January 1, 1998
While a handful of agitated activists was exacerbating denominational divisions by insisting that the PCUSA conform itself to the moral standards of modern culture, commissioners to the Charlotte Assembly were quietly pursuing another agenda: rebuilding Presbyterian community around historic Christian faith and practice.
One step commissioners took toward rebuilding community within the fractured PCUSA was to send the study paper Building Community Among Strangers back for a thorough rewrite (see story, p. 1). The first draft of the paper, produced by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy and sent to every congregation, was based on the premise that human community cannot be built until Christians abandon the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Commissioners disagreed. They ordered that the revised paper be “clearly centered around the confessional and biblical teaching about Christ as Lord of all the world and its only hope of reconciliation.”
In addition to rejecting a document that rejected an essential Christian tenet, commissioners also affirmed new catechisms designed to teach Presbyterians what those tenets are and why they are essential (see story, p. 10). While neither commissioners nor members of the committee that produced the catechisms pretended that the documents were perfect, the balanced make-up of the committee, the gracious language of the questions and the answers, and the fact that the catechisms were offered to the churches for a five-year period of study and refinement, encouraged commissioners to endorse these unapologetically theological resources.
Concerns about the PCUSA’s biblical and confessional standards were also evident during the debates on the National Network of Presbyterian College Women (pp. 1, 4), the discussion of preschool sexuality curriculum, (p. 15), and the call for PHEWA’s networks to conform to PCUSA policies in conducting their activities (p. 14).
Such decisions might seem like a mere reverberation from the Wichita Assembly’s ringing affirmation that “Theology matters.” But Charlotte went far beyond Wichita’s sound-bite. Charlotte specified that it is confessional and biblical theology that matters to Presbyterians, that this theology matters not only to Presbyterians but to all people, and that it matters enough for us to teach it in a careful, thoughtful way to our children, our youth and our adults.
We applaud the Charlotte Assembly for these actions. And we pledge our continuing support of all Presbyterians similarly committed to these historic standards. For in the shared task of articulating, promoting and defending historic Christian truths in the third Christian millennium, in prominently raising our biblical and theological standards, we are rebuilding our community.