It has been almost two months since our last letter (May 4), and in that time significant change in our denominational reality has come with the passage of Amendment 10-A and ratification of the new Form of Government. Neither of these changes affects the vision or the intent of the Fellowship, but the passage of these amendments does change the context in which we are discerning God’s call to mission-shaped ministry and to new ways of being church.
In mid-June, the Steering Committee of the Fellowship brought together the Advisory Group and over 20 other evangelical leaders from across the PC(USA) to discuss both the framework of the upcoming Gathering (August 25-26) and the broad trajectory of the Fellowship’s plan and goals. At that meeting we encountered both the immensity of the challenge—thinking and dreaming beyond the limitation of our current chaotic context(s), and the even greater potential of this time in the Church—realizing that God is doing more than we can ask or imagine, and that we have the opportunity, and in many ways now new freedom, to be part of God’s plan and purpose. As we worked through these realities together, many participants agreed that what we were experiencing in that meeting was a paradigm for what a healthy presbytery can and should be: spiritually alive fellowship, worship, and prayer, and productive conversation toward a mutually desired goal.
While many more specifics about the August Gathering will be addressed as we now begin to update the FAQs on this website, here are some of the main points that emerged from the Minneapolis meeting.
The goal of the Fellowship is to form a new way for Presbyterian congregations to relate, recapturing more of what it means to be the body of Christ. The mission of the Fellowship is to create an environment in which these congregations can grow and thrive as communities in covenant. Shaped by our shared faith, we are committed to new ways of identifying and nurturing leaders, and to starting new biblically-grounded faith communities.
While the original motivation for the Fellowship was a desire to positively impact the decline and increasing dysfunction of the PC(USA), the passage of Amendment 10-A has brought an enormous challenge into the discussion. Suddenly, a new reality has emerged in our denomination, creating a crisis of integrity for Presbyterians who remain committed to theological orthodoxy. The impact of 10-A is also imperiling our relationship with many in the global Church.
Given this new reality, the Fellowship is designed to be an umbrella under which individuals and congregations together will:
- be nurtured and encouraged in our common faith in Jesus Christ and our commitment to proclaim the gospel in our communities be challenged and held accountable for our discipleship and witness;
- be stimulated to embrace the missional call of God;
- show equal respect for the call to ministry upon men and women of every race and culture;
- proclaim our need of repentance, and God’s power to transform individual lives and culture; and
- demonstrate biblical reconciliation and justice, praying for the peace and welfare of the world.
Existing underneath this umbrella will be congregations and individuals who are called to ministry both within and beyond the current boundaries of their presbyteries or of the PC(USA). We in the Fellowship recognize and affirm that different contexts of ministry call for different and equally faithful strategies of ministry, and we are committed to co-laboring with brothers and sisters in Christ who share the goals and commitments of the Fellowship.
One option under the Fellowship umbrella will be a new Reformed body that, while desiring to maintain mutually helpful association with the PC(USA) and its related institutions, will nonetheless provide a clear and distinct identity beyond the PC(USA). Documents required for the creation of this new Reformed body are in process.
We are encouraged by ongoing and, so far, productive conversations with the Stated Clerk and other leaders of the PC(USA) who recognize both the unsustainability and the great potential of our current situation, and who are working with us to identify workable options and alternatives.
We believe the new Form of Government (nFoG) provides specific options previously unavailable to us, and we are exploring these. Because of this, we strongly recommend that individuals and congregations move carefully and deliberately at this time allowing time for the full potential of our changing denominational landscape to come into clearer focus. Previously existing options for departure are not time sensitive. However, we have only begun to explore the possibilities that may be available to us without the rancor of departure, and we are actively pursuing these.
More than anything, the Fellowship embraces our current “crisis” as a time of enormous potential as we discover what God is doing in and through us, and the new ways God is calling and enabling us to be the Church: compelled by His grace, redeemed by His Son, and rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.