March 29,  2018
Rethinking Ministry
by Rev. Dr. G. Herbert Nelson
General Assembly Stated Clerk

Rethinking ministry is difficult. Implementing new ideas and establishing them is even more difficult. We should be acutely aware of this fact of faith as we engage this season of Lent/Easter. Jesus encountered the struggles of the cross while trying to reform the practices of the Jewish temple and community.
In a time when the Church is called to rethink ministry, it appears that in some places we are unwilling to engage the challenges. In each of my ministry calls over the past thirty-two years, contextual change was at the core of my work. In every circumstance, letting go of the old model was the most difficult aspect of engaging transformative change. I contend that our call to reform the PC(USA) in this present time is no less difficult as we are now called to retool our church in significant ways.
I used to hear the words, "If you do the same thing in the same way, you will usually get the same results." Well, if our denominational results are any measure, we have proven this statement to be true.

We must return to "being" the church that Jesus intended us to be. A church focused on liberating those trapped by the winds of despair, while giving hope to those who need to hear a Word from the Lord. If we are honest, each one of us has experienced this need in our lives. This requires hearing God's words anew while following the scriptures that daily call us to ask the question: "What greater love have any man (or woman) than to lay down his/her life for a friend" (Jn. 15:13). This concept is lost in our present need to depend on the empire solution to resolve the PC(USA)'s national church issues.
Comments that I hear in the pews are concerns about membership loss, racism, gun violence, desires for good pastoral leadership, property fights, immigration, aging church leadership, congregational redevelopments, attracting younger members, connecting to justice-centered work, and a host of other concerns that are close to their congregational and faith needs.
It is my view that we are challenged to respond to a new contextual reality. Simply put, the world is not the same. The needs of people have changed. Generational cultures are far different than my years of growing up. Ministry and community needs are continuously in flux. I use the words, "transformative change," because change without transformation could simply be understood as "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." Transformative change requires a significant spiritual investment. It also requires a divestment of self-interest.
It is my prayer that we all will be reminded that the world, and all that is in it, belongs to God. We are called to serve the present age. And, transformative change requires submission to God's will and not our own.
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In this helpful book, Boyung Lee offers an encouraging vision of the mainline church's future. Lee grapples with some of the greatest challenges facing the mainline church, offering compelling responses to recurring questions: What does faithfulness to the gospel look like in this changing world? What is our distinctive voice in the larger society? How does theological education have to change if it is to serve the needs of a new century?
Lee argues that the church's future is a promising one if the church can offer a richer and deeper definition of community-one that moves beyond the excessive individualism of western culture and that helps mainline Christians understand their solidarity with one another and with all of God's people. Lee further explores the crucial role of faith formation at the congregational and seminary levels. More than mere schooling, theological education must engage all aspects of educators' and students' lives to prepare seminarians for the challenges that lie ahead.

Caring for our Family of Faith:
Immigration Concerns

Long-time member of First Presbyterian Church in Metuchen, NJ, Roby Sanger continues to be detained in an ICE detention center. Even though deportation of Indonesian Christians has halted in that region, Roby has been detained for over a month. Read more about his story and the court case regarding Indonesian Christians and then TAKE ACTION: Join the postcard campaign for Roby Sanger's release today!

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The Stated Clerk has signed an interfaith amicus brief filed in the Southern District of NY to defend the protected political speech and religious expression of those speaking in matters of immigration. The Presbyterian News Service story about the brief says, "A group of American religious leaders consisting of priests, rabbis, imams and other clergy, have joined forces to seek a preliminary injunction to stop the deportation of immigrants currently residing in the U.S. The so-called Amici, which include the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and eight Presbyterian pastors, argue that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is trying to silence freedom of speech by targeting immigrants who speak out publicly against U.S. policy on the issue."

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"A rebirth out of spiritual adversity causes us to become new creatures" 
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Lincoln Westminster bids farewell to Andrew McDonald.