U-C: What I See

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What If?

Sisters and Brothers,

As I have traveled this year, I’ve been challenged to think about what the PC(USA) has to offer the world. Put another way, I’m committed to do my part to hold this wonderful denomination together, but only if we can come up with a compelling answer to the question, “For what?” Can we as a denomination discern and articulate God’s special call to us to offer a concrete witness of who Christ calls us to be in the world? What do we want to be known for, and are we willing to risk everything to follow God’s call into radical witness? To be honest, if church is mostly about being a social club, there are a lot of other options out there. I dream of a church that makes a claim on all of us – to give everything we have to the task of following Christ into the world, sharing Christ around the world, living Christ’s justice in all the world.

Here are a few concrete examples that have come up for me over the past few months as I’ve seen the best of what we have to offer.

Presbyterian Education - What does it mean to be a “Presbyterian related college or university?” Is there something distinctive students we graduate offer the world? Are our students simply getting “a good education,” making it possible for them to compete more effectively in the dominant economy and get a bigger piece of the pie? Or, are they learning the values that will help us to create God’s global community in a world of suffering and need. What if Presbyterian Colleges were known, as many were when they were founded 100 years ago - for shaping the students who will be on the frontier, the students who will change the world? (I’m happy to report that these are questions that many of the Presidents of those institutions are asking.) What are the hallmarks of a Presbyterian education that will help to build communities of equity, justice and faithfulness to the values of our faith in a world that confronts overwhelming need?

The Nurture of God’s Creation - Last weekend in Silver Bay I learned that there is a growing collaboration between the Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center Association and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, and the possibilities of such a collaboration captured my imagination. Presbyterian Churches and judicatories own a lot of land. What if Presbyterian camp and conference centers were known as the place where we are:

1) hallowing God’s creation,

2) educating our participants about biblical values that glorify God’s creation,

3) developing a reputation that one of the hallmark’s of the Presbyterian faith is to protect and nurture God’s creation, and

4) using God’s hallowed spaces to win for Christ the hearts and minds and souls of a generation of kids, young adults, and elders who are increasingly adrift in a culture that is antithetical to Christian values?

I’m glad that so many in my generation and my parents’ generation had transforming experiences in our camps, but that’s not a compelling reason to keep them alive. A compelling reason to live looks to the future and tells us how our witness to the world will be distinctive because we continue to value and treasure these properties that God has entrusted to us.

What about mission? - What if Presbyterians were known, once again, as a people who are going to the margins in the farthest corners of the world where God’s good news and the witness of Jesus Christ is most needed? What if we acted as if being Christian, and maybe even being Presbyterian, was the most important thing in our lives? What if we created an ethic where it is normal and even expected for Presbyterians to give significant time to going out into the world in mission? I’m working on a series of 10 posts for the Blog that I am calling “Musings on Mission” to further explore this theme. Stay tuned.

As I travel, I am increasingly excited by the fertile ground that God’s people have tilled in our denomination. We have everything we need to live as if we believe that God does, indeed, call us to transform the world. What are the ideas you have about what our powerful history of a reformed tradition and our combined resources as a people of God might offer the world in a way that is distinctively, authentically, and uniquely Presbyterian? Put another way, how do you hear God calling us to use the strengths God has given us to strengthen the church and improve the world?

The time is now! What are we waiting for?