Presbyterian Perspective on 2011

In the spirit of Advent, where the church year is made new again, I’d like to take some time to reflect on this past year in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I’ll use this post to reflect back on what was, and another later in the month to look forward at what could be.

I invite you to join in this reflection with me.

Think back to a year ago, December — Advent — 2010. Presbytery voting on Amendment 10A and the new Form of Government (FOG) had barely begun. There had been no NEXT conference or Fellowship declaration that the PCUSA is “deathly ill.” The adoption and implementation of what is now G-2.0104 and the new FOG were known, back then, only to the mind of Christ.

Now come back to this very day. What are we to make of all this as Advent begins a new liturgical year for the church?

It’s clear that a chapter in the life of the PCUSA is now closed and another has begun. Of course, we may have different interpretations of what it all means, as well as different feelings and different inclinations about what to do about the events of this year.

In the midst of all this, I hope we can share one Presbyterian perspective on the events of 2011: Our Presbyterian process worked.

For me the most astounding aspect of last year is that every single teaching elder in the PCUSA and an equal number of ruling elders had the opportunity to participate in the choices that were made by both voice and vote on the floor of their presbyteries. There is nothing comparable to this in the other mainline churches that are grappling with the same debates and concerns that we are.

We are called the Presbyterian church for good reason. Bishops have the ultimate authority in some denominations and congregations in others. None of them have quite the communal spirituality we do.

In the PCUSA, the presbyteries have the ultimate authority in the end. And at its best, every presbytery is a prayerful deliberative body of Christians who, together, come to know the mind of God and find ways to be the active body of Christ in the world. Every voice is important in this process. Every word uttered may be inspired by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the church and God’s beloved world.

My friend, Rev. Bebb Stone, once memorably said, “For Presbyterians, our process is our spirituality.” There’s a lot of truth in that and it’s one reason this past year had to touch deeply every Presbyterian heart.

Whether we look back with relief or with apprehension, we can rejoice in this spiritual process: The debates, table conversations, and group gatherings during 2011 brought us together as Presbyterians. And when the final prayer was said at all the presbytery meetings across the PCUSA this past year, I hope we made our way home with our spirits inspired by the way in which we had faithfully tried to serve God with our collective heart, mind, soul and strength.

That’s my perspective looking back on 2011 in the PCUSA. I look forward to hearing yours.


Reverend Janet Edwards

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