Full Disclaimer: I am not currently in Minneapolis and did not pay money to attend the August Gathering of The Fellowship of Presbyterians. But when I visit their website, they let me know that I can follow along the conversation via the #MN2011 hashtag. So I have been. But if there are any inaccuracies in the below statements, I apologize.
Over 2,000 Presbyterian Church (USA) ministers and elders are meeting together in Minneapolis discussing the future of the church. I’ve been trying to follow the #MN2011 hashtag to see what type of stuff has been discussed. And I will admit that I bring a LOT of preconceived notions to this conversation, but also have friends who are there and am trying to remain open. These are a few of the things that have stood out to me.
Lots of Missional Speak
At least from the Twitter stream, there has been a lot of talk about being more missional – seeing this new group of Presbyterians being the ones who are really going to get serious about being missional in the world. I don’t have a problem with the missional conversation, I think looking for where God is on mission in the world and joining in with that is really important. Can Presbyterians suck at it? Sure. But does that mean we need to create a separate entity to focus on it? I’m not really sure that’s the best approach.
Not Necessarily Leaving…
There were folks on Twitter who were trying to cast this event not as one where people were getting together to talk about leaving the denomination, but a place to envision the future of the church and what ministry could look like. If that’s indeed what it was, I can get behind that. Except, on their “What to Expect in Minneapolis” post, you can clearly see that there are 4 Tiers of folks they are going to be working with, and some of the folks in Tiers 3 and 4 must be interested in beginning a process to leave.
Not Naming the Issue: It’s about 10A and LGBT Folks
While the media is of course one to polarize an issue, it seems like the Huffington Post is able to say what I haven’t heard many from The Fellowship of Presbyterians fessing up to: it’s about 10A and LGBT folks. Yesterday the Huffington Post ran an article titled “Presbyterians Meet to Consider Leaving Church Over Gay Clergy, Other Issues.” It’s hard to imagine if this Gathering would have received the almost 2,000 folks present if 10A hadn’t passed. Maybe it would have, obviously we’ll never know, but clearly this is the primary issue that is causing the rift in our denomination, and it seems a bit dishonest to make it about other things (we just want to be more missional, we just want to get back to the Essential Tenets & Reformed Distinctives).
What’s the Goal of The Fellowship of Presbyterians?
Unless things start to sound drastically different, I stand by my initial blog post – The Fellowship of Presbyterians: Let Us Break Away but Keep Our Property and Millions. I guess in a Q&A with Jim Singleton, someone asked the question: “Can you stay in #pcusa as affiliate or union churches without paying any money to the PC(USA)?” (source) Is there any better indication as to what some folks are feeling and hoping for than what’s found in the subtext to that question? Subtext: How can we stay within the denomination, continue to reap the financial benefits of the denomination, but do so without actually supporting it and paying any money into it. All of this talk about a New Reformed Body, affiliate or union status for churches, all of this indicates that clearly, these churches want to find ways to move outside the bounds of the denomination, but they do not want to lose the property, pensions and money they (and generations of folks in their churches) have invested in the denomination.
And it’s not that I’m against folks leaving, if that’s where they feel called. Do you want to switch to EPC or OPC or PCA? Is that what your whole church wants? Great. Let’s find a way to make that doable for you. I even think we need to be a lot more generous in the way we dismiss churches and probably take some of our claw marks OFF their properties and assets. I think we can find a way to graciously dismiss churches and not lose additional money in church court.
But at least be open and honest about that, Fellowship of Presbyterians folks. Don’t just try and find ways to stay within the PC(USA) and enjoy those benefits but also find ways to not support the denomination. And good lord, please do not try and create parallel COMs and CPMs in one Presbytery (like someone mentioned during the Gathering).
Conversations over Twitter
As one can imagine, there were quite a few people in Minneapolis live-tweeting the event, and probably even more of us lurking from afar, trying to get a sense of the types of conversations happening, offering our thoughts (yes, sometimes a bit snarky). But it seems like there were some who just don’t quite get that when an event happens, and the event folks actively tell folks the hashtag, you’re going to get people’s commentary happening there on the Twitter stream. I was a bit intrigued by some of these responses, and actually very disappointed in the third tweet down, by someone I went to seminary with.
While there is some truth to the first two (some of us feel like our snark is appropriate, others find it too much), Twitter is not the place where you tell someone “Please go away.” Nope – sorry – that doesn’t happen with this technology and at an event that is openly using Twitter. And you don’t tell a fellow pastor colleague that she can’t participate in a conversation that could affect the denomination which she is called to serve. That’s lame.
Anyway – these are again, just my observations from afar. As I was getting ready to post this, I saw this tweet from Bruce Reyes-Chow:
A good and fair reminder. As I mentioned in my disclaimer, I could be mis-reading some things because I’m not there. And you’re welcome to leave your comment below and join in the conversation here. It will be interesting to see where this goes, and what The Fellowship of Presbyterians are able to put into place by GA next summer. I can only imagine the types of conversations that will be happening during that week.
What are your thoughts on The Fellowship of Presbyterians? Do you think I’m way off base? Were you at the Gathering in August? What did you think was the primary focus of the event?