Waiting for Jesus, waiting for the Fellowship

The Board of the Fellowship of Presbyterians is meeting in Chicago this week and will release (probably today or tomorrow) two important documents. One is a statement of theological essentials and the other will outline the polity requirements for the new reformed body. I’m really looking forward to spending some time considering these two statements since they represent both the DNA of the Fellowship and also have been put together by two talented working groups.

In advance of the release the board released a re-statement of the mission and values of the Fellowship of Presbyterians yesterday:

MIssion – to build flourishing churches that make disciples

Values – 

  • Jesus-shaped Identity: We believe Jesus Christ should be at the center of our individual lives and making disciples of Jesus at the core of our ministry.
  • Thoughtful Theology: We believe in theological education, constant learning, and the life of the mind, and celebrate this as one of the treasures of our Reformed heritage.
  • Accountable Community: We believe guidance is a corporate, spiritual experience. We want to connect leaders to one another in healthy relationships of accountability, synergy, and care.
  • Egalitarian Ministry: We believe in unleashing the ministry gifts of women, men, and every ethnic group.
  • Missional Centrality: We believe in living out the whole of the Great Commission – including evangelism, spiritual formation, compassion, and redemptive justice – in our communities and around the world.
  • Center-focused Spirituality: We believe in calling people to the core of what it means to be followers of Jesus – what “mere Christianity” is and does – and not obsess over the boundaries.
  • Leadership Velocity: We believe identifying and developing gospel-centered leaders is critical for the church, and a great leadership culture is risk-taking, innovative, and organic.
  • Kingdom Vitality: We believe every congregation should vigorously reproduce new missional communities to expand the Kingdom of God.
I like these values. I see in them a number of things that drew me to working for InterVarsity.
On initial read, a couple of these values jumped out for me. “Thoughtful theology” is essential and I’m glad to hear that the life of the mind will be a central value for the Fellowship. A critic of the Fellowship (not that I am one) could construe it as a pragmatic movement–a new community of churches centered around a methodology rather than theology. I think that’s a false criticism and this value demonstrates that.
“Kingdom vitality” is also critical. The Fellowship wants to be a movement that multiplies churches. One of the factors that demonstrates the poor health of the PCUSA is that it does not value and cannot actually do the work of planting new congregations in any meaningful number.
These values make me hopeful and eager to read the new documents coming out of the board meetings this week. Look for one or two posts this week taking a look at the theological and polity identity of the Fellowship.
I’m especially eager to see how the word “Reformed” shows up in the theological statements. There seems to be some disagreement about what the word actually means and how it is used in defining a denomination or movement. For some, Reformed means calvinist in the classical sense of the word. For others, it means influenced or informed by Calvin. Some think of Reformed essentials (i.e., to be reformed you need to believe this) and others prefer to think of reformed distinctives (i.e., this is what makes our tradition distinctive among the churches, but you don’t necessarily have to believe all of it).
I think the Fellowship will turn out to be a new reformed body that is essentially evangelical and informed by calvinism, but not necessarily Calvinist. Clearly classical Calvinists will be welcome, but being one will not be essential to belonging. For those who value a narrower definition of reformed, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church will probably become the destination of choice given that it is governed by the theological standards of Westminster.
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