Sunday, February 22, 2009

Time for Renewal.

As I go along, reading Mac's Around The Scuttlebutt, I'm realizing how much has changed from the beginnings of Presbyterianism in the US, to today.

Is it due to the changing society we live in, or the overall lack of Biblical and Constitutional knowledge in many of the members we ordain to be Elders or Deacons. I keep wondering what I can do to correct this at my church, and I realize that all I can do is point the way, I cannot make people follow. I can try to nominate Elders who are more than just bodies to fill a slot, however, we've been trying to find people to fill slots on the Board of Deacons and all we've received are I'll pray about it, then a not this year in reply.

Then I read about other elders listening to their conceptions of what Jesus would do or say, instead of reading the Scripture that tells them what Jesus would do or say, and voting for the Amendment B changes to the Book of Order.

Is faithfulness to Scripture no longer relevant; understanding the depravity of man and what is described in Scripture and the Confessions as sin, relics of the past or of what is called by some fundamentalist tripe.

I need some time for renewal, time for study and self-inspection, time to understand my own frailties and failures, and some time in prayer to ask for the Spirit to guide me in this renewal.

And so it goes ....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Discouraged and Depressed

As the Evangelism Elder for Stodgy Presbyterian, I have the mandate to reach out to the community and invite them to learn about Christ. I also have the responsibility to help renew the congregation.

In previous posts I've related that I've offered the Alpha Course to the public at large as well as the congregation. This Lenten season, I'm sponsoring a Lenten study, Jesus' Greatest Moments, the week that changed everything, using the Small Group text written by Mark Ashton.

Its been advertised in the church's February bulletin, the Sunday announcements, on our website. As of today, I have two sign-ups, out of a congregation of (on the books at least) 275. For the Alpha Course, I also had two signups, but wound up with three at the opening session.

Talk about discouraging!!

I'm getting ready to create newspaper ads for our Easter service, I'm looking at two different ads for two different papers. One, which is distributed free to everyone in the area, I'm thinking of pushing the Alpha Course, with a mention of our Easter service. In the other paper, which is one that charges a nominal sum for pickup at a 7-11 or through mail subscription, I'm thinking of pushing the Easter services, with a mention of the Alpha Course.

As you can tell, I'm trying to target the local population in ways that will catch their attention. I just wish I could reinvigorate the congregation to think about renewing their belief!!

I'm happy to say that our Pastor is trying to help, he preached a great evangelism sermon last Sunday, I just hope people were listening. This coming week, I'm going to be the Liturgist for our Worship service. The guest preacher will be using the Old Testament to preach on, so the first reading will be from the New Testament. The reading will be from Revelation 3:14-22, the verses that talk about the church of Laodicea that is neither cold nor hot.

Talk about the perfect reading for SPC !! That I'm the one reading it makes it even better (IMHO). I pray that the congregation will be open to the words of Revelation. I'm not sure if I should emphasize the text by opening with something like:

Let us pray. Lord open our minds to the Spirit that we may understand the meaning of your Holy Scripture.

Too preachy, or pointed? I'm not sure if they'll even notice.

And so it goes ....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Plodding Presbytery Meeting

This month's presbytery meeting was relatively painless. Not much controversial was mentioned or voted on.

Our worship time was very upbeat, celebrating Black History month. The sermon was preached by an African-American Pastor from New Jersey. He had a great set of points and had plenty of heads nodding, until close to the end of his sermon when he lumped Rev. Wright in with Rev. King; I heard a few audible "Uh oh"s at that statement. Aside from that, it was a great sermon.

The elephant in the room along with other constitutional amendments will be voted on next month in a special, called meeting of Presbytery being held on a Saturday, very unusual since most are held on Thursdays during the day here. Evidently it was done so that all congregations in the Presbytery can have representatives at the meeting. Considering my previous post, I suspect that at least one affinity group will be having a influence the get out the vote campaign prior to that vote.

The usual omnibus motions were made and passed. The one controversy was over a motion for elder equalization made by the stated clerk. There are a lot of ministers in Plodding Presbytery, and the number of accredited minister presbyters exceeded the number of normally allocated elders by 61. The way the clerk wanted to make up this shortfall in elders was to authorized those elders who are working on the presbytery committees as voting elder presbyters.

One elder commissioner to presbytery thought that this put too much power in those who have the time and inclination to volunteer for presbytery commissions. He would have had the clerk make up the 61 elders from across the Presbytery, by adding one elder to those authorized from the churches.

Looking at the list of elders on the presbytery commissions, it does appear that there are a number of elders from liberal leaning churches on this list. We shall see what happens next month.

The best part of this meeting was the Oral Examination of a candidate for ordination. Her statement of faith was something that most center-right members of the PCUSA would not have a problem with. However, there were some other members who were scowling at the use of non-inclusive language when referring to the members of the Trinity.

That said, I did not hear any no votes when it came time to approve her for ordination, of course, it could mean that those who were scowling, did not vote.

The meeting adjourned not long after.

And so it goes ...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Politics and Presbytery

As a few members of the PC(USA) know, the past General Assembly (GA) passed some amendments to The Constitution of the PC(USA) and sent them to the Presbyteries for ratification. Most of these concerned the Book of Order (BoO), and were somewhat minor.

However there is a major amendment that addresses the usual Elephant in the Room. Now I fully expected for the usual groups, both pro and con, to put forward their advice and reasons for voting pro or con.

This is not unusual, and could be classified under providing information. However, I have heard that one group is not only providing information, but also requesting a pledge of support and vote at the Presbytery meeting.

You read right, a group is actively canvassing and requesting that the person being canvassed, pledge that they will vote in the direction the group is pointing.

IMHO, this totally violates the Book of Order:
G-4.0301d. Presbyters are not simply to reflect the will of the people, but rather to seek together to find and represent the will of Christ;

From the Annotated Book of Order, there's this bit of info under that paragraph:
Earlier Ref: (UPCUSA 1978, 93, Buchwalter v. Pittsburgh Pby): Questioning by pby of potential commissioners to GA is allowed, but voting pledges are not allowed.

Lobbying for a vote at Presbytery would (I would assume) under that same ruling. Unless a GA overturned the previous ruling without anyone's knowledge, which I doubt.

I don't care whether this group is pro or con, but this violation of polity should not go unpunished.

UPDATE - 02/08/09 - I was talking to the Pastor at Stodgy Presbyterian today, and he said that he was also contacted. What really offended him was the fact that the group was asking how he was going to vote and asking for his support, and that they were making calls like telemarketers, calling during the usual dinner time of between 5 and 7pm. Indeed, he was called from his dinner table to answer the phone and basically told the caller that the call was inappropriate, and he refused to talk with the person any further and hung up.

Postscript on Super Bowl Mania

I've heard that at one church here in Plodding Presbytery, their worship is close to Scottish Kirk liturgy, where the Bible is brought into the sanctuary and placed on the pulpit/lectern.

This past Sunday (Super Bowl Sunday), the music played during the procession was the Steeler Waltz !!!

Needless to say, that is a very secular intrusion into what is part of Worship. John Knox would be outraged!!