The online conversation on the identity and the purpose of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has officially started.
Sponsored by the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA), the objective of the survey “is to engage the whole church in conversation, and to provide a summary of this conversation to commissioners at the 222nd General Assembly, where they will weigh important matters of purpose, function, mission and ministry. We have the opportunity to share our hopes and dreams about the church with the General Assembly.”
“Please share your insights, wisdom, hopes and dreams for the PCUSA,” said Margaret Elliott, moderator of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, in a news release. “Through careful listening and honest sharing we can create a church for this time and place.”
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, said it is critical that all who are concerned about the theological wanderings of the denomination take part in the survey.
The PCUSA, she said, needs a strong reminder of where to look and where not to look when it needs answers.
“I appreciate the open invitation for input, but the idea that we’re going to collectively ‘create a church for this time and place’ is worrisome. We don’t create the church in any time nor place. The Church is a reality called into being by and for God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If the church is looking for an identity she need only look to Jesus. If the church is looking for a purpose she need look no further than the Great Commission. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has access to the Bible and the Confessions, one wonders why the process initiated by the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly does not include a survey of that authoritative voice,” she said.
General Assembly Moderator Heath Rada, who recently issued a “Call to the Church” saying that the need to restore trust in PCUSA and reform the denomination is “urgent,” is also urging all Presbyterians to participate.
“Please trust the process one more time. Please participate. If you don’t, we may not hear some very important facts or opinions that need to be placed on the table. Many people feel that God is giving us a Kairos moment. But it is up to us to accept it and do something with it,” he said.
“In order to emerge as a healthy, vital denomination we need to hear from you concerning your own hopes, visions, and concerns about the PCUSA,” said Rada. “Each congregation, each organization, each presbytery, each advocacy group, each individual member is critical to providing the kind of input that can help us deal with the realities we are facing in ways that might enable us to restore trust, be transparent, and most of all be faithful to the Lord and Savior we all adore and whom we wish to serve.”
Questions on the survey include:
- “Is it important to you that any congregation to which you belong has a relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA)?”
- “What are we better equipped to do as a national denomination that we could not do (or do as well) on our own as congregations, mid-councils, or networks?”
- “Imagine the Presbyterian Church (USA) in its ideal form, what does the denomination already have/do that fits your ideal? What does the denomination need to change in order to reach this ideal?”
- “What is the church called to be and do in the context of the 21st century American culture?”
The online survey is only one part of COGA’s attempts for a church-wide conversation.
COGA is also asking individuals, congregations, mid councils, seminaries, affiliated groups, and any other interested parties to conduct their own discussions about “the identity and purpose of the denomination.”
A downloadable discussion guide has been made available to help facilitate the process, and GA Vice-Moderator Larissa Kwong Abazia will host two Twitter chats – Oct. 26 from 6-7 p.m. and Nov. 12 from 9-10 a.m. @LarissaLKA using the hashtag #pcusaidentity.