San Francisco Presbytery passed two of three overtures related to Israel/Palestine last night (Sept. 10). Its decisions (by fairly close margins) reflected a particular view of the PCUSA’s place in the world and the realms in which it is called to lead. That whole Middle East issue is incendiary and difficult and not my area of expertise, so I defer to friends Viola Larson and Alan Wisdom for any detailed discussion. But the question of whether the PCUSA has standing to insert its political solutions into the international mix is a real one, and germane to my current topic: the church and its relationship to the world and its culture.
The PCUSA would do well, I think, to review its true position and to take the opportunity for a mid-course correction in its trajectory toward the world. In these posts of late we have been reflecting on the term “counter-cultural” in reference to our calling, after John Stott’s book title Christian Counter-Culture on the Sermon on the Mount. But before we can discern where we are to lead in the world without being of the world, it is imperative that we understand, as a prerequisite, whom we are to follow and which culture is ours.
When Jesus invited his new disciples to follow him (Mark 1:17, 2:14, 8:34, 10:21), he was committing himself to apprentice them, equip them, empower them, and direct them to “the fields white unto harvest” (John 4:35; Matthew 9:36ff). In the course of his ministry, Jesus described to them the environment in which they would find abundant life, the Kingdom of God. The realm in which they would flourish and the vision of God for all humanity was described and demonstrated throughout the gospels through parables, Q & A sessions, healings, and preaching. Even Jesus’ tussles with the Pharisees were intended to clarify what is God’s way and what was the world’s way of relating to God and the world.