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Topics of interest to Clerks of Session, Session Moderators and others who are interested in Presbyterian local-church governance.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Interesting Times

Some Presbyterians have been concerned, recently, to read a letter signed by more than 50 pastors of large Presbyterian churches, expressing their dismay about the future of the denomination and expressing their desire to create new ways of being the church.

Because the letter speaks frankly of creating new structures outside the denomination, some have seen it as the first step towards a split, or schism, in the church. Indeed, the letter itself acknowledges "the appearance of schism" - dancing right up to the edge of advocating a split in the church, without actually saying so.

Others aren't so sure, preferring to read the letter as advocating a more flexible, "missional" approach towards church order. Such an approach would replace some of the hard-and-fast institutional boundaries of our present polity with more flexible, "permeable" structures.

It's hard to say whether the signers of the letter are still in the process of working out a specific list of changes they'll be calling for, or whether their minds are already made up and they're just being cagey.

The three senior leaders of the denomination - General Assembly Moderator Cynthia Bolbach, Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons and General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director Linda Valentine - have issued a letter of their own. Their tone is conciliatory, an invitation to dialogue.

All of this, of course, is being played out against a backdrop of presbytery voting on proposed amendments to the Form of Government - particularly the controversial new language replacing G-6.0106b, dealing with qualifications for ordained officers.

I understand there is an old Chinese curse that goes like this: "May you live in interesting times."

Well, these times sure are getting more interesting.

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