WHAT PRESBYTERIANS BELIEVE
The pieces may be different, but the center holds us fast.
by Jay Lewis | Moderator of Pittsburgh Presbytery
These days, I suppose we could consider Christ our “Network Administrator,” the only One who is permitted to make changes in our lives together. Network administrators are those folks to whom we turn when our computers experience a glitch, when our systems are all confused, and when we just need to “reboot.” The Administrator can fix it all and get us back on track!
Thinking of ministry like a network is nothing new to Presbyterians. Throughout our history, and to this very day, we have been creating networks of churches and hospitals, colleges and seminaries, missions and worship, ordination standards and disaster relief efforts.
In our Historic Principles of Church Government, written by a General Assembly in 1797, we told the world that even though we organize ourselves as distinct sessions, presbyteries, and synods, we are connected. We share responsibilities, rights, and powers.
The only things that have really changed from that early start are the means and methods of communicating, connecting, networking, and staying united. Originally we connected by horseback, then by surface mail, by telegraph, by radio, by telephone, by wireless, and now by keyboards and smartphones. We traveled from the East Coast, to the West Coast, to Korea, to Africa, to all the continents of the earth. First we traveled by train, then by steamer, by air, and now by the press of a key.
Granted, there have been serious breaches in our connections from time to time, but the Presbyterian network is strong, instantaneous, and worldwide.
The rapidly increasing speed of our communications means that changes come to us at a faster and faster pace. The actions of a congregation in one part of the country can almost instantly be known by a congregation on the other side of the continent. Votes at General Assembly are tabulated live and on screen, and we can all know almost instantly about natural disasters. We can even text our donations for our Presbyterian relief efforts from our phones.
Yet in spite of all the changes in our network, we remain rock-solidly founded on certain basic principles. For one thing, we are committed to unity in our diversity, one network with many different parts. Diversity is our greatest strength. But it can also expose our greatest challenge.
If we say we are willing to expand our network, that we are open to worshiping with everyone, we may have to ask Jesus, “Does that mean I have to welcome people like them into my church?” And Christ will whisper, “Well, yes. You do.”
We are committed as well to our freedom of conscience in scriptural interpretation and to our mutual forbearance for the views of others. Isn’t it fascinating in a Bible study to see the many parts of our network and to hear widely different comments about a scriptural passage being bandied about . . . and then to close in prayer to the One in whom we each have come to believe?
Stand at one place in any convention hall where the General Assembly has gathered, and it seems the whole of the church will stop by to say hello. We are friends, brothers, sisters, parents, children, colleagues, sometimes adversaries, speakers, writers, teachers, prophets, evangelists, pastors, officers, elders, deacons, members. In diversity we are unified and connected, because each of us and all of us belong to our Network Administrator—to Christ.
From the July-August 2016 issue of Presbyterians Today
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