By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook.
It’s the melody wafting through so many conversations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) these days – and is virtually certain to be one of the refrains of the 2016 General Assembly. Overtures are pending about potentially merging the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Church folks are talking about possibly reducing the number of synods, about what recent endeavors to sample opinions across the church will reveal about “Presbyterian identity” and about the impact denominational budget-cutting will have on programs and mission.
Why so much talk about restructuring now? And for Presbyterians, why does it matter – what’s at stake?
Ask those foundational questions first (rather than getting snagged in the specifics of the proposals), and Presbyterians have a lot to say – some of it looking back to history, some looking forward.
Two committees – both part of the regular review cycle of PCUSA agencies, one reviewing the work of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) and another the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) – are expected to release reports in early January. It’s likely those committees will recommend that the 2016 General Assembly consider setting up a task force with specific representation to discuss the idea of a possible merger of OGA and PMA – not necessarily recommending merger, but creating a process to investigate that possibility. Presbyteries have submitted at least two overtures regarding the possibility of merger.
Restructuring conversations seem to be bubbling up in many places. “It’s just across the church, isn’t it?” said Cliff Lyda, a pastor from Illinois who chairs the OGA review committee.
“There is this sense of change, upheaval and everyone’s talking about it,” said Eliana Maxim, who is associate executive director of multicultural ministries for Seattle Presbytery and chair of the PMA review committee.
Why is that? Over the years, the PCUSA and its predecessor denominations have gone through a series of restructurings, and both OGA and PMA have endured downsizings because of declining budgets. The Presbyterian Mission Agency board is expected to implement another significant budget cut in April.
The ongoing systemic, structural collapse of the reunion 1982 entity known as the PCUSA is neither a linear or predictable process. It goes is drips and drabs, sometimes it speeds up, as the PMA/1001 new communities scandals/youth triennial misdeeds. Sometimes very slowly, as the decade long discussion on the role and use of MGBs, Synods, Presbyteries. But the ongoing narrative and end results do not change and will not.
Not to get too wonkish, a statistical analysis of the membership loss of the PCUSA produces a loss of 2 standard deviations, from the loss curve of other Protestant denominations. In another way the PCUSA is dying at a rate 2X compared to the ABC, UM or ELCA over similar time periods, even the ECUSA has fared better.
A church or denomination dies when 3 things happen, when you run out of people, run out of money, or run out of mission or purpose. The mission and people metric is beyond the point of return, the money storm is about to hit and is hitting now.
Rearranging the deck chairs does not fix the central problem of the Titanic.
I just don’t care anymore. Although an elder, choir member and active member, I’ve left the PCUSA, never to return.
This really is too little, too late. The obvious redundancies in the two structures have been painfully obvious since reunion.
peter gregory “when you run out of people, run out of money,”
Or in our case, “other people’s money”
As we know, the Body of Christ is people called and gifted–not buildings. What does the Body of Christ do?
1. Worships and praises God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit
2. Nurtures and builds up the Body of Christ
3. Teaches God’s Word to all generations.
4. Engages in mission work on a local, national, and
5. Gives freely and with much love its gifts of time,
talent, and treasure to the Lord
6. Eagerly shares the good news of Jesus with all.
7. Continues to seeks God’s will and purpose
8. Serves as a spiritual beacon to the communities in
which it is located..
Upon reading this entire story, it becomes clear the PCUSA big shots continue to spew leftist/progressive mindset, along with doubling down on issues such as (coincidentally in sync with leftist political talking points) global warming, gun control, racism, etc.
They asked this question several times ” What is the mission of the church” in a changing world? It is so sad they do not know. Totally disheartening.
How many people have these leaders brought to Christ in the time they worked for the church? God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and forever. God and His message does not change! They just do not get what it means to be a disciple, nor do they seem to have a sense of calling or power from God to do God’s will. It is all about putting off the decisions till another day and complacency. Restructuring the institution, moving people around, becoming like the culture will not bring more people to Christ. It is just so sad.
‘Dead Presbyterians’ money.’
L.Lee – are you now or have you ever been an adherent to Presbyterian doctrine? If so I think you know “who brings people to Christ” – its’ not you or anyone else, it’s the Spirit at work in and thorough all of creation. Your fundamentalist views and scorn are boring…
pres if you’re so sure that you are right, why is it that the PCA, EPC etc are growing and we (pcusa) are shrinking, and no I did not include ECO in the mix by design. I noticed you said “Presbyterian doctrine” not the Bible, so somebody is wrong here.
And with all this bickering, it could have totally been avoided, had the churches been allowed as they always had been, to make their own decisions on interpretation of scripture. Had it not been for some people insisting that we codify the changes in writing into the edicts of the PCUSA, we could have all been able to agree to disagree. This split which has destroyed the PCUSA is tragic because it came from intolerance of one side for the other. There is no big tent under the PCUSA and that is a tragedy. Tolerance could have saved us all from this mess.
Subvert, drive off traditional Christians, take the robes, the tenures, and the trappings of power, as if by eminent domain. Once the power and money has been confiscated, “reorganize and restructure,” to consolidate and perpetuate. What is new under the Sun? It has been going on for over 150 years. Whatever happened to the gay issues? They seemed to pressing at the time, only the few saw through the ruses.
No amount of “tolerance” would have changed a whit. Tolerance is a politically correct lie, aimed at the naive and gullible. Meanwhile, tolerant Christians die every day by the thousands. Even in our country, the USA, the church is under wholesale attack.
This forum is getting it. As Christians turn to civil authorities for relief and guidance, the situation can only worsen, especially as counter reformation forces continue to score. The Romans supposed the power of the Holy Roman Emperor had been established at Calvary. No, the grave held no victory over the Lord, Jesus Christ, glorified and resurrected.
12:47 And if any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
He that rejecteth me and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken. the same shall judge him in the last day.
For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me. He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
12:50 And, I know that his commandment is life everlasting; whatsoever I shall speak, therefore, even as the Farther said unto me, so I speak.
This is the beloved Word of God. Pay heed and obey, to the glory of the Father, the Son. and the Holy Ghost.
JamesH – The PCA is not growing – The others only by sheep stealing from the PCUSA, that won’t last forever.
Are you suggesting that being “Presbyterian” excludes you from caring about evangelism? The question these leaders should be asking is how can they share the Word of God, the Gospel, in order for the Holy Spirit to
work in the churches. With lack of funds it will be getting down to basics…
Getting to what the purpose of “church” is Presbyterian or not. God is working His purposes out….despite all their plans to restructure. Yes, you are right, the Holy Spirit can do more than anything we can dream or imagine if we are submitting to God’s lead. I hope and pray this group is ready to hear what God’s direction is and act on it.
From 2010 to 2014 the PCA grew by 3.37%. For that same time period the PCUSA lost 17.28% of its membership.
The “sheep” belong to Jesus Christ, not to the Louisville bureaucracy. That congregations are seeking dismissal from the PC(USA) in order to affiliate with the EPC or the ECO does not constitute “sheep stealing from the PCUSA”.
Fact is all mainline religious groups are losing participation – change is coming whether we like it or not. @Loren Not->Golden – you say tomato, I say…
“Had it not been for some people insisting that we codify the changes in writing into the edicts of the PCUSA, we could have all been able to agree to disagree.”
Donna C is correct. If conservatives had actually been conservative and left decisions about ordination up to the local session and presbytery instead of codifying their brand of anti-gay theology into the Book of Order, it is likely that many of the arguments over the last 30 years could have been avoided, or at the very least, they would have likely been much less contentious. When liberals offered alternatives, such as local option, conservatives responded by sending overtures to GA inviting liberals to leave.
Now that conservatives have lost the fight on ordination, the fight on marriage, etc., they’re unable to tolerate worshipping in the same denomination as LGBT people so they’re leaving. Sad, but hardly surprising.
So, James H, you seem to be implying that increasing numbers = correct theology.
The Mormons are growing. The JWs are growing.
Still think that increasing numbers = correct theology?
do you all even understand our polity???- ordination is always by closest council to the event! BOO now allows those councils to ordain gays, it does not require it or “codify” it. It’s up to the council dealing with the particular ordination. You all need to step up and just say that your problem is with ordaining gays – period.
Neither group you cite is Christian, so what is your point?
Was the deleted post free of insult and slander?
My point, John D. is obviously that it would be nice if, just once in a while, commenters on this site attempted a little nuance in their analysis of numbers of congregants in various denominations, instead of the oft-repeated, silly, and facile “growing numbers = correct theology” meme.
Because, as I have pointed out, there are lots of religious groups that have growing numbers, but that does not mean that they are correct or blessed by God.
“But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?’ And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.’” (I Kg. 22.7-8)
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Mt. 7.3-5)
Your Scripture citations are good ones, Loren, and could have a positive and eye-opening impact if were you dealing with someone else. I’m afraid, however, that Pres-Child is in need of the kind of radical spiritual surgery that is beyond the ability of human hands to accomplish.
I am not very good at this, being a fairly belligerent kind of person when it comes to the depredations of the PCUSA, but whenever I read outbursts like those of Pres-Child I take a moment to remind myself that behind the anger there is hurt, and what hurting people need more than anything else is prayer.
I no longer respond directly to any of his outbursts on this website, and Pres-Child probably won’t be happy to hear me say that we need to be praying for him, but the simple fact of the matter is that we do need to be praying for him. And who knows, maybe he will start praying for us as well.
Grace and peace.
If memory serves, one of the early principle scholars, perhaps Charles Hodge, or if not him maybe one of the Alexander family – that an original thought had never originated at Princeton Seminary! To the modern ear this sounds like a complaint that the students are not of the highest quality (or perhaps this would be putting it mildly.) But my understanding of the meaning at that time was that they worked with extreme diligence to carry forward with accuracy the complete story of God’s way of dealing with man, from Adam, to our Lord Jesu’s coming, to now, and to the end of the age. This was starting a new work in North America as previously Presbyterian teaching elders were educated in the old world, or in a log cabin.
It was sloppy of me to leave the verb “said” out of my first sentence. Sorry.