A Gathering of Presbyterians: Part 2

August 25, 2011

The Fellowship of Presbyterians has gathered approximately 1950 Presbyterian pastors, elders, observers, and Louisville staffers to discuss a new way of doing church. This process of discernment is designed to prepare primarily evangelicals dissatisfied with the status quo for next steps into a new reality. Today the informational groundwork was laid with presentations on an organizational umbrella—a new entity called “Fellowship of Presbyterians”—under which a variety of options will be shepherded to full realization. Ranging from “staying in place as missional agents” all the way to separating into a “new Reformed Body (NRB),” these options recognize the reality that there is no one-size-fits-all-congregations solution. The variables in different contexts include the conservative-liberal distribution in a presbytery, the age of the congregation, the unity within the congregation, the existence of a dismissal policy, and the relationships between presbytery staff and congregations. Participants were inundated with information, small group interaction, and question-and-answer sessions all day.

From my perspective, the most important pieces today were these:

1. The reading of a pastoral letter to the Church of Scotland, dated 1798, declaring a solemn crisis, pernicious errors of doctrine, deluded multitudes, and the observation that “God hath a controversy with us.” As one of my tablemates said in response, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” The text of this letter will be available on the Fellowship of Presbyterians website soon.

2. The vision for the Fellowship: to redefine theological clarity through a statement of biblical essentials; missional passion; a church organization that focuses on relationships rather than regulation; global connections in mission; and leadership and structures to support four “tiers” of options for relief of conscience.

3. The commitment to make a radical change, not merely incremental adjustments designed for the lowest common denominator of disaffected churches. The outcome of this meeting is going to be big.

4. The introduction of a “New Reformed Body,” to be fully described in documents yet to be written, with an unveiling January 12-14, 2012. There was still quite a bit of confusion at our table about the unknowns of the NRB and how it is possible to maintain some connection with the original presbytery while cultivating relationships in the NRB. Perhaps tomorrow some light will be shed on this, and in a future post I will analyze this option further.

Going back to my August 19 post here, how is the Fellowship doing with the process of discernment?

1. Information and facts are being presented; a groundwork is being laid carefully. It may seem a little tedious by sheer volume, but it is necessary.

2. An attempt is being made to help the whole group understand the players in this drama, because no two churches or presbyteries have identical contexts.

3. The problem has been identified adequately and discussed in the small groups.

4. We have probably now reached the point of considering the gifts and limitations of this body to address the question at hand. There is no talk yet about the sort of leadership or other resources that are needed to usher the implementation of the Fellowship’s vision.

5. There has been remarkably little talk on biblical theology relevant to the formation of “church.” It has been said by some speakers, including  Fuller Seminary president Dr. Richard Mouw tonight, that this  movement is in need of a sound ecclesiology! But so far, it is not clear who might be entrusted with this work to inform the movement.

6. And finally, there has been almost no silence and solitude! I have stolen away during dinner to write most of this blog posting, and it is the first “peace and quiet” I have had since leaving my room at 6:45 this morning. This is almost as intense as a General Assembly meeting. I am hoping that silence can be built into our small group time tomorrow. The general noise level is getting oppressive; I fear for the well-being of introverts in our midst (and I am beginning to wonder if I am becoming one!); just so many people to greet; so much talking. When will we be able to truly listen is quiet contemplation to what the Spirit is saying to the church?

More tomorrow as things unfold.

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5 Responses to “A Gathering of Presbyterians: Part 2”

  1. Renee Guth Says:

    Thanks again, Mary!!! 🙂

  2. Truth Tolife Says:

    What an exciting time to be the church–to start anew, to do a refresh, a reset. Usually “do-overs” are just for kids, but here we are beginning again! May we hear…and heed…the Holy Spirit’s guidance!


  3. Yes, thanks, Mary. Keep those posts coming.

  4. L. Lee Says:

    Mary, I am praying for that quiet, waiting on God, time that is so necessary to listen and hear what God is saying. I am praying for the “knowing” from knowing God and being in God’s presence. I so hoped this Fellowship meeting would be a time to put aside our agenda and plans, and business in order to turn our attention to God and get the power and clear direction needed to go foward. Do you think this is happening?


  5. Holding on for your next post. Shalom.

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