Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Dropping Like Flies"

As we sink deeper into the reports section of the Assembly, the PCA Foundation report finally broke the tide as hundreds of commissioners left the floor at once and they keep peeling off as the report goes on. It's not that the Foundation is not important, but listening to an explanation of financial services meant to help people manage their charitable giving just isn't that engaging.

We also just got an update that Joni Eareckson Tada has been doing VERY well since her surgery and her doctor gives her a very good prognosis. Praise the Lord!

Hudson's Thoughts

Ruling Elder Dan Hudson noticing that RidgeHaven Retreat and Conference Center, which appears to be sinking fast, has responded by raising the director's salary from $80,000 to $95,000. If I'm not mistaken, he also gets a really nice house to live in for free. To be fair, he makes a lot less than the other committee heads (such as Mission to the World and Mission to North America).

An Assembly Overview

As an overview of this year's assembly, here's what we are dealing with this year. Besides a small mountain of regular business and reports, we have two major issues before the Assembly: the issue of the role of women in diaconal ministry and the PCA Strategic Plan. This year the Assembly elected Harry Reeder, the pastor of one of our largest churches, Briarwood Presbyterian (Birmingham), to be the moderator. So far he has done an admirable job with a humble spirit.

Last year the Assembly declined to erect a study committee to analyze the role of women and diaconal ministry from Scripture and church history. Currently there is a great deal of confusion regarding this issue. While our Book of Church Order restricts women from the ordained offices of Elder and Deacon, stating that according to Scripture these offices are open to men only, this has done little to settle the issue. Some churches are placing women in deacon's meetings as advisers and workers. Others “commission”, but not ordain, “deaconesses”. Redeemer in New York City has taken the bold move of erecting a diaconate where no one is ordained and women serve alongside men. Many have called into the question the pairing the issue of elders and deacons together. Biblical scholars are much more in agreement about women and the office of elder than the office of deacon.

This year several presbyteries have sent overtures to the Assembly to restrict these practices. At least one presbytery (ours) has proposed an overture to keep the status quo and maintain our current diversity of practices. The Strategic Plan, mostly from sociological arguments, supports an openness to women being involved with diaconal ministries.

Last year the Assembly approved a committee (which included many of our committee heads) to come up with a Strategic Plan for our denomination. The growth of our denomination has slowed and we have made precious little inroads outside of our white, Republican, middle class world. Since our country is looking less and less like the PCA, the intention was to come up with a plan to respond to our changing world so that our denomination does not fade into irrelevance.

I have several serious concerns about the Strategic Plan, but I'm going to reserve those for later.

My buddy Tim Keller

Actually, I've never met Tim Keller. But he's about ten feet in front of me and I'm taking his picture like a stalker (please don't tell him). There's his lovely bald cranium, grey jacket and jeans.

Worldliness & Method in the PCA

I'm come to this year's General Assembly with as much consternation as I've ever experienced coming to one of these things. Over the years, I developed a progressively more jaded attitude towards our denomination as a organizational entity. It's a funny thing, as a people bound by a common confession of faith and as churches working for God's kingdom, I love our denomination. As an organization we look impressive, but I'm deeply frustrated and ashamed of what is below the surface.

Don't get me wrong, it's could be so much worse. I can't imagine how Catholics feel about some of the things which lurk below the surface of their waters. I'm grateful that I don't have to apologize to people for child molesters or homosexual clergy.

The problem with the PCA is our core worldliness. I don't think we're that much more worldly than other denominations, we're just better at it. When it comes to emulating the wisdom of the Western business world, we do it better than most others. We're worldly, but we're competent. Our permanent ministry heads are excellent administrators. Other denominations make the mistake of hiring scholars to run their seminaries and missionaries to run their missions boards. We know that you don't have to be an expert in theology to run a seminary. You don't have to be a battle-scarred missionary or a cutting-edge missiologist to run a missions organization. You need to be an effective administrator and fund-raiser. And that's what we makes me embarrassed.

Since the temptation for all of us in the American church is to accept the idols of our own culture, the PCA's method of managing ministry with the tools of the business world resonates with most of our churches. We like the fact that the head of our seminary is good-looking, well-dressed, well-spoken and polished. We'd rather have him than someone who is a gifted theologian but dresses oddly and is a little crusty in his demeanor.

When you start to look underneath the veneer of what we're doing, one of the consequences of this type of ministry is that sophisticated scholars, cutting-edge missiologists and battle-scarred missionaries tend to get forced out when they challenge the decisions of the bureaucrats. I spent a couple of hours with a someone who has been forced out after challenging some things our denomination is doing. Administrators often don't respond well to dissent or boat-rocking. The concern that I have is that the competency, management and institutional survival often seems to have become the de facto goal, rather than the Kingdom building which is always the stated goal.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Riding Mantas?

For all were at VBS last night and heard my illustration related to Romans 6:4, here's a couple of manta ray videos. The first is a guy riding a small one while wearing full SCUBA gear. The second is some manta jumping. For a really wild ride, a person has to grab a big one (they get at least 25 feet wide) and not be wearing the cumbersome SCUBA equipment.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Falker Satherhood!

There once was a Fox Television office where two men both had wives expecting babies. Their co-workers ordered a cake to read: Happy Fatherhood Shaun and Glenn. This is what they got. From Cake Wrecks. Happy Fathers' Day.