Monday, September 11, 2006

“Something happened here”: PGF challenged to move into mission future

“Something happened here”: PGF challenged to move into mission future:
(Presbyterian Outlook, free registration required)
"ATLANTA – Think of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as a lemon-colored rotary phone in a cell-phone world.

Useful in its time. Not working too well now.

That was the image that Vic Pentz, senior pastor of Peachtree Presbyterian church in Atlanta, used to kick off the first-ever gathering of the Presbyterian Global Fellowship ( – an entity that he acknowledged is brand-new, is still taking shape, that no one is exactly sure how to describe.

But more than 800 people from 42 states came to this meeting at Peachtree August 17-19 – ready for something different, wanting to “move beyond the old model of mission, which is simply sending great gobs of money from the West to the rest,” Pentz told the opening night gathering.

So he thunked down the yellow rotary phone on the pulpit – and there it stayed, a visual clue as to what’s not working with the PC(USA). ..."

Leslie Scanlan writes in this week's Presbyterian Outlook of what may prove to be a tectonic shift in how the Presbyterian Church engages the world. It may also prove to be a significant change in how evangelicals within the PC(USA) see themselves. The Presbyterial Global Fellowship, rather than focussing on whether disaffected Presbyterians should stay or leave, is focussing doing what Christ has commanded -- going out into the world, but not in the same way as we have been doing. Scanlon's article highlights four areas in which we need to reflect and consider how we need to change:

  • The PC(USA) is too white – it doesn’t reflect the world’s racial and ethnic diversity.
  • Western Christians – coming generally from affluence – do not truly understand or share in the suffering of people from Latin America, Asia and Africa.
  • Congregations are gung-ho for short-term mission trips, but don’t always consider if there’s enough bang for the buck, or whether those trips steal resources away from supporting long-term missionaries.
  • Connecting with the “global church” isn’t just “Presbyterian-to-Presbyterian.” Christianity around the planet is more complicated than that.
In the same issue, Jack Haberer wrote in his editorial, Working the Details, that this meeting of conservative evangelicals appeared to be shifiting the emphasis from conservative to evangelical, and further that the General Assembly Council is working with PGF and similar groups in finding ways to meet the needs of worldwide mission. The reality of mission giving is that it has been on the rise for many years, yet the funds are not being funnelled through Louisville. Rather the local congregations are determining how these funds are expended. This, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing, but it may not be the most efficient stewardship of our financial resources.

Scanlon's article closes with a quote from our new moderator, Joan Gray:
“I charge you to lead from your knees, I charge you not to be satisfied with what you can do from your human strength. … Remember Jesus’ word: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. Without me, you can do nothing.’ Lead from your knees, and then dream big.”

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