As most of you know, I recently left my position as Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in order to become the Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence of Laity Lodge. My new position, though not in a parish, is still something that “counts” for my Presbyterian ordination. In other words, though I’m not working in a church, I remain a “Reverend.”
In the Presbyterian Church (USA), the question of whether one should be ordained or not is answered by the local presbytery, a group of churches in a given area that acts rather like the bishop in other denominations. When I was pastoring in Irvine, California, I was a member of Los Ranchos Presbytery, a region that included all of Orange County and a small portion of Los Angeles County (something like 900 square miles). When I left Irvine Presbyterian Church, Los Ranchos Presbytery voted to release me to Mission Presbytery in Texas, which includes Boerne, the town where I live, as well as Laity Lodge. In fact, Mission Presbytery is quite large, consisting of 157 churches and more than 55,000 square miles. That makes my new presbytery about the size of the entire state of New York! Things are bigger in Texas! (Photo: The state of Texas with Mission Presbytery highlighted.)
When Presbyterian pastors move, they are almost always received into their new presbyteries with minimal hassle. The receiving presbyteries do, however, examine each potential minister with respect to theology and views of church order. Today I was examined by a committee of pastors and elders from Mission Presbytery. They were interested in my spiritual journey, my sense of call to Laity Lodge, and my basic beliefs.
In order to prepare for my examination, I was asked to write a one-page statement of faith. This is exactly the same thing I was asked to do when I was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor twenty years ago. Statements of faith usually follow a trinitarian pattern, with sections on the church, the sacraments, and mission added in.
Though I could have put together such a statement with relative ease, I didn’t want merely to list out my core beliefs. I was asked to write a statement of faith. So I thought I would try to represent, not just my basic convictions, but my actual faith, my relationship of trust with God. This was not easy to do in just one page, let me tell you. (In the end, I used two pages.) It’s one thing to list one’s core belief. It’s quite another to try and capture a living relationship in a few sentences.
In the end, I did something unusual with my statement of faith. I’ll share this with you in my next post, and then add some explanation. But before I tell you what I did for my statement of faith, I want you to think about how you might write your own statement. If you had no more than 1000 words in which to capture your faith, what would you write? What form would your statement of faith take?
Think about this for a day. Tomorrow I’ll share with you what I wrote.