Friday, January 16, 2004

A Greater Impact

I must admit that my knowledge of U.S. policies in Columbia is cursory at best. As a result, I will not dispute the position of our moderator and Columbian Presbyterians. Moreover, I accept the moderator's frustration over injustice as heart-felt. I am concerned, however, about the impotence of the PC(USA)'s response.

According to the PNS article "Not so moderate", Susan Andrews pledged to "redouble" our efforts to oppose military aid, "advocate" for more U.S. developmental aid, and "defend" the human rights of the Columbian people. Apparently, the Columbian media was impressed. However, I am not.

Does anyone believe that the Washington Office has any influence with Congress or the Bush Administration? The PC(USA) commands neither the money nor the votes to be effective lobbyists in Washington. I find it shameful that we would falsely raise the hopes of the suffering in Columbia.

The PC(USA) has very little control over the principalities and powers, but Christ does. Therefore, we have something more important to offer the Columbians. We have the gospel. Let's commit to sending more missionaries to Columbia. Let's redouble our efforts to support indigenous churches. Let's offer our resources to directly impact the lives of Columbians.
Perhaps these efforts will not impress the Columbia media, but I believe they will have a greater impact for justice in the kingdom of God.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Newsletter: "We've Never Done It That Way Before"

Over the years, I’ve noticed something. People like to complain about change. It doesn’t matter the setting--business, government, family, or even the church. Whether you are six or sixty, change never comes easy. People are simply resistant to innovation. That’s human nature. However, complaining about the lack of change is also human nature. In seminary, I remember several student pastors lamenting congregations that seemed devoted to the old ways of doing things. Occasionally, I have heard preachers in the pulpit complain about parishioners who say, “We’ve never done it that way before.” I have even heard of a denominational official who wrote that sentence on a banner declaring them “the seven last words of the church.”

Although traditions from the past can easily become idolatries of the present, I still welcome a congregation with a healthy skepticism about change. We share some very old beliefs. Every Sunday we proclaim Jesus lived, died, and rose again. If someone offered an alternative, I would be the first to say, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Innovation for the sake of innovation is dangerous. We should never forget what God has given and the men and women of faith who came before us.

Nonetheless, I am not arguing for a faith which is stagnant. Traditions worth preserving should equip us for the future. Like the writer of Hebrews, we should see the Church Triumphant as a source of encouragement: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb 12:1).

Making the choice between tradition and innovation takes discernment. We love and respect our children enough to give them the best of the past. We should also love them enough not to give them our stale prejudices. As we enter a new year with new resolutions, my prayer is that we will act with discernment building up the body of Christ. Then, let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Grace & Peace,