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The Church Basement Roadshow

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Earlier this week, Bruce Reyes-Chow was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA). This is great news, for various reasons. First of all, Bruce is a great guy and I count him as a friend (even a real friend, not just a Facebook friend!). There’s been a lot made (at least in Presby circles) that Bruce was unique among the four candidates for several reasons: he was the only non-white, the only one not to wear a tie, and the youngest.
And, the word “emergent” has been thrown around a lot, too.
Bruce is, indeed, emergent. He pastors a church that he planted in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco, a church that he planted. He’s a part of the Emergent Village cohort there, and he affiliates with Presbymergent. I had the pleasure of speaking at an emergent event with him at his church last year.
Bruce offers great promise to the PC(USA) in his two-year term – and, let it be said, the PC(SUA) has been about the most interested in emergent ideas of any denomination. Bruce will push the organization in a missional direction, he’ll open doors for younger people, and he’s just got a great, warm, and inviting personality. On our West Coast leg of the Roadshow, younger Presbyterians repeatedly told us how excited they are about Bruce’s election. Bruce is to the PC(USA) what Tiger Woods was to golf and Barack Obama is to politics.
But here’s my big caveat: the PC(USA) is a huge, hegemonic, and possibly intractable bureaucracy. Bureaucracies are really excellent at only one thing: self-sustenance. They mitigate against significant change and they chew up and spit out entrepreneurs. Bruce may be able to provoke a two percent change, or even a five percent change, in his two year term, but will that be enough? And who will succeed him? Will the next moderator continue Bruce’s agenda?
All this, of course, remains to be seen. Regardless, I’m looking forward with great anticipation to see what Bruce can accomplish.

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