Sunday, August 20, 2006

Presbyterian Global Fellowship

I’ve been to Atlanta and back. For the past few days, I’ve been attending the Presbyterian Global Fellowship meeting. This group was born out of evangelical frustration with the fights on sexuality and the financial decimation of the Worldwide Ministries Division of the PCUSA. They are committed to missions abroad and to being missional at home. They are also committed to remaining in the denomination. Several friends recommended that I attend, and I see now that I needed to be there.

I didn’t realize that the stress of pastoral ministry and the frustration caused by the General Assembly have wore me down. Gathering with other evangelicals in Atlanta was therapeutic for me. I wept as I listened to stories of God’s faithfulness. As one speaker suggested, we need to remind each other of who Christ is and what his purpose is for our lives. In the midst of life, we forget too easily.

Clearly, I had a good experience, but I do have concerns. The Presbyterian Global Fellowship is still young, without form or function. We do not know what its relationship with the Presbyterian Church USA will be. We do not know how it will relate to the other renewal groups such as Presbyterians For Renewal, Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, and the like. We do not know how the fellowship intends to foster the revitalization of congregations. These are not complaints. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that the leadership of the organization has some difficult waters to navigate. General Assembly Moderator Joan Gray was right that they should lead from their knees.

As the organization moves forward, more time will be needed to develop theological clarity. Missional has become a buzz word in churches. In Atlanta, I heard a variety of interpretations of its meaning. Some assumed that missional merely meant more outreach programs. Others saw missional simply in terms of cross-cultural mission trips. Some spoke of organizing the church around mission implying that our unity was found there. I believe these are simplistic understandings of the term. The church is organized around Jesus Christ who sends us into the world. Thankfully some were expressing a more biblical and profound understanding of mission. I hope that these voices will dominate in the future of Presbyterian Global Fellowship.

People were pumped after the meeting this week. A speaker declared that the Atlanta event was the most important event in the PCUSA in twenty years. The truth of that statement remains to be seen. I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket, but the future of our corner of the kingdom of God deserves sober reflection.


Anonymous said...

I was there too!

Have you read Parker Williamson's article on the PGF?

I find myself agreeing with him. We need doctrine too!

James said...

On your recommendation, I read the article.

Yes, we need doctrine. That being said, my perspective is different from Parker Williamson's. I still have a bit of optimism.

The leaders of PGF have evangelical credibility. I was encouraged by the covenant presented in Atlanta. However, I wanted to see more of that theological acumen on display.

If we (I include myself here) wish to reform the denomination from the inside, we need to be very clear where we stand. We are battling widespread biblical illiteracy and the ignorance of Reformed theology even among evangelicals. PGF must never lose an opportunity to reiterate what is foundational.