Pastor's Note | Monday, August 5th
The Session of Good Shepherd made a very significant decision at its last Stated Meeting on Tuesday, July 30th. That decision was to formally enter into the Denominational Joint Solution Discernment Process with the Presbytery of Los Ranchos in order to disaffiliate with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and be affiliated with a more like-minded and ministry-focused Presbyterian Denomination.
I want to encourage you to read the Session's letter to the Presbytery (it's available on the GSPC web site at http://www.gspc.org/discernment). This is also available in our church library.
First, it means we will enter into a mutual discernment process with representatives from the Presbytery (known as the Joint Solution Process). They will want to understand our rationale for seeking re-affiliation and will help us - challenge us - to be clear about this ourselves.
Second, the Presbytery representatives will also be concerned about the Presbytery's interests concerning the property. NOTE: We will seek to be dismissed with our the church property. However, there may be some kind of financial "buyout" negotiated between our representatives and the Presbytery representatives.
Third, this means that, at the conclusion of this Joint Solution Process (sometime in the Fall) we will have a clear understanding of the terms of our being dismissed from the PC(USA). These terms will include the financial responsibilities we negotiate.
Fourth, following the Joint Solution Process, the Session will ask you, the congregation, to vote to ask the Presbytery of Los Ranchos to dismiss Good Shepherd to a specific Presbyterian Denomination. The Session is evaluating the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO) which are both very viable options for us to affiliate with.
Please bear in mind that no change happens until the congregation votes to ask for dismissal (This may be as early as October or November 2013) and the Presbytery of Los Ranchos votes on our request for dismissal (November 2013).
I want to reiterate two very important things that we are concerned about.
First, being re-affiliated with another Presbyterian denomination is not a "magic cure all" for us. We still face the challenges of a changing culture. We still have the commission to communicate the gospel message.
Second, being re-affiliated with another, more conservative, Presbyterian denomination could present a problem for us. That problem is that could easily become smug about being in a denomination that has the right theology and holds traditional views of marriage, sexuality, and the sanctity of life. The problem is that this smugness can actually become a barrier to our being welcoming to all people and doing a better job of ministering to our community.
As was stated a few weeks ago in this column:
Re-affiliating with another Presbyterian Denomination is not a substitute for us being a community of faith that embodies a deep sense of God's love.
...the denomination is not a substitute nor an excuse for us to not love our neighbor, or to fail to welcome all people into this community of faith.
Being affiliated with a more theologically orthodox Presbyterian denomination carries with it the responsibility to actually live what that theology teaches. And at the heart of our Christian theology is the simple - but demanding - command of Jesus to love the Lord our God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul, and to love our neighbor as our self.
I appreciate the Session's action and ask you to continue to pray for us as we take this step. If you have any questions about this subject please contact me or our other pastors.