There are a few traits that make us distinctly Presbyterian…
- Our absolute belief in the sovereignty of God, that it is only God who “creates, redeems, sustains, rules, and transforms all things and all people.” (Book of Order, F1.01)
- Our polity. Did you know that the U.S. government was modeled after Presbyterian governance? While many churches are hierarchical, we practice a representative form of government.
- Our belief that we are subject to continual reformation through the work of the Holy Spirit. We are Reformed and always reforming.
This last one seems especially poignant today. It feels like the Holy Spirit is leading us through a new time of reformation. So, what can we learn from history? First, and most importantly, all reformations are dependent on the Holy Spirit as the originator and the inspiration. We still cling to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration for ongoing reformation. Secondly, we should remember that the reformation that happened in the 15-1600s is not the only reformation that has ever happened. It is one of many reformations within worldwide Christian history and God’s church keeps changing and reforming. Finally, we should remember that the people who started The Protestant Reformation loved their home church (the Catholic church) and only wanted to make it better. They really didn’t intend to start a new thing, they intended to make their existing church more faithful.
As people with egos, we can believe that we are in charge of choosing when the church needs reformation, but that is foolish pride. We are always following God’s lead in creating the church that God wants to see in this world – not the church we want to see. Our Book of Order reminds us that “The Church is to be a community of faith, entrusting itself to God alone, even at the risk of losing its life. The Church is to be a community of hope, rejoicing in the sure and certain knowledge that, in Christ, God is making a new creation. This new creation is a new beginning for human life and for all things. The Church lives in the present on the strength of that promised new creation” (Book of Order, F1.0301). It is our hope that the many changes we are witnessing and crafting together at APC now are part of God’s promised new creation.
Giving birth to a new creation is hard work, and it feels like we are all moaning and in the pangs of giving birth to something new in the midst of this pandemic and the ways it is forcing us to reform our church. The long struggle for equality that is finally part of our mainstream consciousness is challenging the status quo of our primarily white congregation and denomination. It feels like we are all in the pangs of giving life to a new creation that reforms our systems away from racism and towards loving our neighbors better. The Spirit is pushing us into new ways of being and new ways of connecting. It is hard work, but we believe in God’s creative genius at work in the world, so it is also good work. Do not be dismayed or hold too strongly to returning to the way it was. Trust in the promise that God has begun a good work among us and will bring it to completion in God’s good timing.