I’m growing increasingly discouraged in my view of the Presbyterian Church (USA). At the Wednesday evening contemporary worship service on campus yesterday, Don Dawson preached about the need for a church to care about missions, lest it turn in on itself, collapse, and die. In firing over fifty of their missionaries this week, that is exactly what the PC(USA) seems to be doing to itself. The reason for the “budget cuts” of course is the shrinking numbers within the denomination. What’s wrong in this chain of logic? “Our denomination is shrinking, so let’s cut the programs that seek to evangelism.” What?!
Secondly, there’s the debate about the report from the Task Force on the Peace Unity and Purity of the Church. For non-Presbys out there, this report was commissioned a few years ago in hopes of creating some sort of definitive answer to the denomination’s bitter intra-political debates. Neither liberals or conservatives are especially pleased with the PUP report, though, probably because it demands more time to discern the answers to the questions at hand. It does so by suggesting (idealistically) that the denomination remain unified while allowing its ordination standards to be applied selectively by each presbytery. In plain language, local groups of church would be able to ordain anyone (regardless of theology, sexual orientation, or other controversial issues) with no recourse from the national church.
At a lunch-time discussion of the report yesterday led by Dr. John Burgess, it became apparent that while the report may have the best intentions and might even be a solution in an idealistic world, in reality it will do more harm than good. Whether it passes or fails at this summer’s General Assembly, people will be upset and will surely talk about splitting the denomination.
It is times like this that I am thankful that I’ve always identified myself as a Christian first and a Presbyterian second. My faith is in Christ alone, regardless of what comes of the denomination I happen to be a part of now. In all honesty, I felt called to serve within the Presbyterian Church specifically because of all that is wrong in it now, and that’s why I’m at a Presbyterian seminary now. Now the question is whether or not there will be one denomination, two, or several for me to choose from when I finish school.
Without speculating about the answers to those questions now, I will simply say that I’m thankful for the emergent church movement and what it’s doing to transcend these downfalls of denominationalism. I’m grateful for the Open Door and the other like-minded churches and people here. Whenever I wonder why God called me to leave Colorado and come to seminary in Pittsburgh, The Open Door is the first answer. In a post-denominational world, churches who 1) care about following Jesus in both word and deed and 2) will actively engage their culture and surroundings to do so will surely be the most “successful.”