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Jul 19, 2006

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Ted Gossard

Michael,
I appreciate this. I do wonder what one does with the pastoral letters in considering service. I suppose this is a different form of service as in overseeing/shepherding and serving in the church. That this is one aspect of how we are gifted as individuals in this world.

Dualism is deadening in so many ways. We do need to see our entire lives and work as an enterprise of God's good kingdom into this world.

Michael Kruse

"I suppose this is a different form of service as in overseeing/shepherding and serving in the church. That this is one aspect of how we are gifted as individuals in this world."

I fully affirm the need for temporal sturctures and leadership for the body of Christ. They are indeed ministry. My beef is that they are not THE minitry. I would say that they are support functions to the ministry of the Church in the world done by the baptised in day-to-day living, and not THE ministry of the Church in the world to which the baptised come to have their needs met.

I think my next two posts may address more specifically what you are raising here. The problem is we have misunderstood our mission. For fear of stealing my own thunder, I'll stop there and hopefully answer this better shortly. *grin*

(One of the hazzards of dealing with this topic piece by piece is that some of what I am about to write qualifies and interprets what I just wrote. I hope with a couple of more posts or so, the picture becomes more whole.)

Dana Ames

Is anyone in the PCUSA leadership thinking like this? Or is the denomination simply "status quo" vs "The Layman"? The mission statement you posted some weeks ago had a few tantalizing statements, but to me it sounded mostly like what to do to keep the denominational structure alive, rather than enliven the people.

Dana

Michael Kruse

There are people in leadership who would be highly sympathetic to what I am saying. We are in the midst of a dying paradigm for being a denomination. There are pieces of what I am talking about emerging here and there but I don’t see a distinct vision that offers enough clarity to bring a paradigmatic shift. The new emerging pieces are all tangled up in the old and people are in different stages of coming to grips with what is happening.

I can tell you that Joe Small in the Office of Theology and Worship is a tireless champion of recovering the idea of the priesthood of believers. I can tell you that in conversations I have had with Tom Gillespie, former President of Princeton Seminary, he has told me that the terms “clergy” and “laity” have no place in Reformed theology. If you go to my previous post in this series on clergy and laity and read David Moody’s comment, I can’t count the number of pastors I have encountered who articulate his same frustration. The old paradigm is cracking up but no one has yet “connected the dots” for a new paradigm.

I am glad you raised the issue of the GAC mission work plan from earlier this year. You wrote:

“The mission statement you posted some weeks ago had a few tantalizing statements, but to me it sounded mostly like what to do to keep the denominational structure alive, rather than enliven the people.”

I would say the plan was to make the denominational structure healthy instead of “keep the denominational structure alive” but you are exactly right! We are back to the principle of subsidiarty.

If we view individuals and families at the center of the circle of the Church’s work, and we move in concentric circles out away from the family, we encounter small groups, congregations, presbyteries, synods and GA/GAC, in that order. Subsidiarity says that the structure that exists within each succeeding ring we move away from the family, is to be in support of those structures next closest to the center of the ring. No structure should take upon itself the work that is best done at a level closer to the center. Consequently, you are going to find very little done at the GAC level that enlivens individuals in the pews. They are clear at the other end of the subsidiarity chain. The GAC exists to help synods and presbyteries do what they need to do as they are in service to the rings even closer to the center.

The dysfunction we have had is that when the GAC was formed about twenty years ago, the vision was that we would have an HQ that offered a comprehensive range of programming for every aspect of Christian life. That creates twin problems. First, the overwhelming majority of what people and families need cannot be provided best (or at all) at the GAC level, at the opposite end the subsidiarty continuum. Thus, he GAC can never deliver what it promises. Second, by creating the illusion that these services can be done at the HQ level, people at more local levels quit taking initiative to solve their own problems and begin to look to the national body for answers which they can’t possibly deliver. We not only do not provide what we said but we actually weaken those we are supposed to serve. What we have done at the GAC is take a first crack at discerning what a denominational HQ does that best contributes to health of the next inner ring of structures, who in turn serve their inner rings.

This is probably WAY more than you wanted but your question gave me a wonderful launching pad. *grin*

Dana Ames

No problem- I'm getting an education!
D.

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