Dear Friends of The Fellowship of Presbyterians,
We are deep in Advent around the church, and most congregations are getting the candles ready for Christmas Eve. The Fellowship of Presbyterians is also getting ready for the Covenanting Conference January 18-20 in Orlando. Nearly 1,700 people are already registered. With the Conference just one month away, I wanted to reflect on several things.
Like you, we received the news that First Presbyterian Church of Orlando plans to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) with a mixture of emotions. Yes, it is disappointing that FPC-Orlando will not be one of the congregations leading others into the new Reformed body (NRB). However, we have known all along that some congregations would decide the EPC was a better option for a variety of reasons, including issues of timing and the fact that they are already an established denomination. The news from FPC-Orlando is also a reminder that the leadership of any congregation is in the hands of their Session. This is an important value that both The Fellowship of Presbyterians and the NRB fully support.
To enter the new Reformed body, or even to affiliate with The Fellowship of Presbyterians, takes entrepreneurial desire and requires patience. Both the Fellowship and the NRB are chiefly about doing something new and different and better, and as a result, the culture of both the Fellowship and the NRB will be quite different. Much of the specifics of how we will live this out are what we will present in Orlando. Whether from within the PC(USA) or beyond, we are creating new ways for congregations to relate to one another, new ways of starting congregations, and new ways of mentoring young leaders. The Fellowship of Presbyterians and the NRB are designed to be missional at their core.
Many congregations and individuals are ready to relate to the NRB either through total departure from the PC(USA) or by forming a union relationship between the NRB and the PC(USA). Others are committed to remaining where they are and affiliating with The Fellowship of Presbyterians. Some who are not yet ready to make any decision will consider joining the Fellowship or moving to the NRB once there is a critical mass. One particular report expressed concern that a “flagship” congregation is now headed in a different direction. In the new structures we are envisioning, however, no one congregation will be a “flagship.” Every congregation, large or small, city, town, or rural, has gifts to bring to the formation of The Fellowship of Presbyterians and the NRB.
So, what are we hoping will happen next month in Orlando? First, I believe we will continue to see an exciting movement of the Holy Spirit through the official formation of The Fellowship of Presbyterians and the NRB. We who are guiding this movement remain positive and nurturing. We continue to resist any form of triumphalism that affirms too much. We’re looking forward to taking the next steps toward a new and thrilling chapter in the life of the Church, and we will continue to discern together what God is doing and where God is leading.
– Jim Singleton, Pastor, First Presbyterian, Colorado Springs, CO and President, The Fellowship of Presbyterians