Pastor's Note | Saturday, March 15th
There is a story about a ship's captain who was determined to "stay the course" even when the crew sighted a distant light that was directly in their path. The captain ordered that a message be sent: "This is the captain... change your course to avoid a collision." The response was simply: "You need to change your course." The captain became irate and ordered another message be sent declaring: "This is a battleship... change your course!" The reply was simply: "This is a lighthouse... change your course."
I think it's safe to say that most of us prefer to stay the course that our lives are on. This is true for churches for which changes of course - change of any kind - can be difficult, even frightening, because of the unknowns associated with the change.
I am confident that God has directed us to pursue a significant change in our denominational affiliation. Ironically, I see this change of our course as a means for us to actually stay the course. By that I mean our decision to re-affiliate with the Reformed body known as ECO: The Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians - while it represents a change in our course - is actually a means of staying the course of our call to make disciples of Jesus Christ who Connect with God, Grow in faith, and Serve in love. In fact, this change will better support, encourage, and enable us to be faithful to this call. Within ECO we will be better able to stay the course of our calling.
Some of you have wondered where we are in this re-affiliation process. I am glad to say we are nearing the end of a time of rigorous discernment that has involved representatives of our congregation (known as the CRT) and representatives of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos (or PRT). This combined group is the Joint Discernment Team or JDT. The JDT has been working since December to process the reasons Good Shepherd will be better served by being part of a different denomination, what the impact of this change will be on the congregation, how it will impact the Presbytery and PC(USA) as a whole, and how a gracious separation can best be achieved.
I am glad to tell you that the JDT has arrived at a joint solution that includes a request for dismissal and the financial terms of that dismissal. This Joint Solution is what goes to the Presbytery for its action - to approve the request for dismissal with the terms as presented, to amend the request, or to deny the request. Here is the timetable for the steps that are before us:
- April 15th - the Congregational Representation Team presents the Joint Solution to our Session
- April 24th - the Joint Discernment Team presents the Joint Solution to the Presbytery of Los Ranchos. This is known as the "first reading" of the dismissal request
- April 27th - the CRT will present the Joint Solution to the congregation and provide an opportunity for questions
- May 31st (or possibly June 7th) - the Joint Discernment Team presents the Joint Solution for a "second reading" followed by debate and the vote of the Presbytery
- June 1st or 8th - Assuming the Presbytery votes to approve, we will hold a Congregational Meeting to ask for your vote to approve the Joint Solution. In other words, the congregation will be asked to vote to accept the request for dismissal and the terms of that dismissal. Asking to be dismissed from the denomination and to affiliate with ECO is an act of the congregation.
Following all the approvals there will be a period - as long as 90 days but hopefully much shorter - before the Joint Solution is legally adopted, signed, and binding.
We are then able to enact our "change of course" and become fully affiliated with ECO so that we can "stay the course" of our call to make disciples in a denominational context that will better support this endeavor. Yes, at times the waters get choppy and the waves may be crashing over the bow of our ship, but together we will stay the course.
May it be to the glory of God and to the honor of our Lord Jesus.
Would you please pray for some specific things:
- Give thanks to God for the work of the JDT.
- For the Presbytery of Los ranchos to readily approve the Joint Solution.
- For confidence that God is in control, that the risen Lord Jesus is indeed the Head of Good Shepherd, and that we will stay the course our Lord is charting.