One Great Hour of Sharing

Some people have asked why we didn’t receive an offering as part of the One Great Hour of Sharing back during March, and if we still plan to do so.

The answers are “by accident” and “yes.”

The Evangelism and Mission committee has been doing some really great planning this year. We have any number of ways to be part of the great things that God is doing in our neighborhood, our community, state, and around the world, and in the excitement about that planning, we simply overlooked One Great Hour of Sharing.

One Great Hour of Sharing goes back to the work that Protestant churches did during and immediately after World War 2 for relief and reconstruction. Both the PC(USA) and UMC participate in the One Great Hour of Sharing. Jewel Lake Parish divides the OGHS offering equally between the two denominational programs.

So on the principle that some things are “better late than never,” we will receive the offering during worship on May 3 and (as is our practice) send half of the total received to each of the two denominational programs.

Multisite and Bivocational Ministry

One of the topics we discussed when I met with some local pastors yesterday was the megachurch-and-branch-campus model used by churches like Saddleback and North Point. (This model is also important to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, as discerned by Christianity Today but — curiously — not the PC(USA) in its own reporting.)

None of the pastors I met with were very enthusiastic about this model. We can look at a John Ortberg or an Andy Stanley and recognize what great preachers they are, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic about being a “campus pastor” with modest or minimal opportunities to preach. (This emphasis on sermonizing is reflected in the polity of the PC(USA), where pastors are “teaching elders” — and before that, “ministers of Word and sacrament.”)

But the pastors I met with were all full time ministers. There are reasons to believe we are not the wave of the future. Rather, the church seems to be moving toward a model of bivocational pastors, where pastors have a day job to pay the bills, in addition to their vocation as a pastor, as described last year in the Presbyterian Outlook. This week, the Atlantic wondered about this trend:

Working multiple jobs is nothing new to pastors of small, rural congregations. But many of those pastors never went to seminary and never expected to have a full-time ministerial job in the first place. What’s new is the across-the-board increase in bi-vocational ministry in Protestant denominations both large and small, which has effectively shut down one pathway to a stable—if humble—middle-class career.

What happens when you combine this trend with the multi-campus, multi-venue model with the trend toward part-time ministry?

(This article is cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s blog.)

Same-Sex Unions

As you may have heard, at its 221st General Assembly last week, the PC(USA) approved same-sex marriage both by authoritative interpretation and by a proposed change to the constitution. Here’s an article from the Religion News Service, and a blog entry from More Light Presbyterians (pro) and a pastoral letter from Presbyterians for Renewal (con).*

I — Pastor Luke — am studying these measures to understand the logic behind them, but my initial impression is that the authoritative interpretation is gimmickry designed to work around the clear words of the constitution, as evidenced by the proposed changes to the constitution which accompany it.

Sadly, the PC(USA) is not alone in misusing church processes to achieve extra-constitutional ends. The UMC has reinstated Frank Schaefer after previously defrocking him for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding. I previously posted about the UMC situation here.

As a citizen of the U.S., I believe that civil rights should be recognized equally for both straights and LGBTs. Indeed, that is (for me) a bare minimum, and I go well beyond it, as I have posted before.

The case for calling same-sex unions marriage in the theological sense is weak, however, and the Church, however, is not free to make things up.


* I won’t sport with you by pointing you to the PC(USA) website for information. There’s an article there, but it can’t be linked, only downloaded. (Seriously! in 2014!)

G.A. Moderator Neal Presa

PC(USA) moderator Neal Presa participated in the fall meeting of Yukon Presbytery, and the following recordings were made during his presentations:

Neal Presa

Friday morning breakout session.

Friday afternoon G.A. Moderator’s report, Part 1: Initial remarks.

Friday afternoon G.A. Moderator’s report, Part 2: Questions and answers.

Neal Presa

Saturday morning sermon during worship.

Administrative technical notice: because of how the sessions were recorded, the questions cannot be heard during the Friday breakout and moderator’s report segments, but oftentimes, they can be inferred from the answer.

Lesbian Clergywoman Cleared of Charges by Highest PCUSA Commission

From the Christian Post:

The highest commission of Presbyterian Church (USA) has cleared a clergywoman of charges that she violated church law when she opted to marry her partner in 2009.

Well. I guess that settles it then. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Sigh. (Note the date of the marriage: at that time the “Fidelity and Chastity” clause was still church law.)

Calvin began with just two notes of the church: the proclamation of the Word and celebration of the Sacraments. Later, he sort of reconsidered and sort of added discipline. This is why.

Accordingly, as the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the church, so does discipline serve as its sinews, through which the members of the body hold together, each in its own place. Therefore, all who desire to remove discipline or to hinder its restoration–whether they do this deliberately or out of ignorance–are surely contributing to the ultimate dissolution of the church. (Institutes IV.12.1)

Growing?

A survey of the fastest-growing Presbyterian churches shows they have lots of outreach vehicles. (Well, the article said “tentacles,” but I’m not comfortable with that image!)

One way these churches reach out is really reaching in to the congregation to communicate with members and to get people involved as members. They do that by using their websites and offering new member classes.

The fastest-growing congregations reach out to guests by offering multiple worship services and even starting new ones, among other things.

They also reach out to people in need by offering emergency relief, sponsoring mission trips, and allowing community groups to use their facilities.

A lot of those should sound familiar. Jewel Lake Parish is acting a lot like the fastest-growing churches in our denomination. What if it works?

Have you given any thought to who God might be bringing to us? What needs do they have? What gifts do they bring? What could we do with their help?

Take a look at the survey. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Prayer Request

Please be in prayer for the PC(USA) (one of our two denominations) as it holds its 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh at the end of the week. The issues being considered include “small” matters like modifications to our Book of Confessions and the ordination examination process. There are also “big” matters at stake, including “realignment” (of the structure of the denomination beyond the local congregation) and the definition of marriage. A good high-level summary is here:

“It would not surprise me at all if some congregations would see [approval of same-sex relationships] as the straw that broke the camel’s back, for them to leave the denomination,” he added.

Already, dozens of congregations have left the PC(USA) after it approved gay ordination last year.