What I Love About the Fellowship of Presbyterians

For you non-Presbyterians out there, the Fellowship of Presbyterians is a community created in 2011 of Presbyterians who have ongoing concerns about the theology and vision of our denomination – the Presbyterian Church USA.   Some FOP churches have left the PCUSA to form a new reformed denomination called the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.  Some will perhaps leave in the future.  And others plan to stay in the PCUSA but self-identify as part of this special community.

I attended the first gathering of the Fellowship of Presbyterians last August, and I continue to meet with friends who are active in the FOP.  Some are discerning the future of their congregations in light of the recent actions of the 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh earlier this month.  For example, the issue of changing the constitutional definition of marriage from being between “one man and one woman” to between “two people” was introduced for the first time.  The overture failed, but it was so close ( 58% against, 42% for) that it seems to be just a matter of time until such a change comes.  The youngest  delegates, who were merely “advising” the commissioners overwhelmingly passed the changed definition.  82% of the Theological Student Delegates approved the change and 75% of the Young Adult Delegates approved.

Many Fellowship of Presbyterian congregations will take action accordingly.

I once asked a friend who is an FOP member if I could sign the covenant and join because, honestly, the Stated Values move and inspire me.  They are:

  • A Jesus-Shaped Identify (love that),
  • Biblical Integrity (absolutely),
  • Thoughtful Theology (yes, yes, yes),
  • Accountable Community (totally on board with this),
  • Egalitarian Ministry (God calls women, men, and all ethnic groups),
  • Missional Centrality (a must-have),
  • Center-focused Spirituality (definitely – our core beliefs must be clear and articulated)
  • Leadership Velocity (excellent term; I crave leadership that’s risk-taking, innovative, and organic)
  • Kingdom Vitality (yes, the Reign of God starts here and now.)

These values capture everything I long for in the institutional church.  Well, almost everything.

My friend told me that I could not sign up to join the FOP because I also believe that:

  • An identity shaped by Jesus involves doing what Jesus did: include people on the boundaries.
  • Biblical integrity includes admitting that none of us actually takes the Bible literally.  We pick and choose which passages we like (Leviticus 18:22) and which we write off as culturally dated (Leviticus 18:19.)  The Bible is infallible in that it always and eternally points to the truth.  But we haven’t learned everything about the culture in which the scripture was written and we are working with ancient languages, scrolls, and codices. And God is still speaking as we interpret Holy Scripture.
  • Thoughtful theology involves grappling with difficult matters recognizing that none of us has cornered the market on Truth.
  • Accountability is key, but we won’t take this accountability seriously unless we trust each other.  I expect my colleagues to call me on things.  I am also committed to call them on their behavior as well.  And I am really tired of sexual misconduct.
  • Egalitarian ministry is about unleashing the gifts God has given to all  people, not just the ones who make us comfortable.  A sovereign God gets to call whomever God wishes to call.  And I believe that sometimes God calls GLBTQ people to high levels of service.
  • To be a missional church, we need to address what’s breaking God’s heart in our neighborhoods and beyond.  I believe it breaks God’s heart that we live in a world where GLBTQ kids – or any kids – want to hurt themselves, often because people have told them they are not loved by their Creator.
  • The most central core of our faith involves the grace of God through Jesus Christ and grace abounds for all of us, in spite of our mutual depravity.
  • Again, I love this term “leadership velocity” and God deserves our best in leadership.  Not to repeat myself, but some of the most excellent and Spirit-filled leaders I know in the church happen to be gay.
  • We glimpse the Kingdom when we can be the church even with those with whom we disagree.

Thirteen congregations left the PCUSA for the ECO on a single weekend in June and others will also leave.  These churches need to do what they need to do.  But they are still my sisters and brothers in Christ, and we agree that the church really, really needs Leadership Velocity, and more.  We just disagree on who those leaders might be.  (And more.)


8 responses to “What I Love About the Fellowship of Presbyterians

  1. The Rev. Eric O. Ledermann

    Beautiful piece! Thank you!

  2. Well said. Thank you. I too am interested in the Fellowship, though I would also fail the litmus test for orthodoxy, based on your blog. Basically, I agree with you completely. What troubles me is that Presbyterians seem to have lost the ability to talk to each other about scripture, and so limit scripture’s ability to enlighten all of us. We have lost the humility that taught us that only when read in community can we hope to interpret scripture correctly, and then, perhaps only by accident. It is nevertheless our prayer that the Holy Spirit will inform us as we vote on how our denomination will discern scripture’s call. To isolate ourselves with like minded folks might isolate us from the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Jeff Tindall

  3. What I love about the group is that they have renamed themselves again. It’s now “ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.”

  4. Beautifully said, Jan!

  5. Terry Hamilton-Poore

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece!

  6. Just stumbled across your blog because of this post and needing some answers about the FOP. Thank you. And thank you for everything else, too, as I’ve been going through other posts and loving them all.

  7. It’s a shame seeing the PCUSA splinter into so many different churches now. In a few years the PCUSA will be no more. The leaders of the PCUSA need to look back over the last 50 years and seriously think about where the Presb Church went wrong with loosing 4 million members, most of those left to evangelical/non denominational churches.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.