Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Amendments to the Constitution 2016: The Directory of Worship

The proposed new Directory for Worship

The 2016 meeting of our General Assembly approved a new Directory for Worship. This recommendation is now forwarded to the presbyteries for their consideration. If approved by the presbyteries, this new Directory for Worship will be added to our Book of Order. This action item was not controversial at the meeting of the General Assembly; I predict it will easily be approved by the presbyteries. This Amendment presents us with a wonderful opportunity to discuss our common worship life. For one example, I appreciate this discussion of "culture" (proposed new W-1.0304) which I copied here. As we ponder our public worship and the place of the church in the larger culture, I find the concepts of "contextual", "cross-cultural", transcultural", "countercultural" and "intercultural" very interesting.

W-1.0304: Culture 
God has poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh; Scripture promises that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The book of Acts and the New Testament epistles record the challenges and controversies of an emerging Church that would be “no longer Jew or Greek” (Gal. 3:28), but one in Jesus Christ. As the Church has grown and spread over two thousand years, it has taken root and flourished in cultures and lands all around the globe—bearing witness to the love of God for all the world and Christ’s sovereignty in every place. Finally, from the book of Revelation, we know that the company of the redeemed will be a great multitude from every nation, tribe, and people, singing praise to the Lamb of God. 
Christian worship is contextual—emerging from a particular community and incorporating the words, images, symbols, and actions that best convey the good news of Jesus Christ in that gathering of God’s people. It is also cross-cultural—reflecting the diversity of traditions and cultures within and beyond the community of faith. Christian worship is transcultural—proclaiming the universal message of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and rooted in common elements of human life that transcend all cultures. It is also countercultural—asserting the scandal of the gospel and anticipating God’s reign of righteousness, justice, and peace. Finally, faithful worship should be an intercultural event—fostering mutuality, dialogue, and equality among all people. 
Whenever and wherever we gather in Jesus’ name, we join the praise and prayer of the people of God in every time and place. Therefore, it is fitting that we share stories and sing songs from cultures other than our own as we pray for and with the Church throughout the world. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thank you 33!

As we begin our careful financial analysis and budget preparation for next year, we learned that 33 of our congregations contributed 100% of their Per Capita contributions in 2015. To those congregations, thank you for your generous commitment to whole ministry of our Presbyterian Church (USA).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Beautiful words; a beautiful prayer: 

The Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, coordinator for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, offered a prayer of lament for those killed and injured by a semi-truck driver who systematically plowed through crowds in the French Mediterranean resort city of Nice last evening.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…. 2 Corinthians 4
God, whose presence we yearn toward in the stillness after our shaken, broken voices and the fires of violence fall silent: we have no words left.
The words others have said: “horrific” “worst” “unspeakable” “impossible”
have been spoken so many times that we can no longer hear them.
Our hearts have broken so often, we cannot feel.
Our hope has been tried, and, we confess in sorrow,
has been found wanting.
There has been too much terror, and not enough answers
too many lost lives with too little time to grieve them all
too much violation of the ordinary and not enough glimpse of the holy to hold us fast.
But You, oh God: beyond our words, beneath our hope:
be the creative breath that orders our chaos
the mercy and justice that compels us to action
the Love that is stronger than death.
We ask you again, for we have nowhere else to turn—
Hold us fast, when we cannot hold on any longer.
Walk with us through the valley of the shadow
Turn us away from despair, that we may not grow weary in well-doing
Triune God, grant us liberté, égalité, fraternité:   …the liberty of your love that conquers fear and evil
…the mind of your Son, who did not consider equality with You a thing to be exploited, but emptied himself
…the fraternity of your Spirit, beyond our divisions, to bind us together as one family in your kindom of mercy and peace. Amen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reflections from the Meeting of the 2016 General Assembly: Part Nine

Celebrating World Mission.

In its report to the General Assembly, our office of World Mission both celebrated the retirement of mission co-workers and commissioned a new class of co-workers:

Retiring from active mission service:

  • Marta Bennett – 21 years
  • Tim and Marta Carriker – 38 years
  • Nancy Dimmock – 31 years
  • Farris and Thelma Goodrum – 33 and 26 years
  • John and Gwen Haspels – 41 years
  • Sadegh Sepehri – 20 years
  • Tim and Gloria Wheeler – 32 years
Commissioned to new positions of mission service:
  • David Cortes-Fuentes and Josefina Saez Acevedo, serving in Cuba and working with the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba in theological education
  • Charles and Melissa Johnson, serving in Zambia and working with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in agricultural development
  • Juan Lopez and Cathy Chang, serving in the Philippines and working with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines to prevent human trafficking in the region
  • Noah Park and Esther Shin, serving in Egypt and working with the National Evangelical Synod of the Nile in theological education
  • Donna Sloan, serving in Malawi and working as a long-term volunteer with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in theological education

Monday, June 27, 2016

Reflections on the Meeting of the 2016 General Assembly: Part Eight

And One Non- Action:

The General Assembly approved doing nothing about the place and role of Synods in our denomination. This is mind-boggling and very discouraging. After several, different mid-Council commissions and years of talk, study and debate, the strong forces of institutional inertia have taken control to make sure nothing changes.

Tod Bolsinger was the moderator of the first and the best mid-council commission years ago now. Their report was imaginative, creative, forward-thinking and bold; and was utterly dismissed and tossed into the trash by the General Assembly that year. Tod has written a good new book on church leadership titled, Canoeing the Mountains. Please read Tod's book. Let's talk about leadership in this new era.

Reflections on the Meeting of the 2016 General Assembly: Part Seven

The Top Five Action Items:

The 2016 General Assembly is now adjourned. What was accomplished?

The easy election of a new Stated Clerk: The clear, first ballot election of our new Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson is an important leadership change. J. Herbert has served as the director of our denomination’s Washington office. Thus he brings a wealth of experience working with the national offices of our church to his new position as our Stated Clerk.

The Way Forward: Those of us carefully following the conversation leading up to the General Assembly were impressed by the list of overtures being brought by Foothills Presbytery all concerned with the internal structure and decision-making process of the General Assembly. I thank the leaders at Foothills Presbytery for pushing this important conversation although their overtures were not approved. Nonetheless, in true Presbyterian fashion, the General Assembly created a Way Forward Commission to study the structure and function our General Assembly. Please pay attention to the work of this team over the next two years.

Support for Palestine: Although profoundly complex and deeply divisive, the General Assembly spoke again into the Israel Palestine issue. The report that was adopted is important. Please see my blog article on it. Our Church needs, in my mind, to focus on supporting, encouraging and creating partnerships with Christians in Palestine.

The almost apology: The carefully worded statement from the General Assembly expressing sorrow, but not apologizing, for the way our Church has treated LBGT persons is important. See my blog article which includes that actual statement.

Directory for Worship: The easy approval of the proposed new Directory for Worship is vital. This is a constitutional issue on which our Presbytery will have the opportunity to vote. Please study the proposed new Directory for Worship.

Reflections from the Meeting of the 2016 General Assembly: Part Six

A pastoral letter to our Church . . .

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a new season in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as witnessed by the actions of the 222nd General Assembly (2016). The body of 594 commissioners who gathered June 18-25 in Portland, Oregon, elected Co-Moderators Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, and J. Herbert Nelson as the Stated Clerk. Both were historic, and both signal a new way forward for our church.

The business decisions made by the body also were transformative for the 1,572,660 members and 9,642 churches of the PC(USA). The work wasn’t easy, and involved careful deliberations. Collectively, the body acted on nearly 100 overtures by discerning the will of Christ.

Among other things, we now have a new addition to our Book of Confessions – the Confession of Belhar. It is the first of our confessions that comes from the global south. And, the PC(USA) has a new Directory for Worship; and Child/Youth/Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy and Procedures. God is truly guiding us to be more faithful and just to all of God’s creations.

Much discussion has been taking place around the identity and purpose of the denomination, and this week the assembly voted to create a 12-member Way Forward Commission “to study and identify a vision for the structure and function of the General Assembly agencies of the PC(USA),” and a 15-member 2020 Vision Team to “develop a guiding statement for the denomination and make a plan for its implementation.”

To quote Stated Clerk-elect J. Herbert Nelson, “We are not dead ... we are alive, we are reforming and we are transforming this world, one person at a time.”

Looking outward, the assembly voted to engage in selective, phased divestment from fossil-fuel companies through the PC(USA)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee, and re-affirmed a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine.

Please know this is only a snapshot of the actions taken, and just a glimpse at where God is leading this denomination. Complete business actions can be viewed at www.pc-biz.org.

We are, brothers and sisters, in a new season. It’s exciting, but also a little scary. Yet in the midst of it all, take comfort that God is still guiding and controlling all – and we need not fear. God is calling us to hope, and to God be the glory!

The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

The Reverend Denise Anderson and the Reverend Jan Edmiston
Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly (2016)

Ruling Elder Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency