For most of the next two weeks I will be an observer at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). My particular task will be to follow the ups and downs of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church. I have written about this report on a number of Sundays so far. For the next two weeks, the PC (USA) will fill the weekdays of this blog, as well.
Today I want outline what I think are three fundamental starting points in considering the Big Picture of the mainline Presbyterian Church.
1) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) must be a biblical church.
We should read the Bible richly and with some sophistication, but we should never let that sophistication lead us to reject the Bible because it is culturally inconvenient. Some churches rest more on the church's tradition of reasoning about the faith, while other churches depend more on the continuing witness of the Holy Spirit. I think that the whole ecology of the capital-C Church depends on having all of them, in spirited competition with one another. But the Presbyterian Church must aim to act biblically in order to be true to our essence.
2) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) must be a responsible steward of society.
Responsibility is built into our DNA. We do not have the option of sectarian withdrawal from society. We do not even have the option of being just decent ordinary folks, while someone else takes care of social order. The Presbyterian Church, and even more so individual Presbyterians, can't stand aside from the major cultural issues of society. We have to avoid pride as a deadly sin, and avoid hubris as a ridiculous foible. But the Presbyterian Church must aim to act responsibly in order to be true to our essence.
3) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) must be a respectful competitor in a free society.
While we are trying to be responsible biblical stewards of society we know that other churches and other citizens who are not churched at all have an equal right and responsibility to try to shape society. We are competing to convince other free citizens, not to coerce even if we could. The Presbyterian Church must be especially careful in its relation to the civil government, to avoid improperly using or being used by government power. But the Presbyterian Church must aim to act competitively in order to be true to our essence.