Since I first heard Rich Mouw speaks about it last August, I have been captivated by the idea of creating a mission order of Presbyterians. An order is a group of people who are bound to a common life by vows and whose life together emphasizes certain values. As Mouw noted, orders often arose in order to correct imbalances and mistakes by the institutional church.
They remained within the church and yet sought to focus their life together on the recovery of a certain virtue or way of life that had come to be neglected by the broader church. The Franciscans sought simplicity, the Dominicans gave themselves to learning, the Benedictines to a life of prayer and work.
The Fellowship of Presbyterians may most clearly be understood as an order of Presbyterians (within and outside of the PCUSA) who have given themselves to a missional and evangelical expression of the Christian faith.
We have covenanted with God and each other to be missionary Christians, missionary churches, wed both to Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy as expressed through the nine values that guide our order:
- Jesus-shaped identity
- Biblical integrity
- Thoughtful theology
- Accountable community
- Egalitarian ministry
- Missional centrality
- Center-focused spirituality
- Leadership velocity
- Kingdom vitality
For more on these values you can go to the Fellowship website. The key is that we have come together around a very focused mission–building flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ. Our values flesh out, they provide the narrative framework for, our mission statement. As Jerry Andrews noted, one of the central weaknesses of the Confessional stance of the current PCUSA is the absence of a narrative framework to allow us to understand the actual faith of the church (i.e., we cannot, indeed are forbidden to, define “essential tenets of the reformed faith.”).
The world doesn’t need another denomination. After all, denominational structures are really forms that have probably lost their effectiveness. The world does, however, need the church–collectives of people gathered for the purpose of proclaiming and incarnating in word, sacrament, and life, the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Fellowship of Presbyterians offers a compelling way to engage our culture with the wisdom of Jesus Christ.