1.a. Reformed Theology

Presbyterianism as a Way of Life

Some of my colleagues and I intentionally decided to remain silent about certain matters recently. This wasn’t because we lacked opinions or feelings, but rather because we recognized the limitations of our knowledge and language and to listen better to what God, and God’s people, might tell us through that silent but very active prayer. We are aware we aren’t entitled to dictate what people should do, think, or say about some issues.

One such matter is “Reformation Sunday/Reformation Day” Even though Everyday God-talk ministry is under the Office of Theology and Worship, which focuses on our Book of Confessions, Reformed Theology, and Presbyterian Worship (Book of Common Worship, Glory to God Hymnals, Call to Worship, Daily Prayers, etc), our primary interest lies in your thoughts, the words you’d like to share with us, and the actions you would take, especially on this Reformation Sunday. In this spirit, I received a sermon in my inbox that I am happy to share: “Not Christians, Presbyterians.”

The title of this sermon might initially sound exclusive and even shows the nuance of Presbyterian exceptionalism. However, I encourage you to explore the core message of this sermon in the author’s description.

“Being Presbyterian is a way of life. It is made up of the habits of life of Protestant human beings, being people who have something to Pro-test, something to dissent about. Presbyterians and many other Protestants, when we are true to our calling, resist the debasement of Christianity. In this nation, Christianity is often debased into mere outward conformity to outdated White Anglo-Saxon conventions of God, country, family, and celebrations of abundance for the top 10% of income earners under global capitalism while much of the world and a growing majority in America languish in debt and anxiety.”

While I don’t wish to prescribe your thoughts, actions, or words, I would like to express my humble opinion that sermons are opportunities for “appreciative inquiries” and creative dialogues. Questions are always welcome, both to the author and to myself. In my view, the essence of this sermon script, which has been inspiring and encouraging to me, addresses the ongoing questions I’ve grappled with my colleagues about whether Presbyterianism is a static, aging, and inflexible institution or a dynamic, living, and organic movement. This author and my friend, Rev. Dr. Cathey, offer a hopeful message – perhaps Presbyterianism is a “way of life.”

So, how does Presbyterianism distinguish itself from a mere nationalistic, elitist, and white-normative form of Christianity?

Rev. Dr. Cathey suggests that these habits become the essence of Presbyterianism as a way of life, which somewhat resonates with the Spirit of Taoism and Buddhism in East Asia, not as dogmatic doctrines entrenched in rigid institutions devoid of practical application and creative space.

(Habit 1) To be Presbyterian is to embrace education, learning, critical thinking, research, the arts, and human quests for the beauty of holiness.

(Habit 2) To be Presbyterian is to embrace the pluralism of Protestants and of Christianity.

(Habit 3) to be Presbyterian is to testify to God as the power to transform the world into a new reality, a reality that goes beyond the violent, inequitable, wasteful, and climate-disrupting age that has emerged in our modern times.

(Habit 4) To be Presbyterian is to live generously with our time, creativity, and wealth as gifts of God given to bless others so that our lives become the compassionate heart of God in the world.

(Habit 5) To be Presbyterian is to believe in the power and authority of [laypeople’s] Bible study to replace the rule of the church by fathers, bishops, cardinals, and popes.

(Habit 6). To be Presbyterian is to look for the activity of God and participate in it beyond the borders of denomination, nation, and religion.

If you’d like to delve deeper into these ideas,  you can download and read this sermon: Not Christians, Presbyterians, 22 Oct ’23 Word Version, which was shared at the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago.

***Unauthorized distribution or dissemination of this sermon is strictly prohibited. The copyright for this content is held exclusively by Everyday God-talk, Office of Theology and Worship, A Corp, PC(USA). You can access this on our Everyday God-talk blog (https://www.presbyterianmission.org/every-day-god-talk).***