Jan 11, 2012

NEXT Church...Fellowship of Presbyterians...Huh?

While reading the Facebook, Twitter, and blog posts from those who are going to Orlando for the Fellowship of Presbyterians gathering and from those who are going to the NEXT conference in Dallas, I can't help but wonder, "Are we even talking about the same church?"

On the one hand, there are folks saying that there is great hope for the future of the PC(USA).

On the other hand, there are folks who can't seem to get out of the PC(USA) fast enough.

How can we be talking about the same church?

Which is it? 

Great hope and a bright future? 

A church to be distanced from as soon as possible?

One of the things that seems clear to me is that there's a massive chasm of misunderstanding. We PC(USA) folk ain't talking to each other. And even when we are, we are not listening to one another. We are talking at each other, and worse yet, we are not hearing one another.

The clearest reality to me is that this connectional idea of a church, a church that is united and one, whatever that might be, PC(USA) is not that church.

As Stan Ott observed, we are more concerned with being right than we are with being reconciled.

And as long as we are unable to agree on what we believe about what constitutes the core essential elements of the Christian faith, we are going to be a confused divided church.

Look, this is what I know and what I hold on to.


Nothing the PC(USA) does or does not do will ever change that reality. 


teacher_deb said...

Honestly you do not have to post this reply... but I just want to let you know this crazy denomination thing is SOOO "OUT THERE" now..the Presbyterian Church is so "split personality" it doen't know if it's coming or going. I have been re-reading Brian McLaren and his take on "the new Christianity". He speaks of an "anxiousness" or "expectancy" about the church today, trying to hold on to the Greco- Roman thinking that no longer fits the crazy world we live in. So.. I kind of can relate to that. I find myself living in some sort of expectancy too. How do we change? How to we love God and follow Christ and let others KNOW that especially, in this crazy day and age....and yet hold onto the older people(not neccesarily by cronological age mind you..age IS a state of mind-set) and be all part of a community of believers who take care of each other? I am mind boggled I cannot imagine how you must feel..!

James Kim said...

Appreciate you reading the blog and posting your thoughts.

All I know is that God is at work. If denominations like the PC(USA) are doing what God's calling the church to be about, we will have a healthy future. If not, we won't.

Jesus is Lord and as long as we remain crystal clear about that, the Little Church will be right where God wants us to be.

Thanks Deb for your thoughts.

Stushie said...

You believe in diversity, don't you? So why not a diversity of theology and a difference of opinions? Or is that you want uniformity and conformity but no diversity?

James Kim said...

Stushie, I have no issues with diversity. What I wonder is if the PCUSA has reached a place where in some cases we are no longer talking about just diversity but departure from. When we have folk who can no longer claim that Jesus is the only way to salvation, when there are folks who no longer believe in the need for resurrection faith...

When does diversity become so diverse that it's actually departure from?

Besides, the point of this blog entry was not so much about diversity as it was about longing for genuine conversation between those who are on differing theological spectrums.

I have many friends who I disagree with on ordination standards but when it comes to Jesus and salvation there is no divergence.

Henry Chambers said...

When I was under care of our Presbytery' Committee on Preparation for Ministry, a minister member of that community told me in a personal conversation that if it were proven that Jesus never existed, it would not make any difference to his faith.
God loves all people who rejects the Lord Jesus Christ. Saul the persecutor became Paul, the apostle. I love all and don't want to give up on any, but not all belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, not even all ordained ministers.

James Kim said...


I agree that views like the one you described is a perfect example of when diversity becomes so diverse, it is no longer just diversity but departure from.

Unfortunately, many of us in the PC(USA) can call up examples like that.

However, I think there's a danger when we start making broad generalizations of all who are progressive and saying that all or even most of the progressives believe the same way. I know too many who I disagree on the ordination standards but those who would be just as disturbed by such statements about Jesus and salvation.

Appreciate your thoughts.

James <><

Don K. Clements said...

I have an acquaintance here in the Appalachian Mountains who has an 8th grade education and is pastor of a church that regularly handles snakes - and he can say with equal conviction - JESUS IS LORD! As a Presbyterian minister who has taken vows to our standards, I'm responsible to hold to a bit more theology than he is.

Anonymous said...

according to their own survey, only 35% of pcusa pastors believe Jesus is the only way to salvation...how can they believe Jesus is Lord?

pastor thalos said...

Speaking as an ex-PCUSA pastor, who was black-balled because of his vocal conservative orthodox stand...
I don't understand your minimalist..."Jesus is Lord" position. What does that mean? Can it mean many things to many people? How far can you stretch that? What does Lord even mean in a culture that doesn't understand the term any longer? I have known many "progressives" who can state that Jesus is Lord, and yet when you dig down a little deeper, their theology is closer to Universalist/Unitarians. You probably have a much more generous perspective than I do, but Jesus is Lord must include many many essentials. The problem with the PCUSA is that their essentials are down to women's ordination and a commitment to support the denomination no matter what...that's it! And that's what many mean by Jesus is Lord in the PCUSA. I am now joyfully an ordained teaching elder in the EPC and celebrate our unity in core essentials. I do not believe that the PCUSA denomination (leadership) has anything to do with a true church....the signs of a true church have long ago disappeared. There is no discipline for ordained apostates in the PCUSA and the Word of God is rarely taught in a sound way.

Adel Thalos,
Teaching Elder