Category Archives: PC(USA)

News from PC(USA) – 3/1/17

Presbyterian Ministry at the UN prepares for Commission on the Status of Women
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Sixty-first annual gathering opens March 13

WJK launches first book in its new children’s program
Presbyterian Publishing Corporation release
‘Who Counts?’ pairs two Jewish writers for a unique retelling of Jesus parables

Ash Wednesday Facebook Live event introduces the season of Lent
Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service
Charles Wiley to reflect on Lenten spiritual practices

Martha H. Reisner Named Church Consultant in Mid-Atlantic Region
Susan Reimann | PC(USA) Board of Pensions
She is among 10 Church Consultants on the Church Relations team

‘Hidden Figures’ heroine, Katherine Johnson, honored at Oscars
Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
Longtime Presbyterian’s real life story continues to inspire

Enriching the life of the church through global music and theological education
Pat Cole | Mission Crossroads Magazine
Melva Costen exudes a faith that crosses borders through the sharing of songs and the shaping of pastors

Service remembers Wyatt Outlaw, victim of 1870 lynching in N.C.
Nancy McLaughlin | Reprinted with permission from the Greensboro News & Record
Salem Presbytery leads community commemoration

Self-Development of People National Committee member seeks to educate a new generation
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
John Etheredge, SDOP Trailblazer

Six Agency Review Committee concludes its first meeting
Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
Group looks for clarification from Stated Clerk as it moves ahead

Presbyterians for Earth Care issues call to action on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Group calls for boycott of companies connected with DAPL

Finding spiritual values in Oscar’s ‘Best Pictures’
Edward McNulty | Special to Presbyterian News Service
Nine nominees portray a range of beliefs and principles

Ryan Smith takes leadership role with Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations’
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Background in diplomacy and international relations serves church well in U.N. community

Our ‘Hidden Figures’
Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Women paved the way to establish the modern day Presbyterian World Mission

Running the race on a ‘stony road’
Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service
A Presbyterian Center celebration of Black History Month

Fellowship Community National Gathering opens with charge to ‘live on mission’
Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service
Speaker asserts discipleship cannot be sustained abstractly, but ‘where God places us’

Innovative pastoral preparation in Zambia
Patrick Cole | Presbyterian News Service
Mission co-worker teaches sustainable agricultural at Chasefu seminary

The give-and-take of Lent

Preparing our hearts for resurrection

Editors | Presbyterians Today

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Presbyterians Today.

A Q & A with Michelle Bartel – Coordinator of Theological Education and Seminary Relations for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

We use the season of Lent to prepare our hearts and minds for the mystery of the resurrection. But we all do that differently. Some churches place ashes on the foreheads of worshipers on Ash Wednesday; others don’t. Some “lock up” their “Alleluias” until Easter morning, others host a weekly fish fry, and still others hold special midweek justice or outreach programs. We decided to ask one of our theologians about the meaning and practices of Lent.

Kristin Schmor Rice imposes ashes upon Morgan Harbst at First Presbyterian Church of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Presbyterians celebrate Lent in a variety of ways, sometimes borrowing traditions from other denominations as part of their rituals. (Photo courtesy First Presbyterian Church of La Crosse)

PT: What is Lent?
MB: Lent is a Christian season of practice, celebrated by some Christians though not all. It’s not a prescription for holiness, but an invitation to relationship. Lent has its roots in the very early church, with some of those roots in preparation for baptism. During Lent the Scriptures remind us of God’s expectations for Israel, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and his journey to the cross.

Lent is still a mystery to me. I wasn’t raised Presbyterian, and didn’t become one until I was 16. Plus, I grew up as a nondenominational evangelical Christian and lived in a rural area with a large Catholic population. This meant the most popular Lenten practice was the local fish fry.

Since many Catholics traditionally give up meat on Fridays during Lent, they eat fish—and invite the community to join them. The practice has spread to Protestant churches as well. For some areas, Google even has a fish fry map that features local gatherings.

But the fish fry isn’t just about giving up meat. It’s also about taking on the practice of being in community as people gather over a meal.

PT: Why do we celebrate/observe Lent?
MB: Lent is a time for us to focus on Jesus and our Christian discipleship. What does it mean to follow the One who lived, died and rose from the dead for our salvation?

Lent is a chance for us to practice, every year, focusing on God in Christ. We remember God as immersed in earthly life with our earthly practices.

One of the most common Lenten practices is fasting. This can mean giving up certain foods or habits like expensive coffee or cigarettes and donating the money to helping others. One of the questions we must ask is: Are we practicing the fast God calls for? Is it a fast that reminds us to love God and love neighbors as ourselves? Are we focused on God’s work and Jesus’ ministry to the poor, vulnerable, oppressed, sick and lonely? Are we practicing love, kindness, justice and mercy?

By fasting, we practice denying the self not just for the heck of it or to drop 10 pounds, but for the purpose of shifting our attention to Jesus. It’s a question of vision, of focus. Are our hearts curved in upon themselves, or are our hearts open to God?

But Lent is not just about fasting, or giving up something. It can be about taking or adding something. For some, Lent can be a time of adopting a new practice. This can mean engaging in walking prayer, Bible study or some other active habit that trains us in a certain direction and focuses us on Christ.

PT: How many days is it, anyway?
MB: Lent is 40 days long, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday. But if you count the days on the calendar, that’s more than 40. That’s because Sundays are excluded. They’re considered “mini-Easters,” since they’re the day of resurrection. So, no fasting on Sundays!

PT: Is Lent biblical?
MB: As with many Christian practices, the fruitful question to ask is: Is it biblically based? Is “Lent” in Scripture as a word or as a church practice? No. But it is biblically based. Our call to justice and mercy runs throughout the Old and New Testaments, as does the practice of fasting. Jesus teaches what he learned, that to love God is to love neighbor.

The give-and-take of Lent:
Lenten practices can be about giving things up or taking things on. In either case, the point is to draw closer to God as Jesus draws nearer to the cross.
Giving up
-Certain foods
-Habits
-Gossip
-Television
-Social media
-Swearing
Taking on
-Community building
-Daily Bible reading
-Prayer
-Serving others
-Delighting in God’s gifts
-Appreciating creation

PT: Should everyone observe Lent in the same way?
MB: Actually, I don’t think “should” is the right word. We are called to do what we do together as a people, a community, a congregation, so we practice Lent together. But even though we practice it together, we do so as individuals. Each person in the group may not be called to do the exact same thing.

For example, someone like a busy mom, who is always giving of themselves for others, might be called to revel in the gifts God has given them, rather than give up even more. Another person who depends on the service of others may be called to reverse that role through the Lenten season.

PT: Some people give up chocolate or other things. Why?
MB: To be a disciple requires discipline. Discipline is intended to help us practice how to follow a teacher or a teaching. How do we change our habits? By practice. The practice is not learning how to give up chocolate. Instead, giving up chocolate can help us practice channeling our energy and actions toward and for God.

I am known for my chocolate habit. So, for me, it might be a good practice to give up chocolate for myself, but to keep it with me for others. That way, I would practice loving my neighbors, as Jesus taught me to do.

That may seem trivial. But if one is really committed to it—thinks about it daily, prays about it daily—is it trivial? Or does it help us to open our hearts to God by opening them to others? Some of the most spiritually significant moments in our lives are mundane.

What if, for Lent, you took up the practice of five minutes of looking at the sunrise in the morning, and sunset in the evening? Considered the way in which God takes you from morning to evening and morning again? It can be easier to remember God’s presence with us in the golden-pink colors of sunrise and sunset. That’s a gift. It’s also a gift from God that the sun is rising and setting even when we can’t see it because it is blocked by clouds, snow or fog.

We give things up or take on practices because we need to learn again and again that we live and move and breathe and have our being in God.

PT: One account told about people who drink nothing but beer during Lent. Why?
MB: There are records of monks fasting during Lent, giving up all food. To sustain them—in the times of unhealthy water—they would drink beer, or liquid bread. Beer had nutrients, including carbohydrates, needed for survival. Honestly, this is not a fast I would attempt these days without supervision from a health professional.

Of course, if you are going to seriously fast from food or water for 40 days of Lent, I strongly encourage you to share that plan with a health professional you trust.

PT: Should we eat less chocolate or drink more beer? What’s a good Presbyterian to do?
MB: The fruitful question to ask is: What am I called to do during Lent, as a faithful Christian? Being a “good Presbyterian” will tend to focus our energies on fitting a measure that doesn’t keep us focused on God. That’s a temptation for us: Who decides what a good Presbyterian is?

But as Presbyterians we are called to dwell in Scripture, to be immersed in it. To let the words, poetry, images, commands, stories and hymns seep into our hearts and imaginations. During Lent, Presbyterians can deepen their Presbyterian spirituality and Christian discipleship by sitting with Scripture so that we intensify our efforts to focus on the living God in Christ, to whom Christians bear witness.

My suggestion for a Lenten practice is to sit with Scripture every day. Open your minds and hearts to God, so that Jesus himself can teach you what it means to be his disciple. It may be that giving something up or taking up a new practice would help that focus.

And, in any case, keep one another in prayer. The season of Lent draws us to focus on Jesus Christ. who was born, lived and was crucified—and then raised from the dead—for us and for our salvation.

Link to the original article on the Presbyterian Mission Agency website, here.


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New resource helps youth observe the season of Lent

‘Pray, Fast, Love,’ available as a free download in English and Spanish

by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – Just as youth workers, educators, pastors and other church leaders who work with youth have started to ask themselves how they might introduce young people to a more informed and active observance of the season of Lent—which begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1—Ministries with Youth has a new resource at the ready.

Lent: Pray, Fast, Love, written by Brittany Harrold Porch, director of Mission and Education at Broad Street Presbyterian Church, Columbus Ohio, is the latest Quicksheet published by the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Ministries with Youth, the national ministry office that serves youth pastors and other staff members who are nurturing young Presbyterians.

Quicksheets are simple, singular, ideas and articles focused on the essentials of youth ministry written by veteran educators, youth workers and ministry professionals. All of the Quicksheets—including the newest one for Lent—are available at no cost on the Ministries with Youth website.

Pray, Fast, Love, which is available in both English and Spanish, includes very practical ideas for helping youth explore the season of Lent, the theological impact of “taking on” something in order to more deeply encounter God, and to understand the connections between Jesus’ life and death and the life and mission of today’s disciples. Suggestions include a modern take on the “Stations of the Cross,” a “thing” fast—defined in the resource as “letting go of our material wealth to better understand our own excess”—as well as more traditional practices such as a daily devotion.

“I love the idea of the ‘thing’ fast and the idea of moving around a community to explore the ‘stations’ of the cross,” says Gina Yeager-Buckley, associate for the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Ministries with Youth.  I think these are spiritual practices that will connect deeply with today’s young people.”

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Click here to download Quicksheet #60, Lent: Pray, Fast, Love.

Dele clic aquí para descargar Quicksheet #60, La Cuaresma: Oración, Ayuno, Amor.

The original article is found on the Presbyterian Mission Agency website, here.

POV Assembly: March 25, 2017

The next Assembly will take place at 10:00 am (ET) on Saturday, 3/25/2017 at the Mitchell Presbyterian Church.

Registration will begin at 9:00 am (ET).

At this Assembly, we will be voting on the proposed amendments to the Book of Order that were approved by the 222nd General Assembly. The amendments are available via download at the following link: Proposed Amendments to the Constitution.

As this is the only method by which the amendments have been made available, we strongly recommend that you print the document beforehand and bring it with you to the meeting. The wireless network at Mitchell will not be able to handle everyone trying to access the document at once, and we will only be printing a limited amount of copies to bring.

The packet, driving directions, and the minutes from the December 2016 meeting will be available for download from the assembly web page after 4:00pm on March 16th.

Online registration for the Assembly is available now. Please let us know if you will be in attendance!

PC(USA) Stated Clerk opposes order banning refugees’ entry into U.S.

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

J. Herbert Nelson II

LOUISVILLE – This afternoon, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), issued a statement opposing President Trump’s executive action that has led to the detention of qualified refugees at U.S. airports and the refusal to board refugees headed to the U.S. from foreign airports.

“I urge the president and his administration to reverse this very harmful decision regarding refugees,” he said. “Presbyterians are not afraid of this so-called terror threat. We are not afraid because we profess a faith in Jesus, who entered the world a refugee.”

Nelson’s statement is in response to Trump’s executive action prohibiting immigration from the Muslim-majority countries of Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Sudan. However, a NPR report yesterday found that since September 11, 2001, no Muslim extremist from these countries has executed an attack on American soil. Those attacks came at the hands of extremists from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Russia and Pakistan, none of which are included in the travel or immigration ban.

Beyond barring entry from the seven listed countries, the executive order puts a hold on all refugee resettlement to the U.S. for four months and has indefinitely suspending entry of refugees from Syria. Additionally, Bloomberg has pointed out the ban does not include four Muslim-majority countries in which Trump has business dealings, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Human rights and refugee advocacy groups noted the U.S. already has the most stringent vetting system for refugees in the world, with the screening process taking 18-24 months on average. In spite of this, Trump has continually asserted refugees admitted through this system are a security risk.

Nelson’s statement is below:

———–

Yesterday President Donald Trump signed an executive order to allegedly protect the nation from terrorists entering the United States. In practice, however, this order serves to further harm those who are the very victims of terrorism, genocide, religious and gender-based persecution, and civil war.

Right now, across the globe, there are families grabbing their bags and clinging to each other as they tearfully flee the home they love, the home they never wanted to leave, because home is no longer safe. And many, after being fully vetted by a legal refugee entry process, are not being allowed to enter the U.S. and are being wrongfully detained at airports across the country.

This is a miscarriage of justice and goes against everything we stand for as a country shaped and formed by people who emanated from other lands.

As the top ecclesial officer of the nation’s largest Reformed body, I urge the president and his administration to reverse this very harmful decision regarding refugees. Presbyterians are not afraid of this so-called terror threat. We are not afraid because we profess a faith in Jesus, who entered the world a refugee.

We are not afraid because, just as we welcome Jesus every advent, we have chosen to welcome our brothers and sisters into this nation from across the globe. Presbyterians chose welcome after World War II when we, as a denomination, demanded that the U.S. allow more refugees to enter then. We chose welcome when our very congregations served as the host sites to refugees in the years before resettlement agencies. And, Presbyterians choose welcome now as we co-sponsor families resettling to the U.S. from Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, and other countries.

With every choice of welcome we enter into relationship with people who become neighbors, friends, and family. No administration can convince us to fear.

We oppose this administration’s decision to prolong each and every refugee’s wait for a place to call home under the false pretense of security. We stand ready to welcome our new neighbors, friends, and family of all faiths and nations.

Link to the original article

Read more articles from the Presbyterian Mission Agency here.

Big Tent 2017

Updated: 3/9/2017

Save the date!

We invite you to join Presbyterians from around the country at Big Tent 2017, held on the beautiful campus of Washington University in St. Louis, MO, July 6 -8th. The theme will emphasize the hope of the Gospel and its power to transform society in our current cultural context, marked by anxiety, racial division, political animosity, and economic inequality. Through dialogue, workshops, exhibits, and engagement with one another, participants will engage the Church in its mission of justice-making and peace.

Worship leaders for Big Tent announced.

Join with fellow Presbyterians as we join in worship led by J.Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) and Christine Hong, Assistant Professor of Worship and Evangelism and Chapel Worship Coordinator at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Registration opens in March with no increase in registration fees! Registration is $395 and includes accommodations for three nights as well as and meals. The Commuter rate (no accommodations or meals) is $145.

Go to the Big Tent webpage

PC(USA) Articles September 14–20, 2016

International Peacemaker hopes to shed new light on Palestine
Areej Masoud inhabits a world full of challenges

Four Presbyterian seminaries among top rated theological institutions
PC(USA) institutions join 31 schools named ‘Seminaries that Change the World’

Lamenting the police killing of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa
Another unarmed African American man killed

PC(USA) churches invited to become ‘Courageous Congregations’
Speak up about sexual violence during October

Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and Environmental Ministries team up for Travel Study Seminar
Guatemala and Costa Rica trip scheduled for January

Presbytery leader training event energizes a larger-than-expected crowd
Leaders from about two dozen presbyteries across the country gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, August 26–27, for the trial run of a new kind of training event.

Presbyterian Mission Agency Board concludes its Fall 2016 meeting
San Juan, Puerto Rico announced as tentative spring meeting location

Presbyterian Mission Agency Board approves actions on Ghost Ranch
Transfer of operations to National Ghost Ranch Foundation pending definitive agreements

Ministerial Teams report their work to Presbyterian Mission Agency Board
Newly formed working groups tackle strategic priorities for church

Board of Pensions names Elizabeth M. Little as church consultant
Charlotte based specialist will serve five presbyteries in N.C.

PMAB action on transfer of Ghost Ranch operations expected Friday
National Ghost Ranch Foundation slated to assume day-to-day management

Immigration Legal Assistance Program Turns One-Year-Old
The Hispanic Affairs Project is celebrating its the first anniversary of their Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) certification and program.

J. Herbert Nelson casts a vision for the denomination in sermon to PMAB
Challenges the group to work beyond agencies and silos and be one church committed to transforming lives

PC(USA) Board of Pensions nominates new executive team
New group streamlines decision making, adds expertise

Ted Hickman, Commissioned Ruling Elder and Moderator of New York City Presbytery, dies unexpectedly at age 51
PC(USA) mourns loss of gifted presbyter

Presbyterian Mission Agency Board explores new meeting structure
Focused teams and discussions expected to foster creativity and productivity