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1001 New Worshiping Communities, Pittsburgh Seminary team up for ‘Sustaining Grace’

New book explores the dynamic between new faith communities and the denominational system

by Pittsburgh Theological Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative has teamed up with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 1001 New Worshiping Communities to create the book “Sustaining Grace: Innovative Ecosystems for New Faith Communities” (Wipf and Stock, 2020).

“Sustaining Grace” explores the dynamic between new faith communities and denominational systems through the lens of stewardship and sustainability. As a collection, these essays suggest that to facilitate ecologies for innovation in our current era, established congregations and new faith communities must image the sustaining grace of God to one another in creative ways.

Thus, problems of sustainability are not for church planters to solve alone, but rather are related to the theologies of stewardship and the ecclesial system to which they belong. Issues of vision are not for denominational systems to theorize alone but are given shape on their historic foundations in the creative and prophetic structures practiced in new faith communities.

The Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) of the PC(USA), said the book offers “a prophetic word in the midst of crisis and protest when established churches are being forced to confront foundational questions about who they are as followers of Jesus Christ in the world.“

Early in the book, Kohlmann said she found one phrase particularly helpful for congregations addressing foundational questions: “Perhaps the sudden vulnerability experienced by mainline and evangelical churches carry with it the prophetic and disruptive word of God.”

“If you’re curious about how the ‘prophetic and disruptive word of God’ may be at work in new worshiping communities and emerging congregations, this book is for you,” Kohlmann said.

the Rev. Michael Gehrling

“Sustaining Grace” speaks to a central tension in the growing movement of church planting —the mutual need for and the mutual frustration between establishment leaders and innovators, conservators and risk takers.

The editors—the  Rev. Michael GehrlingDr. Scott Hagley, and the Rev. Karen Rohrer — engage the question of faithful stewardship with voices reflecting and strategizing on each side of the tension, broadening the conversation to include those beyond the PC(USA). By bringing voices from both the academy and practitioners from church judicatories, church plants and traditional church communities, the book offers a theologically grounded, practical and generative conversation.

Dr. Scott Hagley

Sustaining Grace” is available wherever books are sold.

Gehrling is director of assessments and Northeast associate for 1001 New Worshiping Communities and is a graduate of Pittsburgh Seminary. Prior to his role, he was an organizing co-pastor of the Upper Room, a new worshiping community in Pittsburgh.

Hagley is associate professor of missiology at Pittsburgh Seminary and the author of “Eat What is Set Before You: A Missiology of the Congregation in Context” (2019).

the Rev. Karen Rohrer

Rohrer is the director of the Church Planting Initiative at Pittsburgh Seminary. Before coming to Pittsburgh, she was an organizing co-pastor at Beacon, a new worshiping community in Philadelphia.


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