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September 13, 2007: What Would You Do If You Got It?

The phone keeps ringing about Stated Clerk issues. It is not surprising.

Fortunately the calls have been soliciting opinions about other possible candidates.

In those conversations I have begun to ask the question, "What would you (or he or she) do if elected?" The answers have been something along the lines of insuring constitutional integrity or making sure the Book of Order is not ignored.

Although those are admirable goals, I think we are beyond the stage of looking to the Book of Order as a basis for mutual trust and connection. As I mentioned yesterday, I believe that the denomination's financial situation is the most immediate crisis to be addressed. Unless something changes dramatically, the next Stated Clerk may be presiding over the financial implosion and dis-integration of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

As a completely unresearched, unsubstantiated aside; I cannot help but wonder if the financial trends were a factor in the decisions of Elenor Giddings Ivory and Cliff Kirkpatrick to move on. If I were in their positions, it would have been for me.

If synods and presbyteries begin to close offices for lack of funding, the survival of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be dependent upon the willingness of those remaining to commit to being connected in a new way: missionally.

The next Stated Clerk will need to be a communicator of a missional vision for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She/he must be willing to say, "The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is called to the good news of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord. I believe this to be true; and I believe that it is good news for you, too." This is the Church's calling and needs to be repeated often and boldly.

Trust will not be restored by simply enforcing the current Book of Order. However, it also is true that trust will not be restored without requiring compliance with the Book of Order. For example, at this point, performing a ceremony celebrating a same-sex marriage must be declared to be a "renunciation of jurisdiction." It requires more than a rebuke because it is an intentional disregard and violation trust -- it says, "the Presbyterian Church has no authority over me, I can do what I want." OK, if that is accurate, the Presbyterian Church has the responsibility (on behalf of those who do recognize the church's authority) to say, "You do not speak for us, you have declared you are not a part of us."

It is a "both/and" proposition. Communicate personal and institutional commitment to the mission call of the church AND take steps to establish trust that a yes means yes and a no means no.

That's a tall order.