New Ideas #2: Markers for the Way Forward

New Ideas #2: Markers for the Way Forward

This is the second in an ongoing series of “New Ideas” thought pieces. We want to explore these ideas together and solicit your feedback.
As we prepare for our August gathering, some additional thoughts on our denomination:

1) Signs of Terminal Illness
The denomination is indeed showing signs of terminal illness – that is for us non-negotiable as our reading of the state of affairs. Numerical decline and constant arguing over sexuality and Christology are for us signs of serious illness and obstacles to vital missional engagement.

2) Connectionalism
Connectionalism is basic to our Presbyterian way. We evangelicals regret the ways in which the current spirit in our denomination has created a tendency among ourselves toward a non-Presbyterian “independentism,” where many of our congregations have been pretty much doing their own thing, basically ignoring the denominational ties as much as possible. This has been due to the fact that we have wanted to maintain health amidst the denominational illness – but it is time to recommit to connectionalism.

3) New Mode of Participation
A vital connectionalism under present circumstances is virtually impossible for us within the current denominational structures. We need a new mode of participation – preferably the formation of a synod along non-geographical lines. This will become an absolute necessity if the standards for ordination change.

4) A Continuing Presbyterian Church
We oppose schism. Whatever the configuration in our future as Presbyterians, it will be as a continuing Presbyterian church, maintaining fidelity to our Reformed confessional standards – calling others in our denomination to return to our doctrinal heritage and practice.

5) The Cause of Justice
We are firmly committed to the cause of social, political, and economic justice. We pledge to redouble our efforts in urban ministries, honoring God’s call to women and men to serve together in positions of leadership in church and society, the struggle against racism, and more visible ties to the global church, particularly the churches of the southern hemisphere.

6) Chastity Commitments
If the chastity requirement changes, we ask our sisters and brothers with whom we disagree on same-sex questions to pledge their continuing solidarity with us by:

a) committing to work with us in forming practical evangelistic and pastoral strategies to address the widespread promiscuity in our churches and in the larger culture, both heterosexual and homosexual.

b) committing to the protection of ecclesiastical and legal rights of those opposed to same-sex intimacy to teach and preach in conformity to the traditional Christian consensus regarding the Bible’s standards on such matters.

c) officially endorsing the formation of positive relations with churches more “conservative” than the PC(USA) as a necessary element in our denominational ecumenical outreach.

22 Responses

  1. Matt Overton says:

    I think someone needs to define two terms that keep getting thrown out there in this conversation: covenant and connectionalism.

    Connectionalism: I always have trouble with this term and I can’t tell if it’s just me. I never once heard the term growing up in a Presbyterian church until I ended up in front of my CPM. To me, it has always been little more than a signifier for mandated connections between denominational levels of hierarchy. I have never heard it used by people in my pews and rarely even by most Presbyterian Pastors unless they grew up in the Presbyterian Church starting in the 50’s or 60’s. Could we please define that in the FAQ’s? If it doesn’t translate to anything beyond denominational hierarchy then why bother with it? If that is connectionalism, either conceptually or in reality, then why keep it in our vernacular? Fewer and fewer people under 40 can relate to that kind of “connection”.

    Covenant: I think we are beset by similar problems with this term as well. If we are backing out of one set of covenant relationships only to enter into a “new” set of covenant relationships, why? And let’s not pretend this isn’t breaking our covenant with one another. I think we need to stop abusing such a beautiful biblical term. I mean if I get married 12 times wouldn’t it become a bit of a farse to refer to my 12th marriage as a covenant? I think it almost mocks the Triune God we serve to label our church relationships as covenants. Covenants apply intimacy, promise, and faithfulness (at least by one party in scripture). I am not sure we are modeling anything close to those. Why should we have any faith that this set of covenants is going to be any more lasting than the last set? Let’s call it something else. We are ruining a beautiful word.

    Finally, our denominational strife is not creating our “independentism”. Macro shifts in our culture and technology are creating that independent feel and the perceived need for it. We need to back out to see the larger picture of what is driving our theological strife. It’s cultural and technological change and our structures’ inability to adapt to that change.

    Clearly, we need relationships with one another that are faithful. We need meaningful connections (not just connectionalism) within and beyond our denominations. But, mandating those connections is not going to work in the brave new cultural world we are crossing into. Fluidity, interchangability, mobility, and collaboration. We need open structures (maybe networks are a better word) that allow relationships to be created more freely.

    Matt Overton
    Columbia Presbyterian Church
    Vancouver, Wa.

    • Patrick Vaughn says:

      I too have trouble with the word connectionalism. To me it is kind of like a really important family heirloom that the family knows is really important but has forgotten what it was used for and the story behind it. So when younger pastors, which I consider myself to be (I’m 32 & have been ordained almost 5 years), hear about this family heirloom we have no idea what it is or why it is significant. I really appreciate Alan’s comments on connectionalism above and honestly this is the first time I have heard it explained like this. If as he says connectionalism’s “primary purpose is to bind us all to Christ and to one another as we covenant to uphold the truths and values of the Kingdom of God.” Then yes, I think that it could be a very important marker in a way forward that has us connected to one another in a very deep way focused on our center rather than our fences. However, I think that my comments and Matt’s comments point to another marker that may be needed, which is one of interpretation and translation.

      New ways forward cannot just be about a common theological core or new structures that connect us. We must learn how to be interpreters of our culture, discerning where the gospel affirms and is positively critiqued by our culture and where the gospel rejects and negatively critiques culture. We must learn to translate, meaning not only in our words but also in our embodiment of the gospel as the church, clearly and meaningfully to not only the world but also our local community. Jesus Christ reminds us that the Kingdom of God is both particular and universal at the same time. Our interpretation and translation will need to be both particular (meaning within and to particular geographical communities) and universal (meaning to one another denominationally, learning from the church world wide, and to the world at large).

  2. Marcia Lewis says:

    Your view is not my reality. Our “denominational strife,” but more accurately, the reasons for our “denominational strife,” differing views of Christology and the way we read the Word of God, are the problem. In good conscience, it is not possible to tithe to denominational structures which seen to have separated from the faith as it was given to us by the Apostles. So how can we continue in good conscience and still be PCUSA Presbyterians? I hope we can discover a path!

    • Matt Overton says:

      I am assuming that your post was at least partially, if not specifically, directed towards my post. I don’t know since it didn’t state it specifically.

      My contention is not that theology and our Reformed doctrine don’t matter. In fact they matter very much to me and to everyone else in this debate. My contention is only that we need to recognize that the things we are debating over are also being driven by some very significant macro-shifts in our society. Some of these are the impetus behind the theological divisions that continually appear.

      For instance, it is not a coincidence that we are debating Christology so vigorously within the PCUSA given the fact that our congregants are generally well educated members of a society that is becoming increasingly pluralistic. That is a theological issue. But, we need to pay attention to WHY it is a theological issue at this point in our history (it has been an issue in the past too).

      Along those same lines, I believe that our denominational split is over some significant theological issues. My contention is only that we need to ask the question why are all these splits taking place now (And by now I mean to have us look at the last 40-50 years.) My answer is that their are some larger issues that are driving those theological issues to the forefront.

      I think this is particularly important when we are looking at a proposal for how to move forward. Moving forward with a system and structure that is highly similar to the one that is not helping giving our current societal realities does not seem particularly productive.

      “Our” theology does not become “our” theology in a cultural historic vacuum. We need to pay attention to how our systems and structures are helping and hindering us in a time of deep change. That question is a lot more important than we are giving it credit for. The theology matters deeply. But, we are woefully underestimating some of the other important factors driving this crisis.

      Matt Overton

  3. It strikes me that the connectionalism that our Reformed heritage requires is based upon Calvinist anthropology. We are to be connected in mutual accountability and discipline because we are all fallen creatures. Our depravity is total. Humanly speaking, there is no one we can really trust, least of all ourselves. Our hearts are deceitful and “desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Without grace we would still be in spiritual bondage, blind, deaf, and unteachable.
    I need you (and you need me) because my natural, fallen tendencies are still towards evil. I need you (and you need me) to encourage me to be faithful, to hold me accountable, to celebrate such victories as Christ shall give, and to lift me whenever I fall. So, connectionalism is not really about cooperation in the Gospel, except in a derivative or secondary sense. Its primary purpose is to bind us all to Christ and to one another as we covenant to uphold the truths and values of the Kingdom of God.
    We have become so enamored of ourselves, our self-esteem has risen so high, that we rarely hear an honest, biblical appraisal of our failings. That, of course, is a huge part of our problem. We fail to agree about so many things, within our denomination, because we do not share a common understanding either of the problem that besets us, which is the reality of sin, or of God’s remedy, which is Jesus Christ.

  4. Wes Fortin says:

    It seems to me in this piece as if the author is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

    Our differences come from a fundamental split regarding the authority of scripture and how to apply scripture in modern culture. Like other demoninations, and the Church as a whole through history, there is great pressure from without and within the church to conform to the “norms” of the culture we live in.

    The primary sticking points today aren’t in such details as the metaphysics behind communion, the nature of the trilogy, the nature of marriage, or any number of deep issues in which reasonable Bible-believing Christians can disagree, but still be true to the core of Christian doctrine. No, today the primary sticking points are where the church is adopting teachings that are in clear opposition to numerous passages in the Bible. The Scriptures tell us that we must be transformed to the will of God, but elements in PC(USA) and others want God to be transformed to our desire.

    The net result is that our Church is falling into the worship of a false god. Oh, we may sing similar hymns praising “God” and “Jesus” but these are becomming artificial constructs with characteristics determined through democracy (buzzphrase “collective discernment”) instead of worshiping the God-head described in scripture.

    This is not something we can easily permit. Nor should we. Our modes of communication and interaction are meaningless if we teach false doctrine and do not discipline, or worse – encourage, heretics.

    What use would it be to ask the heretics to maintain union with us, as you seem to beg it bullet 6? They will have won the battle. Why should they compromise and permit a “church within a church”? They’ve worn down the faithful over decades of constant pressure. They are now “reinterpreting” (buzzphrase for “editing”) Calvin and our reformed heritage, which ensures future generations will also be led astray. Schism is not always pleasant, but sometimes it’s necessary. Calvin certainly thought so for reasons far less pressing than those we face today.

  5. Tim Phillips says:

    I believe we need to include and be intentional about pursuing another marker for where we want to go: multicultural church / community. There is a refreshing vitality and spirit within many of our immigrant churches. These sisters and brothers are indispensable to the future of the church in America. Let’s be sure to include them as equals in this discussion. Practically, and as is possible, it would be a breath of heaven’s air for connectionalism if we could enter into ministry partnerships as God’s “together” people. At this time in our struggle, we need their strengths and insights

  6. Patti says:


  7. Stephen says:

    I’m one who’s been skeptical of any response to the terminal illness you so eloquently describe that’s anything short of making a clean break. However, these six markers strike me as very wise and promising way forward. One the one hand allowing us to stand firm for the orthodox Christian faith (along with our brothers and sisters around the world), and on the other hand carving out a space for innovative gospel engagement with our communities.

    I will say that it takes a great deal of optimism to believe 6a and 6b could happen, but then I tend to be a pessimist! I really appreciate 6c. I’ve served in both the PCA and the PCUSA and have seen first hand the mistrust and even paranoia with which each side views the other. We really do need to find creative ways to surmount these old left/right liberal/conservative divisions.

    Praying for you all!

  8. Carl Wilton says:

    As a cancer survivor, I’ve learned of the importance of always getting a second opinion. I advise newly-diagnosed patients that, if their doctor bristles at the suggestion of a second opinion, it’s time to find a new doctor. Such a physician, no matter how impressive-looking the diplomas on the wall, has an ego so large that it will eventually impede medical decision-making.

    With that thought in mind, what am I to make of the statement, in the very first item of the “Markers for the Way Forward” document, that the diagnosis of our denomination as “terminally ill” is the sole item described as “non-negotiable”? The claim that the PC(USA) is “dying” because of popular discontent over liberal theology is but one more repetition of The Big Lie the Presbyterian Layman and similar groups have been repeating, ad infinitum, for so long that good people are starting to believe it.

    It is without basis in fact. Yes, we can all come up with anecdotal evidence of some individuals, even some churches, who have defected in place or departed for this reason (many solely on the basis of their having been hammered into submission by the endlessly-repeated Big Lie). Yet, the truth is this: in no way does a real or imagined swing of Presbyterian denominational leadership to the left begin to account for our loss of membership.

    Several independent sociological studies have convincingly demonstrated that larger, societal factors are to account for the gradual loss of members in mainline Protestant churches (and would be true of Roman Catholics as well, were it not for the growing Hispanic population).

    Check out Robert Wuthnow’s “After the Baby Boomers”:
    Wuthnow convincingly demonstrates how massive, well-documented social changes like the declining birthrate, the sharp increase in average age at marriage and the rise of two-paycheck households (with all that’s meant for churches’ volunteer pools and families’ discretionary time) – to name just a few – have had a massive, negative impact on church participation. He also shows how – historically speaking – the post-Second-World-War surge in church participation was a statistical anomaly. In no way was it a Third Great Awakening (even if it were, the tide did go back out after those earlier high-water marks).

    Then, check out Robert Putnam’s and David Campbell’s new book, “American Grace,” and especially the “Trends in Religious Identity” graph from that book, which can be found here:–How-Religion-Divides-and-Unites-Us.aspx
    Putnam and Campbell convincingly show that EVERY religious denomination has been experiencing slow declines in membership – even, in recent years, the more evangelical denominations.

    In short, this is not just a Presbyterian problem. To imply otherwise, or to imagine that “rearranging the deck chairs” in the form of a two-synod structure will help the situation is a colossal act of hubris.

    Still, this is no excuse for complacency. Christ’s Great Commission calls us to redouble our efforts at sharing the good news. The world is as hungry for the gospel as ever. We will accomplish far more to advance this greatest of causes by working together than by splitting apart.

    Friends, our current predicament is much bigger than anything our national church leadership may or may not be doing. To imply, as the tired old Presbyterian Layman refrain puts it, that the denomination is “dying” because it has “gone liberal” is to engage in false prophecy.

    Please, please don’t make the mistake of considering your recent “deathly ill” diagnosis as your one “non-negotiable.” Do the smart thing and get a second opinion. You will be leading many good people astray if you do otherwise.

    • Carl,
      I appreciate your input, and agree that the problems cannot be diagnosed simply as a liberal vs. conservative issue. I am of the opinion that our current denomination structures are not suited to address the cultural changes that you very rightly highlight. The phrase “terminally ill” has struck quite a chord out there, and many have taken offense. Yet the data available to us suggests that our PC(USA) churches are in a spiral of decline, and we can blame large cultural shifts (I think the case has been adequately made for this) or one another but the fact of decline continues to stare us in the face. Changes are needed. I’m not sure that the second opinion you advise is necessary – “terminally ill” fits, though we might well debate the reasons.

      Granted, there are those that will take issue with this. From where I sit, I’m watching churches dying, and I see no evidence of a successful church-planting movement within our denomination (no doubt there are anecdotal exceptions). Oddly, those who take issue with the phrase “terminally ill” seem to suggest that instead we are seeing real health. Really?

      What is being proposed here is a conversation – I don’t know where it leads, though I know already, from having read some of the input, that there will be voices at the table that will be in disagreement with one another about what is necessary, what is central, what is vital, what is true. But it is a conversation that I see as worthwhile because it at least takes as a starting point an acknowledgment that there is a real problem out there facing us. There are some that will call the problem “liberal theology”….I do not…my view is much more grim. Liberal, conservative, progressive, orthodox, neo-orthodox, evangelical or even heretical….if we go by the name Presbyterian, we have all got a problem. Time to get to work on it.

      I’ll be in Minneapolis – I’d love to talk with you about the future of the church!

      Kind Regards,

      Duncan MacLeod

    • Mike Riggins says:

      Mr. Wilton rightly reminds us that cultural change is one pivotal reason for the decline of old-line denominations. What he does not (and cannot) do is account for the rise in non-denominational churches with orthodox theologies. Two of them have sprouted like mushrooms within five miles of the congregation I serve. Both teach and preach in ways the old guard faculty at Princeton in my generation (MDiv ’85) would find biblically defensible. The church of Jesus Christ thrives. The PC(USA) is entering hospice care. God is at work. We can either ride it or fight it.

  9. Kevin Sanford says:

    “In other words, there are rules behind the rules, and a unity which is deeper than uniformity.”

    In his book ‘Miracles’ C.S. Lewis writes in the chapter entitled ‘The Propriety of Miracles’ something that appears analogous to the current situation…

    “When school boys begin to be taught to make Latin verses at school they are very properly forbidden to have what is technically called ‘a spondee in the fifth foot.’ It is a good rule for boys because the normal hexameter does not have a spondee there: if boys were to be allowed to use this abnormal form they would be constantly doing it for convenience and might never get the music of the hexameter into their heads at all. But when the boys come to read Virgil they find that Virgil does the very thing they have been forbidden to do—not very often, but not so very rarely either. In the same way, young people who have just learned how to write English rhyming verse, may be shocked at finding “bad” rhymes (i.e. half-ryhmes) in the great poets. Even in carpentry or car-driving or surgery there are, I expect, “licenses”—abnormal ways of doing things—which the master will use himself both safely and judiciously but which he would think it unwise to teach his pupil.

    Now one often finds that the beginner, who has just mastered the strict formal rules, is over-punctilious and pedantic about them. And the mere critic, who is never going to begin himself, may be more pedantic still. The classical critics were shocked at the “irregularity” or “license” of Shakespeare. A stupid schoolboy might think that the abnormal hexameters in Virgil, or the half-ryhmes in English poets, were due to incompetence. In reality, of course, every one of them is there for a purpose and breaks the superficial regularity of the metre in obedience to a higher and subtler law: just as the irregularities in The Winter’s Tale do not impair, but embody and perfect, the inward unity of the spirit.

    In other words, there are rules behind the rules, and a unity which is deeper than uniformity. A supreme workman will never break by one note or one syllable or one stroke of the brush the living and inward law of the work he is producing. But he will break without scruple any number of those superficial regularities and orthodoxies which little, unimaginative critics mistake for laws. The extent to which one can distinguish a just “license” from a mere botch or failure of unity depends on the extent to which one has grasped the real and inward significance of the work as a whole.”

    At this moment in PC(USA) history are people mature enough to grasp the miracle hidden in plane sight?

  10. Chris Handley says:

    There is a conversation going on globally (outside the bounds of our denomination) that needs to at least be noticed; if not even used as a basis upon which to move forward. I commend the Lausanne movement to you. Out of this movement have come several documents that are guiding evangelicals worldwide. The first document is the Lausanne Covenant written in ’78 and then followed by the Manila Manifesto of ’89 and finally and most recently the Cape Town Commitment written last fall.

    Part I of the Cape Town Commitment recapitulates in a confessional form a statement of orthodox Christianity with a missional bent that comes with commentary that is most helpful. The issues taken up in Part I are the fundamentals/essentials that the Church (reformed and otherwise) must agree upon to move forward. Again most helpful.

    Part II of the Cape Town Commitment is the portion where doctrine meets practice. Part II (Calling the Church of Christ back to humility, integrity and simplicity) addresses most if not all the issues that we are talking about as Presbyterians. Then in particular Part IIE2 addresses the issue that we as a denomination have struggled with the most calling it “disordered sexuality”.

    I think that as we get our confessional life more solidly ordered we will find that connectionalism is much more possible and fruitful. And if we use something like the Capetown Commitment as a means to order our confessional life then we may also bind ourselves to those outside our tradition as well. The overall aim being One Lord One Faith One Baptism.

  11. Scott Castleman says:

    Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results that it gets.

    I am hopeful that a sober assessment concerning our current health (or lack of health), our confused connectionalism, our inefficient structure, our lack of church discipline, and our whinning conversations will produce an energy behind discovering a new way- one not yet discovered.

    Perhaps this is what lies ahead through this latest manifestation of denominational concern.

    Until somehting new actually happens, we can expect more of the same. Because that’s what we are designed for.

  12. I was talking with a friend of mine in my Presbytery today, and we disagree about a good deal of theology, but he was saying that he agrees with 4 out of the 5 main points of the white paper. (yes to the points about power and control, not so much on the orthodox theology…that’s my interpretation at least!) So I wonder if there isn’t a way to structure some collaboration with the Next Church folks into the design of this thing right from the beginning for the purpose of changing the structure of the national body. Even Bruce Reyes-Chow is talking about the need for a reboot. This seems to be a key moment in our history. It’s time to engage. I’m trying to do just that on my blog: and I’d love to see more of us doing that, too.

    Find people on twitter and start talking to them! Or rather, figure out how to use twitter and then find people across the aisle and find some common ground. The only reason the PCUSA is working the way it is is because we’re letting it.

  13. Jim Caraher Jr. says:

    I found the initial letter of the Fellowship pastors to the PCUSA to be an accurate, sober appraisal of the sorry state and dismal future of the PCUSA as it is currently configured. However, the views of most of the commentators appearing here on the website seem trivial by comparison – a lot of dithering over structures and processes, tinkering around the edges, seemingly just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    Does anyone ever reflect on why smart, well-educated, culturally sophisticated folks like Presbyterians keep doing what they’re doing despite 40 years of evidence that it’s not working? Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result and that seems like an apt description of Presbyterian dysfunction. I’d be interested in the views of others on that question. The best answer I’ve been able to come up with is that Presbyterians seem to operate with a mistaken understanding of Christian unity. Of course it’s true that Jesus prayed that all of his followers would be one. But what Jesus meant was that all of his followers should be in absolute unity on what the MISSION is – knowing Christ, making him known in all the earth, serving the poor, challenging sin and injustice in the systems and structures of society in his name. But once we’re in unity on the mission, God expects and even desires that we use a wide array of different theologies, strategies, languages and styles of ministry to accomplish that common mission. What that means, then, is that a vibrant PCUSA and a vibrant EPC or other similar body, each with their own thoughtfully reasoned and passionately communicated message ARE one in Christ in the way God desires.

    That strikes me as a far more credible understanding of Christian unity than the false unity in the PCUSA which muddles along year after year fruitlessly trying to reconcile the unreconcilable. The PCUSA as currently configured has no future for two reasons which should be obvious to everyone: (1) too much time is wasted bickering with each other because there is no longer sufficient theological and moral consensus; (2) when the PCUSA does attempt to address the larger culture, their message is so garbled and contradictory as to be incoherent. As one of the renewal groups recently obeserved so brilliantly, “We have become a hindrance to each other.” In these circumstances, gracious separation is not schismatic. Rather gracious separation advances God-ordained unity by disentangling the unreconcilable from each other so everyone can focus solely on the only unity to which we are called – advancing the cause of Christ in the way the Holy Spirit leads us to accomplish that.

    • Ben Sloan says:

      I certainly understand your frustrations with the PCUSA. For many of us, this is not just an institution but it is our home- where we feel God’s call. Divorce is not to be entered into so easily. Above all it is important to be biblical. I do not see in the Bible, when the church becomes corrupt, say that we head off in another “pure” direction. I DO see things like the parable of the weeds (given by our Lord)- where the weeds are allowed to grow up together til the end times; or the parable of the nets where the fish are separated at the end- not by people but by angels. I do not see God telling Jeremiah or Isaiah or Elijah- “You have 10,000 who haven’t bowed the knee to Baail- so go form your own country of priests.” Instead- there is a remnant theology both in culture AND in church that tries to speak out and up. In His letter to the seven churches Jesus says to the few who have not soiled their clothes- not to go form the New Church Of Sardis.” He tells the remnant in Thyatira not to go out and form a new Thyatira but to “Hold onto what you have until I come.” There are many commands to agree, to seek peace and pursue it in scripture. There are very very few about a “gracious separation.” There is also a wariness among Luther and Calvin (especially speaking against the Anabaptists) about those who would form their own church so quickly. If we want to be biblical in our theology, we should seek to be biblical in our ecclesiology as well.

      • Jim Caraher says:

        Mr. Sloan:

        Your April 13 analysis of the Presbyterian predicament is certainly more Biblically rigorous than my March 29 effort. However you fail to address the practical reality that the PC(USA) with ecclesiology you deem correct is on a 40-year-old trend line which will lead to its eventual extinction. When historians of religion write the epitaph of the PC(USA) fifty years from now, will you be content with their appraisal that although Presbyterians are gone from the religious scene their ecclesiology was Biblically correct?

        Jim Caraher

  14. Steve Trotter says:

    Could you define what you mean by “connectional”? My experience in almost 26 years of ordained ministry is that it means “we’re connected all right; we want your money.” That’s “connected” in my experience.
    So: what do you see that word meaning, in real, every day, I’m-a-pastor-in-a-small-church terms? What’s going to change to make the term something attractive and meaningful? Or, why should I want to be connected, given what that has meant in the past?
    (Of course, if you go back far enough, you’ll find presbyteries functioning like supportive fellowships. If that’s what you’re after, I’m listening. But so far, your documents lack specificity on what you see.)

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