The Nature of the Church in the 21st Century — Five Questions for Presbyterians

These five questions were developed by the members of the General Assembly Special Committee on the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century.  We are looking for the ideas of Presbyterians relating to these questions, to assist us in developing resources that will help the Presbyterian Church (USA) move faithfully into the future.  If you are a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and are  interested in answering one or more of the questions in 300-500 words and having it published on ecclesio.com, PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL to submissions@ecclesio.com.  Indicate the question or questions you want to answer and something about yourself — Presbytery, demographic info, church service, etc.

Whether or not you want to write your answer, please do two things:

a)   Think about these questions, and

b)   Pray for the Special Committee as they endeavor to serve the call the church has put on them.

THANKS.

Cynthia Holder Rich, Member, Special Committee on the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century

  1. What is your vision for the church in the 21st century?
  2. What characteristics will draw the great diversity (racial ethnic, age, gender, etc.) of our country into our community of faith in the 21st century?
  3. What do you think are the highest priorities and challenges for the church in the 21st century?
  4. What unique voice do we, as Presbyterians in the Reformed tradition, bring regarding vital ministry in churches and in society?
  5. How do we move the church past division in theology, evangelism and mission to work toward unity in Christ?

2 comments to The Nature of the Church in the 21st Century — Five Questions for Presbyterians

  • 1. What is your vision for the church in the 21st century?

    If the church in the 21st century is ascendant, it will be a church in which the Body of Christ is the manifest image. On the other hand the 21st century could be an age of brutal division in which Christians are more loyal to ethnos or ethos than they are to Christ. The Presbyterian Church could help by learning to transcend politics.

    2. What characteristics will draw the great diversity (racial ethnic, age, gender, etc.) of our country into our community of faith in the 21st century?

    This is an issue of very little importance, because it is already happening. The knee jerk reaction is just let a couple generations die and the problem will be solved. However, I have learned that such optimism is rarely grounded in reality because old hatreds do not die. Nevertheless, the hope of the church is to create a Body of believers whose loyalty to Christ strong enough to motivate them to challenge their childhood beliefs. I think that’s what it means to be born again.

    3. What do you think are the highest priorities and challenges for the church in the 21st century?

    We are speaking here of the Church Universal, and not just the Presbyterian Church. The conflict between the Western and Muslim worlds will tempt Christians to revert to party spirit. Just as the 20th century was hijacked by the false confrontation between Christians and Jews, the 21st could be hijacked by the equally false confrontation between Christians and Muslims. The whole Christian church must confront the great lie of Zionism (i.e. that God is still focused on the geography of Israel rather than the whole of humanity). Only a true revival can do this, because too many Christians continue to confuse Christ, culture, and mere sentimentality.

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

    We were born in the tension between Scripture and Tradition. We must once again find the courage to choose Scripture over Tradition. Such courage will help us discover that the issue of Zionism is vastly more important to the world than the issue of sexuality. We must read the New Testament carefully and clearly to answer the question: which of these questions is worth living and dying for?

    More important than this essentially political question – and the perennial challenge during our times is the capacity of politics to distort and dilute Christian faith – is the deeper faith question: Is Christ Risen and Living Among Us? If He is, we can follow Him to the future. But if we think of Christ as nothing more than an historical figure; it we consider Christ nothing more than a Christian Moses or a Christian Mohammed, we will fail the test of faith.

    5. How do we move the church past division in theology, evangelism and mission to work toward unity in Christ?

    My response to this question is that we are too much focused on the small question of unity within the PCUSA, and too little focused on the real question of unity of the Body of Christ. To Christians around the world, the argument within the PCUSA over sexuality is evidence of our effete irrelevance. It does not matter which side is correct: it is a problem of significance. This issue is not worth fighting about.

    The real challenge for the PCUSA is to recognize that discernment and politics are not the same. We have to change the way we do business. Our polity is shaped on the premise that we rule the world. This is the polity of a state church, but we live in a post-state-church world (we do not, by the way, live in a Post-Christian world). Can we transform our way of dialogue? Can we adopt a new Rule (as in Way of Life)? Or will we grind ourselves into ecclesiastical sawdust? That is the question for the PCUSA. The way we solve this problem will determine our significance in the church of the 21st century, but it won’t make much difference to the overall direction of the 21st century church.

  • [...] faithfully into the future.” Cynthia Holder Reich has made these questions available on ecclisio.com and has asked for emailed submissions for publication on that site. The questions are as [...]