U-C: What I See

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A primer on the the denomination - aaack! :)

Sisters and brothers,

I've been learning a lot about how the church works. If you're interested in organizational stuff - as I am - read on. If not, consider this a bureacracy alert and bug out now! If you're only a little interested, read on. I bet this is the shortest description of each of these organizations that you'll ever see.

There are six church entities that function relatively independently of one another:

They are:

General Assembly Council - carries out all the mission/program stuff of the church www.pcusa.org/gac

Office of the General Assembly - handles all of our church constitution stuff (The Book of Order and the Book of Confessions), puts on the general assembly, etc. www.pcusa.org/oga

The Presbyterian Foundation - manages all the financial assets of the church and provides a vehicle through which individuals, churches and organizations can give to support the future of the church www.presbyterianfoundation.org

The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation - does all the book publishing for the church (Westminster/John Knox Press and Geneva Press) www.ppcbooks.com

The Board of Pensions - handles all the benefits programs that the denomination offers it's workers (like healthcare, pension, insurances, etc.) www.pensions.org

Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program - like a bank to help the denomination make loans to fund building new churches www.pcusa.org/pilp

This week, I'm in the meeting of the General Assembly Council, which I get to serve on for the next four years. Their work is broken down into four areas:

the worldwide ministries division (mission and relationships with partner agencies - this is the part of the church I've volunteered and worked for since January, 1986) www.pcusa.org/wmd

The national ministries division (cool justice stuff like the Washington office, multicultural church work, Racial Ethnic ministries, the National Network of Presbyterian College Women, etc.) www.pcusa.org/nmd

Congregational Ministries Division (which is the youthministry and young adult programs, spiritual formation, and Peacemaking Programs and a lot more) www.pcusa.org/cmd

finally, there's another sub-committee of the General Assembly Committee called Mission Support Services - that covers all the administration of all this activity (somebody has to make sure the bills actually get paid and that people have a place to do their work.

Here's the last thing:

The General Assembly Committee (GAC) has done all kinds of work on defining what it is that we as a denomination are about. It's called the Mission Work Plan, and I think they did a good job. Here's how this committee of elected Presbyterians from across the country has defined what they think our mission is:

Evangelism and Witness

Justice and Compassion

Spirituality and Discipleship

Leadership and Vocation

What I like most about this description of our mission is that it's something I think we can all get behind: younger, older, racial/ethnic person, european american, evangelical or progressive. This is about as well-defined a message about our job as a denomination as we could ask for.

In the end, remember that this is all just a way of organizing ourselves nationally. the real work happens in congregations, mission sites around the world and around our country, presbyteries, synods, and in all the places that Presbyterians feel called to be at work in the world. Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

O.k. - That's it for now. Let me know if you want to know more about this and you can't figure out where to find it. We've got great colleagues on the national staff, and somebody will be able to help you.

I'm learning every day. Hope you are too.

Praying for our church,