"Turning Toward the
Mission of God:
A Strategy for the Transformation of the
[Moderator's Note: the following - reproduced from the Layman
(and the proposed declaration
associated with it) - is the result of the efforts of a "Visioning
Team" from the Presbyterian
Coalition to envision a renewal of the PC(USA). We post it with a profound
sadness. Its adoption by the PC(USA) at large would, indeed, be a requiem
for the historic Presbyterian church and its dedication to a responsible
progressive theology. We post it also, however, with an equally profound
hope - a hope that it will call all of us to reflection and prayer - and
to a renewal of our own Reformed understanding of what it means to follow
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers
only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22)
As the fellowship of men and women who have been made partakers of the
divine life through our engrafting into Christ by the power of the Spirit,
the church seeks to live out its faith in and through the concrete structures
and activities of her daily life and worship.
As the necessary complement to the Declaration of Faith, we offer the
following strategic proposals for the Coalition's service to the whole church
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the present context it seemed good
to us to lift up six areas of church life (mission, polity, discipline,
theological education, worship, and educational ministries), suggested by
the text of the Declaration of Faith, as fruitful areas for critical reflection,
prayer, and striving as we seek to live out the new life which God has opened
up to us in Jesus Christ.
We anticipate that these six areas of transformation will be the focus
of particular working groups. The role of each group will be to examine
the needs of the church in their area and apply the affirmations of the
Declaration of Faith in setting specific objectives for renewing and building
up the church. They will propose and develop strategies for accomplishing
their own priority objectives within a five year period.
These detailed proposals will be offered up to the wider church for
consideration and implementation. We affirm that this work of renewal will
be carried on in and through the existing structures of the PCUSA whenever
possible. The fruit of our labors are presented here as an offering by the
Coalition for the building up of the whole church of Christ.
The general work of each task force is described in relation to an area
of the Declaration of Faith, and each contains examples of existing problems
and suggestions for action. They represent concerns and ideas which the
Visioning Team discussed and offer as a starting place for discussion as
the task forces begin their work.
We anticipate that the outcome of implementing this plan will be a church
engaged more fully in building up its own body theologically, spiritually,
and morally, and more unified in the practice of Christian discipleship;
where the local congregations are more actively involved in determining
and carrying out the mission of the church;
where the decisions and actions of higher governing bodies more faithfully
reflect the commitments of local congregations;
where church members and their elected leadership at all levels seek
and find forgiveness and a restored life in Christ;
where the structures that are intended to order our life together are
more cost-effective, streamlined, and effective at determining and carrying
out the will of the body; and
where the Triune God is worshipped in spirit and in truth.
Six strategies for Church
The Renewal of Mission
At the center of the church's mission is a burden for the unreached
and a desire to see persons and cultures transformed to the glory of God.
To renew mission, we must confront these frequently encountered obstacles:
A universalist theology that diminishes the urgency of the Gospel message.
A witness which echoes a particular cultural ideology rather than biblical
A limited and biased view of ecumenism which has not allowed us to
be in conversation with other evangelical mission enterprises or the rapidly
expanding third-world mission organizations.
Strategies will engender a missional understanding of the church, foster
local church initiatives in international mission and innovative new church
development, evaluate continuing involvement in COCU, the National Council
of Churches and World Council of Churches, and explore participation in
evangelical ecumenical organizations.
The Renewal of Polity
Presbyterian polity must promote the spiritual
objectives of the church, establishing proper lines of accountability, and
placing decision making and mission in the governing body closest to the
congregation. To renew our polity we must confront these frequently encountered
A centralized control system that impedes the
Issues of financial accountability
Reductions of the Book of Order from a Constitution
to an operations manual Our failure
to be knowledgeable, faithful, and responsible presbyters
Strategies envision the elimination of many offices
that are unwieldy and biblically unfaithful and the implementation of a
long-range plan for recruiting and equipping biblically faithful and effective
leaders at every level of church governance.
The Renewal of Church Discipline
We must be a disciplined community of faith whose
members are accountable to God and to one another for the faithful living
out of the Gospel. To renew church discipline we must confront these frequently
Refusal to live under the authority of the church's
biblical and constitutional standards.
Theological and moral pluralism at the expense of
biblical and constitutional faithfulness.
Distorted grace which confuses moral permissiveness
with biblical compassion.
Pursuit of personal privacy which undermines practices
of self-examination, mutual accountability and encouragement.
Neglect of denominational procedures for the theological
and moral examination of church officers and the disciplining of flagrant
violations of constitutional standards.
Strategies include developing covenant groups
for mutual accountability, ministries to restore persons whose behavior
has estranged them from biblical standards, strengthened examination procedures
and expectations of elected and employed church leaders.
The Renewal of Theological
We must have theological institutions which support
the mission of local congregations in equipping believers to know the scriptures
and think theologically within the Trinitarian faith of the church. To renew
theological education we must confront these frequently encountered obstacles:
Theological education that is captive to ideologies
alien to the church's faith.
Theological education that is primarily responsive
to the interests and agendas of the academy rather than to the mission
of the church.
Seminary graduates who are ill equipped for pastoral
Strategies include channeling support to those
seminaries that promote Trinitarian faith, uphold constitutional standards
and equip students for pastoral ministry. Students and financial support
will be directed away from seminaries that do not affirm these values. A
variety of innovative, alternative approaches to theological education,
including the use of mentoring churches will be explored.
The Renewal of Worship
We must have worship that is Trinitarian, dynamic,
and relevant to its cultural setting. To renew church worship we must confront
these frequently encountered obstacles:
The idolatry of insisting that any one worship
style expresses the Reformed tradition.
Nonbiblical and uncompelling preaching.
Worship services that are manipulated by political
and ideological agendas. A high level
of suspicion of worship that appeals to the heart as well as to the mind.
Failure to teach our children how to worship ...
Strategies include encouraging various styles
of worship that are true to Trinitarian faith, developing training centers,
mentoring churches and worship materials that cross barriers of class, ethnicity,
age and culture.
The Renewal of Educational
We must promote a life-long process of growth
in the knowledge of and obedience to Christ as revealed in Scripture. To
renew educational ministries we must confront these frequently encountered
The loss of the Christian home as the primary
school for faith and life.
Denominational youth and college ministry resources
and programs which our churches cannot trust to be biblically faithful
Congregational youth ministries which have failed
to function as effective instruments for reaching young people outside
The great exodus of college age students from the
life of the church.
Diminishing biblical knowledge and theological reasoning
within our congregations.
The neglect of devotional practices and piety which
are faithful to the Reformed tradition.
Denominational curricula and materials that are inadequate
for teaching biblical faith and frequently defy constitutional standards
Strategies include equipping families for the
spiritual nurture of their children, developing biblically faithful ministries
for youth both inside and outside the church, developing congregationally
based campus ministries that focus on evangelism and nurture, developing
biblically faithful curricula for congregational instruction of young people
in sexual purity and sexuality, and developing Bible study materials for