Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Join the Conversations

We are living in a Kairos moment.  By Kairos, I mean God given time.  This fall, leaders of the church have called us to several conversations.

1. Heath Rada, the moderator of the 221st General Assembly has called the church to a conversation about the identity and future calling of the the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  He suggests that we do not have time to wait until G.A. Commissioners gather next June, and then wait for another two years to make some shifts.  We are organized for a much larger church of the past.  We have six corporations:  the Office of the General Assembly, the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Presbyterian Publishing Company, the Board of Pensions, the Presbyterian Foundation, and the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Corp.  Undesignated reserved funds have helped keep the Church's mission funded as membership has decreased over time and support from Per Capita and Shared Mission decrease.  We are still a vibrant denomination, but we are now called to be stewards and focus our ministry and mission.  Join the conversation, individually, as Sessions, as groups in the church.  See the conversation questions offered here by the Office of the General Assembly:  http://www.pcusa.org/resource/coga-conversation-questions/ Responses are due by December 18th.

2.  George Hunsberger, the moderator of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan for 2015, has called together a task force for discernment on Camp Greenwood.  This Task Force has identified that the our pattern and camping ministry strategy of the past 10 years or so is not sustainable.  We have functioned with a part time camp director, and run a summer camping program with minimal investment.  The task force has identified several alternative scenarios, and has seeks input has to what it would take for these scenarios to be feasible.  The Task Force has sought the input from Presbytery Ministry Teams, Committees, Agencies, and Sessions concerning the feasibility and vision around these future scenarios for the camp.  You may join this conversation.  See the Task Force's Scenarios and questions Click Here .  Responses are needed by November 30th.

3.  It was my honor to represent the Presbytery of Lake Michigan at the inauguration of Leanne Van Dyk as the tenth president of Columbia Theological Seminary on October 28th.  Leanne is a member of the Presbytery, who served on the search committee which called me as General Presbyter and as Dean of the Faculty at Western Theological Seminary.  Leanne preached a powerful sermon on Romans 16 entitled "Welcome."  The Apostle Paul recognizes a long list of persons in this chapter.  Every name represents a flesh and blood story.  Leanne called Columbia Theological Seminary and the church today to the hard work of welcome.  The inauguration service was followed by a panel discussion on "the Call of the Church in the Context of the World Today."  Today's context includes the racially fueled violence we have witnessed in recent months.  The panel addressed the reality of white privilege particularly as it is present in institutions of theological education.  It was a powerful conversation.  

This experience resonated with the conversation I have been having with the Judicatory Leaders in Michigan.  I chair the Board of Directors of the Ecumenical Center for Christian Leadership in DeWitt, Michigan.  This board also has identified as its priority for 2016 an engagement in addressing the racial inequalities today.  Also, this October, at a training event for executives, I was sensitized to the reality of my experience of white privilege.  I have s a white man in this culture benefited from systems and institutional policies.  Women and people of color have not and do not benefit from these cultural privileges.  I invite you to join me in this emerging call to cultural humility.  Look for future opportunities for engaging this conversation.

So is this a Kairos moment in time?  God appears to be doing a new thing.  Yet we disciples are often tied with the old familiar and present things.  In Mark 13:1-8, the lectionary Gospel lesson for last Sunday, Jesus responses to a starry eyed disciple awestruck by the glory and massiveness of the temple, that sacred building and institution by which the Jewish people then connected with God.  Jesus shockingly dismisses the sacredness of the temple.  Eugene Peterson translates it, "There is not a stone in the whole works that is not going to end up in a heap of rubble." (The Message, v. 2)  So much for sacred institutions and structures which mean so much to us, and which have connected us with God.   What we hold so very dear, can be destroyed in a moment.  But keep your head.  In the midst of the cataclysmic storms, keep your cool, give your witness to the truth of God's loving grace.   "Stay with it--that's what is required.  Stay with it to the end.  You won't be sorry, you'll be saved" (The Message, v.13).  

Perhaps the same holds true for these conversations about the sacred institutions, which we hold dear, which have connected us with God, and given meaning to our lives.  Dare we trust them to God as we engage these conversations?  Dare we open our hearts, minds, and wills to what God is doing today?  Ready or not, we are being called.