Tuesday, June 24, 2008

General Assembly reflections part 6

The 218th General Assembly (2008): Reflections part 6

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21

“Giving has always been a mark of Christian commitment and discipleship. The ways in which a believer uses God’s gifts of material goods, personal abilities, and time should reflect response to God’s self-giving in Jesus Christ and Christ’s call to minister to and share with others in the world. Tithing is a primary expression of the Christian discipline of stewardship.” – Book of Order, W-5.5004.

The Presbytery of Carlisle is being recognized and thanked at this meeting of the General Assembly for our phenomenal commitment to Presbyterian mission giving. It is an honor and great privilege for me to receive the kind remarks, congratulations and acknowledgement of different people every day here at the Assembly. Numerous times when I either introduce myself as from the Presbytery of Carlisle or people read my name tag, some sort of grateful comment about our place on the top ten list usually follows.

The General Assembly recognizes the Presbytery of Carlisle for:
Total Giving: Basic Mission Support (#6)
Per Member Giving: Basic Mission Support (#1)
Per Member Giving: Special Offerings (#6)
Per Member: Total Giving (#2)

The Presbytery of Carlisle is a mission-shaped, mission-driven and mission-giving presbytery. As I reflect on this good news in conversations with people around the General Assembly, several reflections easily come to mind. There is, by the grace of God, a remarkable, high level of trust in the Presbytery of Carlisle. That high level of trust is especially true within our Presbytery where there is wonderful collegiality among our church leaders, and a deep commitment to being connected together as Presbyterians. That high level of trust is, of course, also reflected in the deep and generous commitment many of our churches continue to have for Presbyterian mission work.

In the light of these accolades, the questions I ponder and pray are these: How can we enhance and multiply the high level of trust which already exists in our presbytery? How can we, as a healthy and trusting presbytery, raise trust and enhance connectionalism across the whole church? We have a number of congregations who do not participate in Presbyterian mission giving and are only weakly connected within our presbytery? What can we do to listen to their concerns, build trust, and join together in mutual mission and ministry? In a presbytery with such a high commitment to mission giving, what is the next step in our journey of faithfulness and service in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?

With Linda Valentine, the executive director of the General Assembly Council;
with Hunter Farrell, the director of world mission;
with Stan deVoogd, the regional liaison for Mexico and Central America, (with whom I work closely in our Honduras mission work);

I say “Thank you” to the pastors and church professionals, elders and church members of the Presbytery of Carlisle who give generously to Presbyterian mission work, and are truly leading the way forward in our great Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

General Assembly reflections part 5

The 218th General Assembly (2008): Reflections part 5

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reflections on the Form of Government taskforce proposal:

I listened to some of the testimony of the Form of Government taskforce members to the General Assembly committee responsible for bringing their proposal forward. There was a lot of conversation about the Taskforce’s intention in dropping out all the specific tasks for the work of the Committee on Ministry and the Committee on the Preparation for Ministry. The work of these committees, which is precisely delineated in the current Form of Government, is revised into broad categories and expectations in the proposed Form of Government. The theory behind this proposal is that each Presbytery should be empowered, given their particular context and ministry needs, to implement the broad expectations as necessary.

In explaining this point to the Assembly Committee, a member of the Form of Government taskforce told a story from his home, Grace Presbytery in Texas. His Presbytery, of course, has a huge number of Spanish speaking people, and their presbytery is trying in various ways to reach out to them. One of the ways the presbytery has done this is by building relationships with pastors and church leaders from the Presbyterian Church in Mexico. They have identified pastors from Mexico who may, with the help of our Grace Presbytery, come into America to serve with Spanish speaking congregations here. But there is a huge obstacle preventing these Mexican Presbyterian pastors from expressing full pastoral responsibilities within our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). These pastors cannot be received as minister members of our church because they do not satisfy all the ordination requirements which are currently defined and listed in the Book of Order.

This particular situation raises a huge question for our church. Should Grace Presbytery, which is actively trying to reach out to the Spanish speaking people in their midst, be allowed to receive pastors from the Presbyterian Church of Mexico as Ministers of the Word and Sacrament in our church? Currently the moment a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church of Mexico steps across the border into our church they cannot serve as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament because they have not satisfied all of our ordination requirements. Should Grace Presbytery, which needs these pastors from Mexico to support their ministry and mission to Spanish speaking people in Texas, be allowed and encouraged to receive these pastors as full and active members here? This is exactly the kind of flexibility in process and procedures which the Form of Government taskforce is proposing with their revised Form of Government.