Friday, August 01, 2008

Introducing 1st Friday "Ask the Moderator"

Greetings all and welcome to the introductory post for my contribution to this eclectic and complex group of bloggers here at Presbyterian Bloggers. My role in helping to build this community is to answer a question a month from my perspective as Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Basically, what I'll be doing is taking questions that are posed on this post and try to answer them as best I can.

I Bruce Reyes-Chow, member of the Presbyterian Bloggers team of blogging bloggers do solemnly swear . . .
  • to be transparent and real;
  • to actually answer the question/s asked;
  • to be trenchant and concise;
  • to honor my office as moderator and be excruciatingly fair;
  • to confess mistakes, seek forgiveness and change my ways if need be;
  • to live in between the silliness and importance of all of this;
Please post questions here. If they care time-constrained, I reserve the right to respond on my Moderator Blog, but otherwise, I will only draw from questions that are left here.

This is a pretty exciting time in the life of Presbyterian Bloggers as this seems to be the most complete blogroll of PC(USA) and PC(USA) related bloggers. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of it!

Game on!


Elaine said...

All right, I will start with a simple, easy but useful question.

How do you pronounce your last name? I can spell it, but I've heard it pronounced at least two different ways.

Norman, Oklahoma

Reyes-Chow said...

I think I might able able to take this one on right here. i think most folks get caught up on the "Reyes" part.

ray-ess not rays.

for the whole thing

broose ray-ess-chow ;-)


Elaine said...

Ok, I'll ask another one.

What role should a denomination play in today's world?

Norman, OK

Anonymous said...

Too many of our churches have become "cozy little social clubs with a religious theme!" to quote a pastor friend of mine.

If we don't reverse the decline in membership by teaching our congregations how to win souls, our church will die!

The answer to your question is, then, to start NOW to do what they should have been doing all these years!

eisbare1986 said...

I have read/heard comments from people of influence in the PC(USA) talk about the possibility of the end of the PC(USA) as a denomination. Do you believe this is a real possibility? What, specifically, do you see as your role in preventing this? What are our roles as members of congregations? How can we calm the fears of those who believe we are splitting, and how are we, as a denomination, working to unite?

Sorry that was a long and convoluted question.


Stevie P said...

I am currently working as a Director of Youth Ministries in a large Presbyterian church in Allen Park, Michigan.

I am actually from Northern Ireland and have recently heard my Religious workers Visa for which I have applied for an extension has had it denied.

Apparently the Immigration Services are unsure as to the specific roles and workings of Youth Directors and similar positions.

Any chance of getting a short letter from the top detailing the importance of non-ordained personnel within the church structure and how their work is also a ministry of the church?


Anonymous said...

I'm the new pastor of a small (60+ in worship) church in western NY, and caught between folks who really want "praise" music and those who say they will leave if we don't have more traditional music. Our amazing music director draws 5 teens to choir (20%), and is not a fan of praise music. I hate "me and my Jesus" music myself, but like a lot of New Song stuff. So, Mr. Modern Moderator, any suggestions? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am the Pasotr of an 800+ congregation in NW Indiana. We are devoting an Adult Ed forum to the GA happenings for a later Sunday in September. I will be Co-Leading it with an elder from our church who was a commissioner. What are the tp three actions you think we should be sure and highlight in that presentation?

Munster, Indiana

Anonymous said...

How do you have the time to read much less respond to all the comments, questions, and e-mails from folks

Michael Thurmond said...

Our church in Georgia has experienced probles similar to the question Steve P. raised. We support a Hispanic fellowship and we are having to spend a lot f time and money to jump through imigration hoops to keep our lay leadership here legally. Seems like there aught to be a better way.

Reyes-Chow said...

Micheal and Stevie - Have you all contact Julia Thorne in the Office of the General Assembly. GA has a full time immigration attorney on staff. Surely worth a call. Bruce

Anonymous said...


I'm pastor of a church in southeastern PA -- with a good mix of people from teens who text all the time to 20 somethings who facebook to older folks who wonder what a blog is. Two questions:

1) Any conversation about how to communicate across all those boundaries and, more importantly to me, how to bring them together for conversation? It seems to me that, even with all of your tremendous work, it is mainly younger folks (I know it isn't all people in their 20s and 30s!) who lurk and comment on the blogs.

2) Any self-critical conversation about the downside of blogging, twitter, texting, email, etc? I'd like to see some self-awareness among the blogging and techno world about the importance of geography, the way being face-to-face impacts conversations, the impact anonymity has on what people say in the virtual world, etc.

Thanks for your work.

Michael Wilson
Quarryville, PA

Anonymous said...

This question is still nebulously forming in my head, and will take a bit to articulate...but here goes...

In the last several years, it seems that a spirit of fear has gripped the PC(USA) (and, slightly more arguably, the larger mainline church.) It isn't hard to make a long list of these fears:

1. That our membership will continue to drastically decline
2. That our declining membership will cause us to lose our position of "privilege" or "authority" in culture
3. That political and/or theological differences in our churches will cause congregations and/or entire denominations to schism
4. That said schisms will debilitate our institutions - to the point that pensions, health insurance, and other "employment benefits" will be difficult or impossible to provide
5. That we will fail to open the doors of the gospel wide enough for God's grace
6. That, in our attempt to open those doors, we will fall off into a deep abyss of moral relativism and unrepentant sin


I could go on, but you get the point.

But none of this worrying seems to be the way of the gospel.

The gospel writers seemed to understand very well the debilitating nature of fear. It's probably not an accident that revelation in Scripture is often (if not usually) accompanied by human fear and God's reassurance and insistence on peace.

It seems that the majority of our fears wrap around the survival of a particular denomination, a particular Church, and a particular institution. In light of these fears, we seem to force ourselves into a downward spiral of debilitation.

How do we, as mainline denominations, move past the fearful debilitation and into hope?

What shifts in thinking need to be made?

To quote a minister friend of mine, "I have the utmost confidence that the Church of Jesus Christ is and will be alive and well."

What does it mean for us to be faithful to that hope, while being realistic about the world we find ourselves in?

How can lay and ordained leaders in the mainline denominations, and the PC(USA) specifically, be bringers of that kind of hope rather than purveyors of debilitating fear?

Sarahlynn said...

What a great question, Anonymous! How would you feel about it being a discussion-starting post all by itself? And are you interested in attaching your name to it?

Anonymous said...

I think, from reading the comments, that many are missing the point. The question is not “How do we hold together as a denomination?” but, “In a post denominational age, how does a denomination function?” As one who is no longer young (I turned 50!) but came of age in the shadows of Vietnam and Watergate, I can attest that the ambivalence we hold towards centralized institutions runs deep. In my reading of American history, such ambivalence is most often the norm.

I believe several things are happening at once. In no particular order:
• Presbyteries and congregations are assuming the primary responsibilities for ministry in their community under the banner of “missional.” The central managed ministries paradigm of the past seems increasingly quaint and the pronouncements of GA are often seen as irrelevant to day to day ministries of the local congregation.

• For the last 100 years or so, since the days of the 5 Fundamentals, we have looked to GA to legislate doctrine, heedless of the potential for GA to become increasingly institutionalized. In short, there are winners and losers instead of colleagues placed in their ministries by the hands of a sovereign God. No wonder we view the institutions of the denomination with ambivalence!

• We no longer share a common confessional language. The rhetoric of those calling themselves progressive seems increasingly incoherent to those calling themselves conservative. The amount of energy required to attempt to maintain community and continuity with those whom one views as “other” is cost prohibitive.

This list is not exhaustive, who has time for that? No one is being forced out, if anything the opposite is true. We have presbyteries and congregations that have in effect seceded from the (PCUSA)

The larger question is “Who cares?” Denominations are tools, nothing more or less. They exist to empower and resource ministries at the local level. To the extent that they do that, they are successful. To the extent that they spend their energies on maintaining institutions, they have already failed.

Anonymous said...

Based on the comments, I have a few resources I have found helpful when discerning what God is doing and what God desires of us:

Joseph Myers "Organic Community" and "The Search to Belong". These were helpful for me as I thought about the PCUSA moving from a connections institution to a communion

Alan Roxburgh: "The Sky is Falling" and "The Missional Leader". These were helpful to re-envision who and what leadership is in the church in light of the mission of God and the church as reflected in our Confessions and Chapter 3 of BOO. It also takes the concept of new church planting in into a different light.

Rick Rouse and Craig Van Gelder "A Field Guide for the Missional Congregation". Great for a congregational study. . . heck a judicatory study as well. Read with Chapter 3 of BOO, great officer training curriculum.

Andrew Purves "The Crucifixion of Ministry". What is today's most prevailing form of idolatry? Read the book.

Finally, when thinking about the emerging generations that are now assuming leadership roles, for example our GA Moderator, Robert Wuthnow "After the Baby Boomers: How 20 and 30-somethings are shaping the future of American religion". The study helped me re-think the forms and orders through which the Gospel is communicated.