Joan Grey, present Moderator of the General Assembly of the PC(USA) is winding down her term and fulfilling her role as Ambassador to the church. She spoke at a recent meeting of the Cherokee Presbytery and opened the floor to questions. My notes are incomplete and may not be direct quotes, but I tried to record the sense of things as I understood it.
What is "Missional", and how is it happening in the PC(USA)?
I'll give you an example. My husband and I showed up at 4th Presbyterian in Boston. It's located in the kind of place that you aren't sure if you want your car parked on the street or not, really a bad part of town. We walked into a Bible study and found a man who looked homeless, very grungy and unkempt. Next to him sat a man in a business suit, and next to him a woman in batik. When we went to worship we saw that this was what the whole congregation was like. They were a true mix of the social strata, and everyone was accepted. I think that's what it means to be missional. For them it means they take anyone who walks in the door.It was a small congregation, about 80 people in worship. The service lasted for 2 hours, but it didn't seem to matter. We were so engaged in worshiping that we didn't notice the time
Missional means being porous to the community, inviting members to bring rheir gifts and use them. It looks different in each context, but I have seen it at its best in small congregations.
Are we going the way of Olde Europe (aging and dying)?
Don't count off "Old Europe" just yet. I sat with thousands of young adults on who attended hours of worship on concrete floors in the Taize community in France.
What we need to remember is that [growing the church] is up to us, if we are faithful. God does not need us. God wants us as partners. If we are not faithful, God will use someone else.
Where are we in terms of restructuring our denomination?
As a matter of process I can tell you that the Form of Government Task-force has done their work. Their proposal goes to the General Assembly this June to be voted on. If it passes it would then be sent to the Presbyteries for approval. After that it would come before the next General Assembly in 2010 to be ratified. So, any changes won't take effect before 2010.
The biggest difference is that it puts more power into the hands of the Presbyteries. I think that's a good idea. One thing my travels have shown is that what works in California may not work in Georgia.
This country has become more and more multicultural. What is happening in PC(USA) congregations?
If any of you have not been to the annual Multicultural Conference, you really should go. It's one of the most exciting things we do in this denomination!
One of the things I think we are learning from in the area of new church development and multicultural relationships is the value of our ethnic fellowships. These fellowships are enlivening their partner congregations. One of the issues, however, is finding appropriately trained leadership for these fellowships.
Over and over the Bible says to show hospitality to the stranger. I know that it is intimidating to some, but the ironic thing is that many immigrant communities contain people who are already Presbyterian.