest and meaningful dialogue with leaders in our presbytery.  I am concerned for the health of our congregations and I ask that congregational leaders include leaders of the presbytery in their conversations, sharing fears and anxieties; expressing their hopes and disappointments; and allowing the presbytery to walk alongside as they discern their future.   I will need your help in preparing for the storms that lie ahead.
There are storm clouds on the horizon.  May we never forget that God abides with us even in the midst of the storm.

3 thoughts on “A gathering of storm clouds on the horizon

  1. We know there are radically differing views within our denomination. Ironic, I see the calls from the fellowship totally opposite. Knowing several who attended the event, I have heard many reasons to remain within the denomination working with brothers and sisters with similar and opposing views.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and a perspective that I hope will prevail. I am afraid that those leaders and congregations who were close to the edge in their discernment will not see a reason to pull back. Instead they will use the proposals, particularly the January meeting which has been described as a “constitutional convention” as a springboard for departure to a New Reformed Body. My experience so far has been that the Fellowship gathering has strengthened the resolve of congregations to depart.

      May my words prove to be an unrealized anxiety!

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