I love my denomination. No really! I do! I have a passion for the particular way the Presbyterian Church (USA) organizes and orients life around justice and compassion, and sharing the gospel in relationship. Though we don’t always live out our connectional calling all that well, I think we learn something in striving toward that goal. When we are at our best, the tenacious ways we cling together is something important we can bring to an ever more fractious world.
I see so much potential and continue to hope for a vision that will help us become a more nimble/flexible organization which can adapt and move in this hyper-speed world we find ourselves in.
LET ME BE CLEAR.
This agility I speak of does not come from laying off staff. It does not come from the latest “lean management” methods. It has nothing to do with our cash flow. It is a vision that means we learn to move and shift without losing our core values. It is a vision that can take us way beyond survival.
We find ourselves in an exciting time and space with a still-new, more flexible constitution, a widening circle of diverse leadership drawn from inclusive ordination standards and multicultural engagement, and the increasing use of new communication and connecting tools. We are learning new ways of living and being with each other. So much potential causes me to hope all the more! As we get ready to move into 2014 and head toward our 221st General Assembly, there are two things I hope we can do to bring about a new reality in this Church.
1) As a pastor of a small church, I hope we can bring the voices of the medium-sized/small/declining churches to the fore – not to “fix” us, but to affirm the unique gifts and draw on that wisdom. For too long, the tall steeple and so-called mega-churches have been lifted up as the ideal, leaving small congregations wondering and worrying why they can’t grow to become as important as their larger sisters. Yet the small churches, the so-called declining churches have learned to be creative, finding ways toward consensus, to make compromises. They have much to teach us about how important it is to work hard to demonstrate care for the least of these in their midst. There is much the larger church can learn from hearing those voices.
2) We have to address the elephant in the room: our fear. We are afraid of compromised standards. We are afraid of compromised finances. We are afraid of taking risks. We are afraid of change. I truly believe that the thing that holds us all captive (liberals and conservatives alike) is fear. Yet at the core of our faith is the belief that the Sovereign Lord of Life says to us: don’t be afraid. We might worry, grieve, get angry, be frustrated out of our minds, but the words that should ring in,our ears are the same words spoken to Mary when she was told she would give birth to the Savior: Fear not!