An Important Moment for Shenango Presbytery
The 68 churches of Shenango Presbytery are in the midst of highly unusual times in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Not only is the “fidelity and chastity” language likely to be removed soon from the Book of Order, but, everything is changing about denominations across North America. This is a time of deep and profound change and the church landscape of the future will be very different.
- The direct support of missionaries (35 churches of Shenango Presbytery gave $55,000 to specific missionaries in 2010) would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but now it is becoming the norm. The General Assembly has hired staff specifically for the purpose of asking churches and individuals to give designated funds to mission.
- A congregation in a more liberal presbytery in California is asking to be transferred to a more conservative presbytery, by-passing the presbytery in between. This would have been unthinkable a few months ago, but now the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly is involved in these conversations.
- A special General Assembly Commission was appointed last year to help struggling presbyteries and synods, but no one could have predicted what this commission (which acts on its own without General Assembly approval) is considering radical changes that redefine the PC(USA) as a denomination. Read the blog of the moderator of the commission here http://bolsinger.blogs.com/weblog/2011/04/from-the-the-mgb-commission-observation-deck-7-mgbcomm.html You can express your opinions to this General Assembly Commission by clicking here. http://www.shenango.org/PDF/Committees/survey%20on%20presbyteries%20and%20synods.pdf
Our Presbytery Council approved on April 5 a Special Committee to Monitor Denominational Issues. You will find more details here http://www.shenango.org/Committees/scmdi.htm
This is a time to remember the first words spoken on Easter morning by the angel at the tomb: “Do not be afraid.” God is still God and will not abandon us. As Pastor Angel de la Cruz reminded us in his sermon at the recent Presbytery meeting, we should not be surprised when there is suffering. God uses suffering for redemptive purposes. We are joined with Christ in his suffering so that we might be joined with Christ in his resurrection.
This is not an easy time for our churches, so it is important to respond faithfully, not out of fear. The Special Committee to Monitor Denominational Issues will be providing forums for study and conversation in the months ahead. It is vital that each of our 68 churches take this work seriously. Specifically, I want to suggest to you that each session ask their pastor and 1 – 3 elders (depending on the size of your session) to commit to participation in these forums and to being informed on the issues. The first one will follow the Presbytery on May 17 at First Church, Sharon.
This will be difficult and challenging work, but the times demand it. We cannot make any decisions without serious prayer and study of God’s Word in the light of our situation. May God give us the wisdom and grace to respond faithfully to our changing church and world.
David Dawson, Presbytery Executive