Mid Councils Newsletter, April 6, 2015
musings from the road
How are you weathering the storm, if there is a storm in your presbytery or synod following the approval of the change with regard to the wording about marriage in the Constitution? Perhaps you serve in a presbytery where you took a voice vote on the amendment and moved on. Or, perhaps you voted by ballot but the outcome was never in question. Maybe you are in a presbytery where the vote was surprising and did not follow your traditional voting pattern on similar topics. For some presbyteries, no doubt, this was because some of your friends and colleagues have left for other denominations and this shifted the voting patterns. Maybe you are in a presbytery where you had a series of discussions before the vote, a presbytery for which this topic has taken up much of your time and energy since the General Assembly last summer. No doubt there are 171 different ways in which the members of presbyteries are responding to this change that will become a part of our Constitution in June.
There are several things to learn, of course, when something that attracts this much attention happens in the PC(USA). One of those is that we will be expected to help manage the response, be it joyous or filled with anger or somewhere in between. What have you learned from the way you prepared for this change as a leader and how you prepared the other leaders and members of your mid council? Have you been contacted by the secular media? Were you prepared for the kinds of questions they asked you? Did they contact others who are leaders in your presbytery—for instance, your moderator or the pastor of a large church? Did you help those people prepare for this circumstance? Would you do anything differently next time?
How did you provide information to pastors in your presbytery so that they could help interpret what people were reading on social media or in the press? Did you share official documents with them? Did you send them a communication from your own heart? Did you contact pastors in places where you knew that this might be especially anxiety-producing. And, of course, that anxiety might come in several forms. Perhaps there are places in your presbytery where this action will add lots of dates to the wedding calendar. Perhaps there are places in your presbytery where session members or members of the congregation have decided to find their spiritual nurture elsewhere. How are you supporting those pastors?
Sometimes when we serve in mid councils there is a feeling that if the national church would just mind its own business our lives would be simpler. We think that we could avoid things that seem controversial or worse. We think we could just carry on with the work of the presbytery or synod and not have to add another layer of pastoral work to what lies before us as we help the pastors with whom we work celebrate a change for which they have been praying or mourn a change that they have dreaded. But, of course, that is kind of like wishing we could just get on with celebrating Easter by ourselves in isolation and not having to figure out how to include the more challenging members of our own family as we eat ham and deviled eggs and macaroons. Without the joys and challenges presented by our whole family of faith, we would be more narrow, more “siloed,” less able to let our response to the good news grow and be shaped by the way others respond as well.
Do we all agree about whether or not this is a life-giving change for the PC(USA)? Not right now we don’t. Fifty years from now will this be an issue? Who knows? Will there be another issue then? Of course there will and we probably cannot predict what it will be. (And, since I will be 110 then, I probably won’t care very much!)
When Paul was writing to the place where it seems like one controversy followed another, he reminded them about being one family, one body, with various members. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). So here we are at a time twenty centuries or more later, testing Paul’s theology once again. As we help to hold the hands of our colleagues for whom these have been some trying weeks, and give a high five to those for whom this has been the joyous end to a long struggle, let us also remember that we are continuing to strive for that more excellent way to which Paul points, the way of grace.
Has your presbytery dismissed any congregations in the last eighteen months? If so, two leaders in your presbytery are welcome to attend a retreat at the Mercy Center in St. Louis, on June 29–July 1. The OGA will pay room and board for two people from each of the affected presbyteries. Remember to contact email@example.com to register or for further information. The deadline is fast approaching.
Coming to the Big Tent? Be sure to plan to get there a day early so that you can join other mid council leaders and staff from Louisville to explore issues before the church and share insights about our ministry. The OGA and PMA will pay room and board for two people from each mid council. More are welcome to attend and will be charged for their room and board after the event. Details are on the registration page for the Big Tent.
Associate Executives: there will be a gathering for associates during the pre-meeting of mid council and national leaders at the Big Tent. Peggy Hinds can give you all the details. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Experience that deep sense of community one would expect at a national gathering of Presbyterians—a great big family reunion! Join us for a wide variety of workshops, all under one Big Tent, a conference that will inspire and equip Presbyterians to live missionally. Click here for more information.
Preachers for Worship Services Include:
Laurene Chan, Director of Youth Ministries, Cameron House
San Francisco Theological Seminary
Paul Roberts, President
Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary
Jana Childers, Professor of homiletics and Speech Communication
San Francisco Theological Seminary