What I want from my denomination as a seminary graduation gift

The social media circles I inhabit have been abuzz the last couple of days with conversations about what seminary graduates can and/or should expect from our declining denominations, what church planters can and/or should expect from denominations, and what all that means in light of job-seeking in the midst of an economic downturn while trying to manage seminary debt load.   Whew…  I think that hits most of it.  Oh- much of this is in the context of these church-planting-recent-graduate-types being young-ish.

As a not-so-young soon-to-be seminary graduate looking with some trepidation at the debt load that my education has added to my mortgage and other family and financial obligations, all I can say is, “Come Lord Jesus” (but I’d like to walk in May first, if that’s ok).

Well, that’s not quite true.   I want to say this.

One of the key things that drew me to the Presbyterian way of being church is the polity.  I love that – when we are at our best – we are not congregationalist; we are committed to being in this together.  We believe that we can best discern God’s will together.  We believe that we are best able to engage in the missions of reconciliation and justice when we do so together.  And we believe that accountability to the Body is an important part of belonging to the whole.

This is what chills me in the calls for people to strike out on their own to start new church plants without expecting the support of the denominational structure:  where is the connectionalism in that vision?

If we believe that God is calling us to new things while this structure dies, should we not at the very least push our existing structures to

> validate new and creative expressions of God’s mission and ministry in the world?

> warmly welcome those willing to do this work into presbyteries as full and active members?

> ordain and commission trained leaders to these creative missions and allow them to participate in existing loan  reduction/forgiveness programs?

> help leaders of emerging ministry patterns find mentors or spiritual directors to assure that they are not starving themselves spiritually as they work in a world famished for people willing to share?

Honestly, when I consider the dreams and visions God has given me, they aren’t terribly traditional.  But they always include a connection to a larger (reformed) body.  I take very seriously the portions of our creeds and confessions that rightly remind us that we are part of the church universal and the communion of saints in all their diversity. And I believe we are and will be all the better for being in some pattern of connection when the denominational dust settles.

I’d take that kind of connection over a robe or a set of commentaries any day.

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