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New theological resource is timely for engaging issues in current election cycle

‘Covenant Living in a Contractual World,’ completes first series of ‘Theological Conversations’

by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

Wesley Avram, senior pastor, Pinnacle Presbyterian Church, Scottsdale, Arizona; author in the Theological Conversations series. (Photo provided)

Wesley Avram, senior pastor, Pinnacle Presbyterian Church, Scottsdale, Arizona; author in the Theological Conversations series. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – It might seem like there is no civil—let alone Christian—way to talk about the various dynamics at play in American society in the light of the current election cycle.

With the publication of “Covenant Living in a Contractual World”—the latest paper in the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s ‘Theological Conversations’ series—the Rev. Wes Avram offers a way for Presbyterians to talk not only civilly but also theologically around the issues that the ongoing election rhetoric has aroused.

Avram, pastor/head of staff at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church, Scottsdale, Arizona, has written a thoughtful and timely study focusing on the gift of covenant theology for Presbyterians, not only for Presbyterians as a community and as disciples of Christ, but also as a gift that Presbyterians can offer to society at large.

“Wes Avram invites us to ponder a treasure of our Reformed Christian heritage, that of covenant,” says the Rev. Michelle J. Bartel, coordinator of Theological Education and Seminary Relations, who oversees the series. “To help us bear witness to God in society, he asks us to consider the difference between covenant and contract, and how that might affect our faith, our relationships, and our citizenship.”

Launched in 2015 by the Theology, Formation, and Evangelism ministry area, the Theological Conversations series is designed to invite congregational leaders in the PC(USA) into theological conversation wherever they gather as sessions, presbyteries or for adult education in congregations. Each paper is a study resource with accompanying conversation questions.

“The purpose of these conversations is to evoke discussion and that wonderful relationship of mutual teaching and learning that happens when we talk things over, whether those things be recipes, baseball, physics, or theology,” says Bartel. “Growth and delight go together, even when delight is honed by uncomfortable learning about our lives with God and each other. Learning is always important in the life of the church. But no getting around it, right now we are dealing with dramatic shifts in our society. It is vital that we grow together as the people of God.”

Avram, the latest author in the ongoing series, has served as pastor/head of staff at the Pinnacle Presbyterian Church since 2009, having served in similar roles in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and Wilmette, Illinois.  Avram was also the Clement-Meuhl Assistant Professor of Communication at Yale Divinity School and the College Chaplain and Lecturer in Rhetoric and Religion at Bates College (Maine). In addition to numerous articles, he is author of Where the Light Shines Through: Discerning God in Everyday Life (Brazos, 2005) and Anxious About Empire: Theological Reflections on the New Global Realities (Brazos, 2004).

“Even as American society became increasingly diverse over its first two centuries, cultural and political values tended to derive from a core set of themes that were born out of the Reformed theological tradition of social ethics,” says Avram. “As society now becomes more and more secular and more radically pluralistic than it has ever been, general consensus around these themes can’t be assumed. One of the great opportunities we have in the church now is to revisit these themes, to remember what we have historically meant by them, and to recover their meaning for a new day. We can’t assume that others share our assumptions; we have to know our tradition better, adapt for a new day, and work to persuade others while also accepting pluralism with grace. This may be one of the most important theological tasks we have before us as we think about what Reformed believers have to give American culture today.”

In January 2017, Theological Conversations will launch a special series marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Beginning in January, the program will publish one conversation each month from 12 diverse Presbyterian writers—both pastors and scholars—representing different backgrounds, perspectives, ages, and places in the country.

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To download Wes Avram’s paper and future studies in the series, visit the Theological Conversations webpage.

Click here for prayers and other resources for Christian and Citizen/Election Day (Nov. 8).

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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