Thursday, May 28, 2009

Attending Graduation ....

Last night I attended a Baccalaureate service at Plodding Theological Seminary. A few friends of mine are graduating from PTS this year, and so I was invited to attend. Today is the graduation ceremony, but first there is an awards brunch, to which I was also invited.

I have to say that I'm going to miss the friends who are graduating. While I didn't attend there, I got to know many of them through a close friend of mine who attends Stodgy Presbyterian, and is a graduating senior at PTS. This also means that I will have fewer contacts at PTS, as we pray that many of the graduates are called to pulpits very soon.

Anyway, last night's Baccalaureate was fantastic. The service was great, as many of the graduating seniors were readers, and a couple assisted with Communion. The Sermon was outstanding!! If anyone remembers reading the Presbyterian Outlook in the mid-90's, you will remember the columns by Dr. Charles Partee as witty and funny. He does love his puns, and he had us in stitches last night. His beginning was punctuated by laughter from the assembled graduates, faculty and family members in attendance. Each pun built up the next, however, do not think it was all humor, as he approached the last half of the sermon, he was very serious and gave a charge to the graduates that I know they will remember.

As Dr. Carl said in his welcome, this was Dr. Partee's final, official act as a member of the faculty; he retires this year after 31 years of service to PTS, and over 50 years as pastor/teacher/professor/theologian to the Presbyterian Church.

So, today the graduating class of 2009 will receive their diplomas. I'm not sure of the total count of degrees being bestowed, I seem to remember it was over 70 or so. I'll update later once I find out for sure. However, considering PTS has 1/3 the campus (and probably a lot less faculty) than some other PCUSA seminaries, that's not bad at all !!

Then again, I'm biased!!

... and so it goes !!

Update: it was a total of 69 MDiv and DMin degrees.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

But we can't do that .....

For those who have been reading my screeds over the past year, you'll need no introduction to this, for others, well, suffice it to say that the Session at Stodgy Presbyterian puts the fun in dysfunctional.

This past Sunday we had our annual meeting to elect officers. Why they do it in May and not November has to do with reasons that are lost in time and history. However, as the head of the Nominations Committee I had to make a report that while we have officers to elect, we still have vacant positions on both Session and the Deacon Board.

This past Monday, we had a Session meeting and I made a report to Session from the Committee. Basically I gave an overview of what we were expected to do. We average about 90 to 120 attendees at Worship each Sunday. From that you can deduct about 10 to 15 as being too young to server, and another 15 to 20 in their 70's or 80's and not having the health stamina to serve.

So we're down to approximately 65 to 90 participating members of the congregation in which to staff 30 positions (15 on Session and 15 for the Deacons). Many of those potential officers have served multiple times in either positions and are tired, and do not wish to serve again.

I didn't give any advice in the report, when asked I suggested we look at two things: one, size of the Session and Board, two, what do we want the Deacons to do. Someone brought up the Unicameral model, and that was also added to the list.

About 1/2 of Session agreed that we need to look at sizes, however, there were at least one or two vocal dissenters. The problem is that many members of Session still think that when you're on Session you're expected to do everything, they do not understand what being an Elder on Session means. When the idea of Session revising what the Deacons are supposed to do came up, someone said that we shouldn't do that. Again, not showing any knowledge of what the Book of Order has to say. Someone else said that the last time any idea of what the Deacons were going to do was brought up, the Deacons were the ones who gave Session the list of what they were going to do !!

So, we are going to form a committee (how very Presbyterian) of Elders and Deacons to determine what responsibilities the Session will assign the Board of Deacons. I would have volunteered for this, but I'll be on a road trip in June and I would not want to see that time wasted. I just hope that they bring what the Book of Order has to say about the duties of Deacons to the table.

And so it goes ....

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Relevance ... or are we 'relevanting' our denomination into irrelevancy?

On another blog, someone asked the question whether or not we in the PCUSA will get a rest from sexuality for at least the next two years. Some replied no, and in truth, it has started already as seen here; I replied that I felt that those on the side to keep the standard as it currently is would like to take some time discussing other things, such as how to keep this mainline denomination from becoming irrelevant in the next 10 to 15 years.

Someone replied, its already irrelevant.

As I was discussing this with a friend, she said that in making the Message relevant we have compromised the Message. We have no need for a Savior if we don't acknowledge our sin. Instead of adapting the method of delivery, we've modified the Message which we have no right to do.

As I thought more about it, I agree. The message that has survived for 2,000 years, has in the last 100 been made so relevant that it is now unrecognizable in some quarters. No longer are pulpits echoing with the truth that in response for the gift of the atonement we are to agree to try to live our lives like Christ.

Indeed, we have pastors in the mainlines who deny the resurrection, the divinity of Christ, believe Christianity and Islam (or Christianity and Buddism) are so compatible that one could be adherents of both and still be ordained ministers, and so on. We have tried to be so diverse and open to new ways of thinking, that we've lost any Christian (let alone Presbyterian) distinctions.

If all a denomination does is say I'm OK, you're OK, why bother with denominations. Which does give a reason why many non-denominational churches are growing. Not the "feel good" ministries where you don't even see a cross at the front of their mega-auditoriums, but the ones that preach Christ and Him crucified without worries about offending people with talk of sin, atonement and judgement.

I guess you can then ask why am I still in the PCUSA? Well, I've been fortunate to have been a member of PCUSA churches where the Word is rightly preached. Knowing many of those who have or are going to graduate from the better PTS gives me the idea that there is still hope for the PCUSA.

... and so it goes !!