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03/02/2011

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Viola Larson

Charles,
I truly appreciate your post. And it is about following Jesus. Thank you.

Charles Wiley

Thanks, Viola. I do think it is about following Jesus. I happily left behind the Holiness movement with it emphasis on visible, external sin, but i am more and more convinced that its emphasis on faithful living in the face of cultural pressure is one we Calvinists would do well to learn from.

Rev. Ralph E. Nelson

Early in my ministry I was an associate pastor in one of those large Presbyterian Churches which had the mayors, bank presidents etc. in the congregation. One of its leading businessmen said to me directly in a meeting one evening, "If I took the teachings of Jesus seriously I wouldn't be in business for 10 minutes!"

You're right. We are being forced to choose who to follow.

Rev. Ralph E. Nelson

Jay Wilkins

Charles,

Thanks for your reflections. A church member continues to remind me that we are called to be followers, rather than fans, of Jesus. Lonely the road we trod at times.

John Vest

Charles, I think you are right on that much of our angst is about dislocation from the center of American culture. If anything, that is what connects the NEXT and Fellowship conversations. It is no surprise that these have been spearheaded by big steeple pastors.

Putting aside our concern for cultural influence of the Christendom type and following Jesus into the kingdom of God is a refreshing approach.

Charles Wiley

John, yup. I agree with you that the conversation must extend beyond the tall steeple pastors, Next or Fellowship (and others), but we need the leadership of these pastors. I'm looking forward to the conversation (and action?). I'd love to see some of the folks from Indianapolis show up in Minneapolis in August.

Adam Copeland

Thanks for that, Charles. Is there really any overlap between the Minneapolis group and the NEXT group, though? I didn't really feel invited/included to the Fellowship discussion, being young, progressive, and not particularly concerned about hammering out essential tennets. It's an easy drive and I love Minneapolis, but are these not two very separate conversations?

Charles Wiley

Adam, No and yes. If one could bracket the sexuality discussion, there is a great overlap in the discussions emphasizing missional communities, ministry formation, and seeking new and better forms of supporting structures. So there is great overlap in concern. But one cannot, of course, bracket out sexuality. One of the Fellowship's original seven was at Next, and I hope some Next folks will be in Minneapolis. Steve Hayner, one of the founders of PGF, brought 10 CTS students with him to Next. I am not a pollyana that believes all is sweetness and light, but I do believe that there is considerable common ground. Christine Chakoian's "testimony" on governance could be replayed at the Fellowship meeting in Minneapolis. The first testimony on missional wouldn't play well there (it included activism on gay marriage, for instance).

All I can say is that I emerged from Next (which included conversations and phone calls with folks from the Fellowship during the same time) more hopeful than I had been for some time. We'll see if the hope is grounded in reality in the coming months.

Adam Copeland

Thanks, Charles. That's helpful. I suppose, as the emergent church conversation began in more evangelical circles and now lives happily in the PC(USA), there's lots of room for overlap bracketing, yes, sexuality.

Which makes me think: How about a NEXT conference that brings together the denominations with which we're in full communion? Wouldn't it be refreshing to know that others are stuck (or not stuck) in the same places we are? Wouldn't it be faithful to look at what's NEXT beyond our dwindling PC(USA)?

Robert Dooling

Charles ... thank you for what you have written. It is a genuine encouragement.

Bob and Sylvia

Charles Wiley

Adam, I do think that one of the realities we are dealing with is a realignment of Christian traditions, for better or worse. It would be interesting to see how the denominational specific conversations could be strengthened by the broader conversations, and Full Communion partners is the natural place to start.

Marie Bowen

Thank you for your post, Charles. I, too, was raised in a holiness tradition and often sang the song you quoted. It is always my prayer as I sing it that I will be faithful to follow Christ always, even if it means going alone. Good words to live by.

Charles Wiley

I think the comments on this post point to the common ground I referred to. If you know much about the theological spectrum of the PC(USA), you know we have a good section of the spectrum displayed here.

Walter L. Taylor

In some ways, Charles, many of us would argue that the reason the PC(USA) is in the fix it is in is because it is trying to maintain its position at the center of American culture. As the culture has become more promiscuous centered in self-fulfillment, so has the church. The sexuality debate reflects this.

Charles Wiley

Walter, I can see why you would argue that. I can also see the same dynamic at work in the political activities of some Christian conservatives (this is a little harder to pin down with Presbyterians). Relevance vs. captivity is easier to identify at a distance (space or time) than in the midst of it.

david kolbinsky

I am missing background and context, forgive me. Are you talking about going forward with the PCUSA as the organization continues to regect the historical FAITH and and embraces the political world view of the current culture?

Charles Wiley

David,

I surely hope not.

Charles

Tod Bolsinger

Charles, Adam and others.. this post and conversation is a really good, important one. Thanks for taking part.

As part of the work of the MGB Commission, I have sensed that this discussion could also lead us into a broader one on what constitutes "full communion" with other reformed bodies, what partnership in mission looks like even across denominational lines and what possibilities exist for unity of the Church within the diversity of churches.

Because I attended both the Fellowship gathering and the NEXT conference I can speak to the fact that there is far more shared ground that unites missional church leaders than divides. The dividing issues, especially around sexuality are significant, but there is much to talk about and figure out together. I hope elders (both teaching and ruling!) will take part in as many of these conversations as possible.

I will link to this conversation and invite others to join in.

Thanks again.

Charles Wiley

One of my stock lines now is, "What other church bodies do we in the PCUSA have the hardest times getting along with?" "Those with whom we share the Westminster Confession." There are reasons for this, of course, but I find it sad. Todd, I'll look forward to hearing more about this aspect of your engagement. Who knew the MGB commission would be so fun?

Chris Currie

Dear Charles,
I've been following the Fellowship/Next Church news from the UK. I wonder if there might be any potential for an alternative to these two movements/groups who are once again divided by the categories of right and left...might there be a hunger for an evangelical, catholic, reformed, ecumenical, and missional movement within the PC(USA) that draws folk in a common movement across the spectrum? Just wondering...Chris

Charles Wiley

Chris,

I'd like to think so. I don't think we'll be able to answer that question until after the passage of 10-A. That is, if G-6.0106b goes away, we'll see if it what you envision is possible. The sexuality discussion has been so central and defining that I don't know how we will go forward. So, for instance, at Next we were exhorted not to wear our "team jersey" at this conference. But as we virtually removed our jerseys, it was pretty easy to see that 90%+ of the group was taking off the same jersey. The Fellowship gathering in August is a jersey-wearing event. And the fact that 10-A looks to pass right now by the slimmest of majorities may only make this harder.

Not the most encouraging response, eh? I will say that I came out of Next more positive than going in. The desire of vast majority of the Fellowship pastors to try to say within the PCUSA is encouraging to me. What you calling for is more than "staying together," but forging a more faithful future. I'm willing to work for that.

Charles

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