March 3,  2018

ONCE UPON A TIME, presbyteries were small and intimate. Travel to meetings was not a burden. Staff consisted of a stated clerk and maybe a secretary. Many were part-time. Some of you may remember when Homestead Presbytery was created out of four presbyteries.
            WHY? Why was it a "good idea" to make presbyteries so large? It was done at a time when many program ministries were devolving from General Assembly and Synod (which was the major program body) to presbyteries. It was thought that in order for a presbytery to do all that was being required, about 20,000 members would be needed. Of course, that was never possible for most of the Church. But the move was attempted anyway.
            Now, pastors bemoan that after years in the presbytery, they still have never met other pastors who also have been here for years, but serve across the vast presbytery. The presbytery leader (Executive) is often unknown in the pews simply because of distance for visits.
            Can we return to the days of smaller presbyteries? Technically yes. It is possible to form smaller presbyteries and to have a smaller synod to do the programming. It won't happen nationwide. It is possible for presbyteries to reform with permission of Synod and General Assembly on a regional by region basis. Practically speaking, this would be difficult or impossible. The mindset is still "bigger is better". There is also a strong bias against synods in much of the denomination. Repeated attempts over recent years to abolish synods have been strong at General Assemblies. Making more synods doesn't make sense to many.
            Another option is to create pseudo-presbyteries. Our new
Book of Order encourages creativity with its flexible foundation. In Homestead, three or four regional commissions could be created and given all the authority of the presbytery. The commissioners would act as pseudo-presbyteries. They could welcome new ministers into their area; set their own meeting schedule and places; help congregations/pastors; nurture candidates; review minutes; essentially BE the presbytery for their congregations and ministers. These commissions would be small enough to live out the connectional nature of the denomination that has been lost by the enlarged presbytery structure. Each commission would have a volunteer Associate Presbytery Stated Clerk who would serve as the pseudo-clerk for the commission. The commissions would report their minutes to the Homestead Presbytery which would meet twice each year. The Homestead Presbytery would remain the major program entity for the region. However, the presbytery staff could be reduced to one Stated Clerk/Executive which may be part-time, and one office secretary.
            Food for Thought. Would this be an improvement? Keep Thinking!

Explore Good Reads 

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With many pastors facing burnout and congregations suffering from internal divisions, there is a need for Christian resources that present concrete problem-solving techniques for handling conflict in the church. This book offers practical skills and strategies that the authors have learned through years of studying nonviolent communication (NVC) as described in Marshall Rosenberg's book, 
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life , and as developed by numerous NVC trainers all over the world. Using real-world case studies and examples, Hunsinger and Latini helpfully guide pastors and lay leaders through effective and compassionate ways to deal with discord.

 Lincoln Heritage Presbyterian to Host Presbyterian Writer

Dr. Mark Achtemeier is a Presbyterian writer, minister and theologian. After beginning his ministry as a conservative Christian activist who fought again LGBT inclusion, he experienced a change of heart that has led to his playing a prominent role in recent years in helping the Presbyterian Church (USA) become more open and accepting toward LGBT Christians. Mark will share some of the story of his transformation when he joins us on March 17 th .

Mark's story is presented in more detail in his 2014 book, titled "The Bible's Yes to Same-Sex Marriage," which tells the uncommon story of how a pastor with a high regard for the authority of Scripture could come to believe, through years of careful study, that traditionally negative Christian attitudes toward homosexuality are the result of long-standing misinterpretations of the Bible. Even more striking, he now believes that a persuasive biblical case can be made to support same-sex marriage. Copies of his book will be available for purchase at the event.

In addition to his work on sexuality issues, Mark has traveled widely as a conference speaker, he has served as an official representative of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in both ecumenical and interfaith dialogues. Mark taught theology and ethics for fifteen years at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary and has served pastorates in Virginia, North Carolina and Iowa. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mark holds degrees from Harvard College, Union Presbyterian Seminary and Duke University. He currently resides in Dubuque with his wife Kat, also a Presbyterian minister, and together they have three grown children and three grandchildren, with an additional grandchild on the way in July.

Keep Thinking...

"Resisting change just for the sake of keeping things the same can be unhealthy for a church."

-S. Piper

Pictures from the Presbytery

Fourth Presbyterian in Lincoln, celebrated Ash Wednesday with a Chili Cook-Off.