26 February 2008

a conversation on denominational renewal

Today begins "A Conversation on Denominational Renewal," a conference in St. Louis, which runs through Thursday. Though not denominationally sponsored, this event comes from within the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and is directed towards the health and renewal of the PCA.

The conversation is designed to provide a lot of room for discussion and interaction among participants - of which I understand there will be around 250. There will be relatively short presentations (30-45 minutes) on the topics of ecclesial ethos, how we do theology, liturgy and worship, ecclesiology in relation to other church bodies, and mission. Each of these five presentation will be followed by significant time for questions, challenges, dialogue, and further explanation.

A kind of Beta version of the conversation took place last April in Baltimore with around 80 people in attendance, to allow the speakers to try out their talks, hone their ideas, anticipate questions, develop ideas, and so forth. I attended that version and found it very beneficial and a great time of encouragement and fellowship. Of the talks, I was particularly challenges by Jeremy Jones's talk on how we do theology together as confessional Presbyterians, as well as Greg Thompson's talk on ethos.

If the prior conversation was the Beta, the present one in St. Louis is the general release, 1.0 version. I wish I could attend St. Louis, but finances and my class schedule make that impossible. It's too bad since I could use what I hope will be an encouraging and constructive time together among sisters and brothers within the PCA.

While I see many wonderful and positive developments in the PCA on the level of individual parishes and ministries, on the denominational level I'm deeply discouraged. In recent months it seems that every few weeks brings yet another item that looks to me like new nail in the PCA coffin. I'm weary.

At any rate, pray that the conversation goes well and grows into a fruitful moment through which the PCA might come to have a better sense of its identity, its mission and catholicity, and what it might look like to serve faithfully in our present world.