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Feb 03, 2012


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I'm uncomfortable with this, at first look. It seems to be bending very far to accommodate the Evangelical Covenant... Although it wouldn't be too difficult to make a strong case theologically for doing so.
My larger problem is that this increases our isolation from those who are different (in any way) from us. Associations of the "like minded" aren't a bad thing in and of themselves. But when they are the only way we associate with others, then we have trouble. Modern society is already too isolated and stratified. There is value in "having" to associate with those who are around you whether you like them or not. I don't think one can make a strong theological case for associations of the like minded.

Michael W. Kruse

It makes me uncomfortable too. But that is always going to be the case with truly adaptive change.

Yes, it is possible that it could lead to more isolated segmentation within the denomination ... but we would all still have a common denominational bond and ways of expressing joint witness. What is the likely alternative: Those who feel a violation of conscience leave to form an isolated community of like-minded people while those who remain in the PCUSA become an isolated community of like-minded people, having lost those who disagree. I don't see this a proposal to further isolation but rather to minimize it.

Also, something to think about. We used to require that people attend the congregation for the geographic parish in which the lived. We haven't seen that as essential for generations. Why are non-geographic congregations okay but non-geographic presbyteries are not?

I applaud the Commission for thinking adaptively. I think its worth an experiment (and in this case it isn't open-ended.) I have no idea if this will work but that is ALWAYS true of any truly adaptive change.


It would be interesting to know what the Episcopal Church's experience with non geographical diocese has been.
As a practical matter I have trouble seeing how this works. What sorts of mission would be enhanced by this move? What now prevents presbyteries from working together around a particular mission effort? If one of the functions of Presbyteries is to nurture and support local congregations, I'm not sure how a non geographical presbytery does this? How often and how do these presbyteries meet? If this doesn't work, do we really expect those congregations to return to their former presbyteries?
I don't expect you to answer these questions! I'm just wondering out loud about how all this might work.

I might "feel" better about this if we called them somethings else- missional alliances or something. So if say congregations from urban areas wanted to work together and support new urban ministry initiatives they could. But the cynic in me says that's not what this is really about, is it?

Michael W. Kruse

Nancy, you're a cynic about people's motives? How Calvinist of you! ;-)

Seriously, I would emphasize again that the proposal is an experiment with a sunset date at which it has to be reconsidered. I think it's worth the experiment.

Yes, I suspect for many this is a way to find relief from the 10A decision and other decisions that may happen soon. I've seen enough of this conversation to know that it goes beyond just that10A considerations. But let's say for a moment that this is the driving force. What should a Presbyterian do if they feel their conscience is violated?

If these people leave, taking property or not, to participate in a new or existing denomination, we say they are schismatic (creating isolated like-minded communities). If they stay but refuse to participate in ways contrary to their conscience, then we say they are violating their ordination vows (and seek appropriate discipline.) If they propose non-geographic presbyteries, with the expressed intent of finding ways to remain connectional, then it is just a cynical ploy.

While I share some of the cynicism you are describing, I also share cynicism about the critics. I get an undertone that says our way or the highway, and good riddance.

If the goal is really to preserve oneness in the midst of disagreement, then I'd like some help from the critics of the Commission's proposal to give us their proposal. The issue to me isn't this idea is so great (I'm not convinced it is) but rather why not experiment?

And let me say I'm not intending this comment directly at you but rather at the ethos that seems to surround much of the conversation going on.


Time will tell, won't it? The more I think about it, the more it seems that we try this and it doesn't work, we're probably not much worse off. And if it does work, we'll have gained quite a bit. If we do give this a try I hope it works.

I actually think that one of our callings as Christians is to model for the rest of the world an inclusive community that can disagree and still be healthy and faithful. This living together in the midst of our disagreements is tough work and not for the faint of heart.

Heaven knows I'm not wise enough to figure this out! I am glad others are trying to find a way forward. I appreciate their effort and faithfulness.

Thanks for the conversation today. I have appreciated it.

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