Monday, July 22, 2013

Presbytery Table Discussion Report and Next Steps

At a retreat in April, Presbytery's Leadership Team sought to clearly state Presbytery's purpose.  If adopted, such a statement would guide our decision making concerning the use of our time and resources.  We drafted such a statement for the Presbytery's consideration "The purpose of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan is to challenge, encourage and empower congregations to make disciples of Jesus Christ, according to the gifts God provides."
The Leadership Team then prepared six questions which explore the meaning of discipleship of Jesus Christ, and engaged the Presbytery in small group discussion at our June meeting at Holland, First.   These questions were:
      1. What do you believe faithful discipleship to be?
      2. What are the characteristics of a faithful disciple?
      3.  How do we know we are making faithful disciples?
      4.  What does faithful discipleship look like in your context?
      5.  What are the barriers to getting to faithful discipleship in your setting?
      6.  What can Presbytery do to challenge, encourage and empower congregations to make disciples?

Responses of 22 small group discussions were recorded.  You may read the recorded notes:  The leadership team studied this and prepared a Wordle composite of the words used in the responses:      And prepared a preliminary summary
Some themes:  There is a clear voice for spiritual being/nurturing/deepening on the one hand, and mission service/action/doing on the other These seem to an either/or choice, but we understand them as both/and. There is also an element of fear and angst in these responses, a desired guarantee for success, and an aversion to risk taking, that seems to stand in stark contrast to the good news of the gospel we profess.  We believe that in our baptism we faced our death, and that now we live in Christ.  Ours is an Easter resurrection faith.  Christ won our victory!  The gospel is our guarantee!  We need to let go of our beloved institutional survival and be faithful witnesses of God's grace to all in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we may dare to risk and fail in faith.   Faithful discipleship looks different in different contexts.  Finally, there are many good ideas shared for shaping Presbytery's life and ministry.

At the Leadership Team's  July meeting we pondered these things and three new questions:  What is not here in this data?  Who was not represented in this discussion? What do we now do?  We are now sharing these reports with you and seek your comments.  Please post your comment on this blog.  We look forward to hearing from you.

NEXT STEP:  One thing seems clear, our presbytery meetings need to be transformed.  So as a next step, the September presbytery meeting will begin with worship, followed by a brief business meeting to hear and conduct essential matters.  One will be the first reading of the Purpose Statement.  We will then provide open space and time for participants to discuss in small groups matters most important to them. You might prepare by asking yourself, what discussion do I want to enter into with some others.  Some possibilities are new ministry initiatives and innovatinos:  SoJo new worshiping community in East Lansing and Ground in Grace Coffee House in Jonesville, Circle of Friends worship in Buchanan, a new congregational partnership between Westminster PC/Portage and the Perico Presbyterian/Reformed Church in Cuba; explore the Presbyterian Hymnal: Glory to God, or discuss recent decisions of the Board of Pensions with Ernest Badillo.   

In addition to changes in the shape of Presbytery meetings, we realize our new purpose statement will lead to changes in Presbytery structure and organization, as well.  Such changes are not fully clear as yet.  We welcome your suggestions.

Blessings to you.  
Yours in Christ,

John Best, General Presbyter
Jeff O'Neill, Presbytery Moderator