Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Why are you Presbyterian?
Last month our denomination’s moderator, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, asked in his blog (essentially an interactive internet journal): Why are you Presbyterian? The question comes as the start of a larger conversation about how the church is doing and will do ministry in the 21st century. He invited others to respond to this question for themselves in their own settings. I did. Will you?
I guess you could say it’s in my blood. John Calvin would probably rather me say it’s in my spirit. Our Reformed theology would likely call it Providence. I didn’t know it when I started attending a Presbyterian church in the 2nd grade, but my ancestors on my mother’s side have been Presbyterian since there were Presbyterians in this country. In fact, we are related to John Witherspoon, the moderator of the first General Assembly, held in 1789, and the only clergy to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Again, I didn’t know that, though, when I started going to Sunday School. I didn’t even know my mother had grown up Presbyterian. All I knew when I started going to Eastminster Presbyterian Church was that the teachers were friendly, the stories were fantastic, and the love was unconditional. It certainly wasn’t the musty, moldy smell of the room where my class met that brought me back. It wasn’t the dried out markers that worked SOME of the time. It definitely wasn’t the pretzel and water snack we got mid-way through the morning. (Wow has that church changed!!!) I kept coming back week after week, which turned into year after year, because the people welcomed me, the faith fed me, the community loved me, and, over time, through all of that God used me.
As I got older, I learned more about what it meant to be a Presbyterian, a particular flavor of the Christian faith. It’s probably a chicken and egg question as to whether I liked the theology and therefore stayed in the church or I was in the church so I learned to like the theology. But however it happened, and I like to think it was a little of both and a lot of the Holy Spirit, I found my spiritual home in the PC(USA).
So why have I remained Presbyterian? I appreciate our
- declaration that Christ alone is Head of the Church;
- respect for history;
- openness to the always reforming Spirit of God;
- connectional nature that holds us accountable to one another;
- partnerships around the globe;
- insistence upon getting involved in God’s work in the world OUTSIDE the walls of any particular church building;
- theology and polity that honors the call of God on all lives, not just the lives of ordained clergy;
- historic and continuing emphasis on the education of all people.
Most of all I have remained Presbyterian for the same reason I started a Presbyterian – love.
We are not a perfect body, but I continue to believe that we are a faithful body. Despite our denominational struggles, despite positions that I have held that have “won” AND “lost,” I have remained Presbyterian because in this church I have felt the love of God and the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ. In this church I have been led to love and serve God and others.
This is why I am Presbyterian. How about you?