Like the The Presbyterian Outlook, The Witherspoon Society and The Presbyterian Layman before them, I think this may be the final organizational response from the moderatorial candidates. You can download the PDF of all responses [HERE]. My response is below.
The first constitutional question for ordination asks officers to express trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and acknowledge him Lord of all. What does it mean that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord, and why is this doctrine necessary and relevant to the PCUSA this year?
Thanks for asking. To avoid creating any unnecessary misunderstanding let me first set the context for my response.
By now, folks have read something about each candidate and have begun to form impressions about our individual progressive or conservative credentials. Because of some of my responses concerning particular issues, some may place me firmly in the progressive “camp.” I hate to disappoint, but despite what some may think, I am NOT a party-line “liberal” buying into a progressive “platform” that unites some nebulous group of like-minded people. At the same time, I am also clearly not a traditional evangelical conservative.
I believe that I am part of a growing number of people who are perfectly comfortable living in the “in- between” of faith and no longer attach ourselves to the polemics of “one side or the other.” We hold onto faithfully discerned beliefs regarding deep theological issues, while remaining open to the mystery of God that one day, our current understanding of what is “t”ruth and/or essential may shift and change. We do not see this as non-committal or wishy-washy, but rather a more just, faithful and freeing way to be followers of Christ in the world today. This is the freeing mystery of God allows me to passionately seek out and serve my Lord, Jesus Christ.
So with that context setting, while I do believe that God’s grace has room for many beyond my own ability/understanding, knowing that Jesus is Lord of all is foundational to living out my Christian faith. All that I do and all that I am is done in response to being reconciled to God by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For me, Jesus is THE way for humanity to connect with God. As one who has committed his life to Christ and is driven by a current and eternal experience of God’s grace, I am compelled to live with the fullness of Christ at the core of my spiritual and physical life.
While we may live this out differently, I believe this foundational understanding of Christ must be the foundation of our church as lived out in the service of members, clergy, elders, deacons and all who are part of this particular family of God called the PC(USA).
For me this is most embodied by our positive presence in the midst of the struggles of humanity and the world. Jesus shows us how we are to be in the world, and only through him are we given a unique face of God’s yearning and hopes for humanity.
In my own life and ministry I am driven by three understandings of Christ as revealed in scripture.
Jesus as the divine reconciler between God and humanity.
John 6:35 – Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
It is Jesus who prepares the table of the divine bread and cup, connecting us to God in a unique and powerful way that feeds, nourishes and sustains God’s people daily and for eternity.
Jesus as a prophetic presence in the church and in the world.
Luke 5:31-32 – Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus often compels us to afflict the comfortable when partaking in that comfort leads to the furthering of institutional oppression, failings in personal integrity and/or acceptance of cultural relativism. How we each define these things is certainly difficult and is at the center of much of our denominational division. Nevertheless our present-day tensions do not release ANY OF US from our responsibility to be a prophetic presence on the world.
Jesus is a calm presence in the midst of the storms of life.
Mark 4:39 – He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
It is Jesus who draws his people into the storms of life, not simply to overcome them, but to exhibit the calm that Christ offers the world. At some times we do this better than at others, but this posture of ministry is still an imperative of our faith: to respond in peace-filled ways to a world filled with emotional struggle, social anxiety and physical conflict.
Thank you again for posing the question as we each seek the will of God for ourselves, the PC(USA) and the entirety of God’s family. See you in San Jose!