Monday, December 15, 2008

Pentz and the Presbyterian Establishment

The Witherspoon Society has posted a response to my essay on Rebuilding the Presbyterian Establishment from Rev. Vic Pentz, pastor of Peachtree Presbyterian Church. Peachtree is the largest congregation in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Pentz had, it appears, been asked to sign a petition critical of the idea of rebuilding an establishment. He declined to sign. Witherspoon draws the conclusion that Pentz, and by extension other large-church pastors, "has more important things to do" than be part of an establishment.

I believe that is the wrong conclusion to draw from Pentz' response. Here is what he wrote in response to the anti-establishment petition:
"I am pretty confident that I speak for many other large church pastors in saying that when it comes to deciding whether to commit time and energy to the pressing concerns and sheer joys of ministry, or to fight for the reins of the PCUSA, there is no contest.

Everyone can relax.

We’re out in the world with our congregations joining God in the work of the Kingdom."

Vic Pentz does not say that the Presbyterian Church does not need an establishment. He does not say that he does not want to be part of the church's establishment. He does not say that pastors and elders of the denomination's leading congregations have no concern with leading the church's work.

That is why Vic Pentz helped found the Presbyterian Global Fellowship, an organization of tall steeple churches doing part of the job of the denomination. PGF is based in Peachtree Presbyterian Church.

Vic Pentz says he doesn't have time to fight for the reins of the PCUSA. He and churches like his are already doing the work that the PCUSA should be doing. If the existing power structure of the PC(USA) supported rebuilding an establishment of authoritative leaders (authoritative, not authoritarian), then Pentz and other dynamic Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders wouldn't have to fight to run help run the denomination -- they would be asked to.


Quotidian Grace said...

Amen and amen, Beau.

This is exactly the position that the past or of my "tall steeple church" Dave Peterson (Memorial Drive PC, Houston) takes.

You know you are truly speaking truth to power when their response is as quick, defensive, and reflexive as what you got from the Witherspoon Society.

Thanks for raising some essential questions and taking the flack for it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he was just saying nicely that it wasn't worth his time to fight with people who are clueless!

Alan said...

I find it interesting how quickly people conclude that, because they receive a negative response from someone, that someone must be part of the "Establishment."

You don't, in fact, know you're right just because someone objects to your argument. All you know is that they disagree with you. Sometimes when people think you're wrong, it's actually because you're wrong. Shocking, I know.

I can't think of a way that I am part of the dreaded evil Galactic Empire ... er ... Establishment. And yet I think most of the essay is completely wrong for any number of reasons. I guess, contrary to any actual evidence (since apparently evidence is no longer necessary to make an argument) that automatically makes me part of the Establishment.

Nav said...

I took Pentz' comment to mean he isn't fighting for control of the PCUSA. Maybe I read it that way because I had heard some folks expressing the opinion that the tall steeple folks were behind Beau's work, so maybe Pentz had heard the same and wanted folks to know he isn't at work trying to gain control of the PCUSA.

Alex said...


Perhaps if the PC(USA) got rid of its "affirmative action" policies o the 60s era, the "tall steeple pastors" would feel more welcome to serve as part of the leadership of the denomination. But my question is: Why would a tall steeple pastor like Vic Pentz WANT to serve as a leader in the denomination on the national level? Churches like Peachtree Pres, quite frankly, don't need the structures/organization that the PCUSA provides, because they already have the available personnel, money, resources, capital etc to do their own programming exactly the way they want to without help from the Presbytery/Synod/GA.

Presbyman said...

I understood Beau Weston as identifying the "Establishment" not as anyone who disagreed with his thesis, but pointing to a group of left-of-center academics as a part of the Establishment. If Cliff Kirkpatrick isn't part of the PC(USA) Establishment, who is??

And I say this as someone who questions Dr. Weston's thesis.