Today I had the opportunity speak at the Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) breakfast associated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in San Jose, California. This was a special privilege because I have such high regard for PFR and its ministries. But it was also a challenging opportunity because many signs at are our General Assembly are foreboding. It seems quite possible that this Assembly will vote to unravel many of our denomination’s long-term commitments, especially to holiness within heterosexual marriage. This isn’t certain, but it may very well happen, and that will be a sad day. It will also create a major mess for evangelicals in the PCUSA, some of whom will be in a new fight for the truth, and others of whom will decide that they’ve had enough of this denomination. I’ll be in the keep-on-fighting crowd, but I sure understand why people get tired of this sort of thing and want to focus, not on interdenominational battles, but rather on the mission of Christ. (Photo: San Jose, California, with the convention center in the foreground, the location of the General Assembly.)
I should add, however, that just because a General Assembly votes to recognize gay ordination or same-sex marriage, this doesn’t make it legal. Such matters still have to be approved by the whole church through its governing bodies [presbyteries], and the presbyteries have a history of upholding biblical truth in the wake of non-biblical General Assembly actions.
My message to the PFR breakfast, was, on the one hand, a word of encouragement related to the General Assembly. Many at the breakfast were voting members of the Assembly, and may be called upon to speak up for biblical truth in the next few days. (They need our prayers!) On the other hand, my message was meant to challenge us with respect to our larger mission. Nothing that happens at the General Assembly will change our basic calling as Christians, though it might complicate the ways we Presbyterians act out that calling.
In my next few posts I will share with you the text of my message at the PFR breakfast. I did not read this text verbatim, but spoke using my manuscript as notes, so what I said was not exactly the same as what I’m printing. But the main themes and most details are the same.
If you’re not a Presbyterian, or not a member of the PCUSA, at any rate, you may wonder if this series on The Growing Church will be helpful to you. A few of the details won’t fit, of course. But I believe the main points in this series talk, which are not my own, but come from Ephesians 4, will speak to you no matter your denominational affiliation. We all need to grapple afresh with the challenging and inspiring insights found in the fourth chapter of one of my favorite books of the Bible.
Tomorrow I’ll begin putting my sections of my address, which will probably require about four posts to complete.
In the meanwhile, I’d ask for your prayers for this General Assembly and for the PCUSA as a whole. We may be in for a rocky road ahead, which is not to say the past thirty years have been smooth ones. I must confess that I’m worried about the health and future of my denomination. But, just to be clear, I am not worried about the health and future of the church of Jesus Christ. Though the church might take a battering, in the end, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Thanks be to God!