This week I have written a few posts about connectionalism and reform in the Presbyterian Church (USA). If I were to summarize the basic idea I’ve been working on, it is this: a kind of relational networking—as opposed to existing forms of regulated and structured Presbyterianism—is emerging as the preferred form of connectionalism among many Presbyterians today. I’m also genuinely curious whether the the PC(USA) as we know it could actually tolerate such a shift in ecclesiology and polity.
I long ago stopped attending church-related conferences to learn something new. In my experience, congregational life is too idiosyncratic for an expert’s well-intended prescriptions to hit the target. I go, instead, for the relationships. If I can meet one new person with whom I make a deep connection, (that, and at least one good sermon idea), I go home satisfied.
I came home from NEXT invigorated. It wasn’t just the relationships, both renewed and forged, though there were many. It was the contagious spirit that NEXT Church imbued. As a pastor, even with a team of wonderfully creative and collaborative colleagues, I sometimes feel as if we labor in isolation, trying to re-invent the wheel on our own, to figure out what it means to faithfully live out the gospel in our ever-changing 21st century landscape by ourselves.
As another example, consider the following article on the recent gathering of the second Mid Councils Commission—”Blood flow: Mid-Council Commission sub-group focuses on relationships rather than denominational structure.” Many of the themes I’ve been pondering this week are reflected here:
- Discontent with current denominational structures but no clear sense of how to fix them.
- A lack of common purpose among denominational entities.
- Mistrust, territorialism, and hierarchy.
- Fatigue, hopelessness, and a lack of energy to find solutions.
I’m glad that this MCC-2 sub-group is working on the relational nature of our connectionalism. Again, I think that this is where the energy is right now. And I believe that this suggests some new directions for a rethinking of American Presbyterianism for today’s post-Christendom context.