Thursday, September 29, 2011

What unique voice do we, as Presbyterians in the Reformed tradition, bring regarding vital ministry in churches and in society?

We have much to offer the church in the 21st century. We value unity among Christians with Christ as the head of the church, understanding that we are all sisters and brothers in Christ, even though we may organize ourselves different and faithfully disagree on matters of understanding and belief. We have a commitment to ecumenical work. We have stated values of celebrating our unity in the context of diversity of all kinds - theological, racial, ethnic, age, sex, disability, and so on, and stated desires to be a church that is reflective of the diversity that God created. We believe in mutual forbearance, that God alone is Lord of the conscience, and that we can find greater unity in spite of our differences in loving and joyful submission to Christ as the true head of the Church.

Our Presbyterian system of government is marked by shared leadership. We understand that each of us is called by God to live out our calling in this world - we each have a vocation. Those who are called to the specific functions of ministry of Word and Sacrament as teaching elders, those who are called as ruling elders or deacons, are no more called than others to ministry in the world, to fulfilling the calling to which we all have been called, to build up the body of Christ. The commitment to shared leadership is very important in the 21st century church (see my answer on question #1).

Theologically, we believe we are all in need of God's mercy and grace, all broken people in need of healing and reconciliation. As we move into new ways of being, we also must be able to confront what we have been and repent ways in which we have participated and continue to participate in the world that deny the peace, unity, and justice that prevail in God's reign. We need to exercise greater humility and repentance for what we have done and what we have left undone, and we can do so empowered by the knowledge of God's grace and forgiveness that is extended to us through Jesus Christ.

Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda  - This classic statement of the Reformed church is often translated as "The Reformed church, always reforming," but it should be translated as "the Reformed church, always being reformed." We believe that God is still at work in the world today, still at work in the church, and that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called to live into new ways of being church. We are always being reformed  by the Holy Spirit. If we truly believe that and can live into that belief, if we can trust the guidance of God to unmask the idolatries that are keeping us from following God's call for our church and our lives, then we will get closer to being the body of Christ in ministry to our changing world and all of the changing contexts because we will be actively discerning how God is calling us to join in God's activity - already at work in the world - to be the church that is needed here and now.

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