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People say funny things…about the PC(USA)

September 5, 2013

Reblogged from Adam J. Copeland, whose online presence can be found here:

I’m currently chairing a task force that’s working with a congregation in my presbytery that has expressed strong interest in being dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to another denomination. Suffice it to say: this work is challenging, time consuming, and draining.

A few months ago, the Office of the General Assembly published a document, “Constitutional Musing: Misrepresentations about the PCUSA.” It was a helpful document, but very, umm….a tad formal. Very churchy. (That said, I’m glad OGA finally said something.) So, for our work this congregation considering leaving, I rewrote it. I post it below hoping that it might be helpful for folks in similar positions. Feel free to use and share.

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An informal revision of the official PCUSA document, “Constitutional Musing: Misrepresentations about the PCUSA)” published by the Office of General Assembly
People say things. Who knows where information comes from these days—random websites, blog posts shared on Facebook, old-fashioned rumors? In any case, it’s easy to say stuff about the denomination because there’s no one person who is the denomination. The PCUSA is us; all of us in partnership together.

Ideally, elders, members, and pastors are able to respond to unfounded claims about the PCUSA and correct them before they get blown-up and completely unconnected to reality. This happens often, actually. Someone suggests something outrageous, and a pastor or elder who knows the claim isn’t true kindly corrects it, and all is well. No harm. No foul.

Other times, though, we need to have a more intentional approach. This is one of those times. Here it goes:

1. Some people say that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has distanced itself from historical tenets of the faith, especially identifying the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture.

People say funny things. But, let’s be clear: the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority and centrality of the Scriptures are clearly expressed in the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In fact, it’s in black and white on nearly every page!

Want proof? Checkout our foundation in the Reformed tradition found, most notably, in “The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity” in the Book of Order and in The Book of Confessions.

Plus, think about it: every teaching elder, every ruling elder, at their ordinations answer the constitutional questions. If they say “yes,” (or, actually, “I do” and “I will with God’s help”) they are affirming their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and their acceptance of Scripture as the authoritative witness to Jesus Christ and God’s Word to them.

2. Some people say that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has adopted a liberal political agenda as a core mission.

People say funny things. The Book of Order describes the core mission of the church this way: “In Christ, the Church participates in God’s mission for the transformation of creation and humanity by proclaiming to all people the good news of God’s love, offering to all people the grace of God at font and table, and calling all people to discipleship in Christ” (F-1.01).

We’re about discipleship. We’re about the gospel. We’re about evangelism. We’re about God’s mission. Sure, we can’t be Christians without participating in the political process sometimes, but the church is not—and shall never be—a rubber stamp for any political party, politician, or process.

3. Some people say there’s a direct connection between the decline in church membership and a supposed “spiritual illness” in the greater church.

People say funny things. Sure, leaders on all levels of the church are concerned about the decline in Protestant churches across the nation (note: the PCUSA is just one of many denominations in which this is true, including as diverse denominations as Episcopalians and Southern Baptists).

So what’s the rub? There are many and various reasons we’re declining in membership—some reasons might be as simple as demographics, some are more complicated cultural issues such as decline in family structures and changes in how often people move.

The church, in this time of change, should be about what we’ve always tried to be about—discerning Christ’s call to fulfill a dynamic mission in a way most appropriate to the mission field around us.

The Church continues to be “sent to be Christ’s faithful evangelist: making disciples of all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; sharing with others a deep life of worship, prayer, fellowship, and service; and participating in God’s mission to care for the needs of the sick, poor, and lonely; to free people from sin, suffering, and oppression; and to establish Christ’s just, loving, and peaceable rule in the world” (F-1.0302 d).

We’re not taking this lying down, though. Nationally, we have a plan to create 1001 new worshiping communities. To do this, we’re encouraging creative young leaders and finding structures that support the historical faith in innovative ways. Locally, you can work to grow your church in faith and numbers too.

4. Some people say the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is at odds with the global Presbyterian Church.

Getting a group—or even two—Presbyterians in any congregation to agree on everything is pretty much impossible. Sure, there are times, globally and locally, when we disagree.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) now makes it possible for sessions and presbyteries to ordain people without regard to their sexual orientation. For some of our local and global partners, this is a difficult move to understand. But remember, some within our Presbyterian community still object to our decision 50 years ago to ordain women! So, of course, as always, we need to talk more, remain in community, pray together, and strengthen our relationships with humility and love.

Prayer

Guide us, O Lord. Help us when we stray from you. And, when we struggle with our relationships with one another, remind us of our unity in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

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