Last week was the annual meeting of the Fellowship of Presbyterians and the first Synod Meeting of the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO). It’s amazing to consider that this gathering took place only two years after the “deathly ill” letter (you can read it here). In the space of two short years two new expressions of presbyterianism have come into being and are actively engaging in transforming the way we pursue God’s mission.
The Fellowship of Presbyterians is a missional order of evangelical presbyterians who are connected to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and who–in that context–are working to reform their own ministry in order to adapt to the unique new challenges facing churches in this post-Christendom period. ECO is a missional order that is independent from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and working toward the same goal–making flourishing churches–in partnership with Fellowship Churches. This is really quite remarkable.
Here are five observations about the conference.
- This was a worshipping event. Vibrant worship was central to the meeting. Each day started with worship as a way of anchoring the days’ work in our worship of God and his invitation to us to join him in the outworking of his purposes. At times the worship did feel somewhat monochromatic–mostly standard contemporary worship pieces with little to no liturgy, and Holy Communion only once. I was, however, refreshed through the worship times.
- This was an equipping event. There was a strong focus on pastoral leadership development. I counted three major segments dedicated, to one degree or another, to adaptive or transformational leadership. I appreciate the need for pastors to grown in the skill of leading change, but in some ways this too made the Fellowship seem sort of monochromatic in its vision for pastoral leadership.
- No one was angry. I did not hear a single angry word about the Presbyterian Church (USA), even from those who left to join ECO. I’m not saying that there were no angry people there, but only that I didn’t meet them.
- It was a predominantly white event. Despite its strong statements about social justice, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a very white denomination and so its not surprising that the Fellowship should be predominantly white as well. In the future, I hope that intentional effort will given to making biblical multi-ethnicity as core value and identity of the Fellowship.
- Theology seemed to be added on. I was saddened that the section on theology using the French Confession was on the last day of the conference. In some ways it felt tacked on, almost an afterthought. I’m interested in being part of a deeply theologically-grounded missional order rather than a leadership training forum, as good as that may be. In future, I hope that theology will form a deeper part of our gatherings.
5 Replies to “Five observations about the Fellowship of Presbyterians’ Annual Meeting”
I too attended this conference, and was blessed to be a part of it. I pastor a church that is not affiliated with either the Fellowship of Presbyterians or ECO. I came to the conference because of the commitment the Fellowship and ECO have to the development of missionally-focused, thriving churches, developing younger leaders, and training elders to be spiritual leaders within the church.
I am surprised to see your fifth observation. I might agree with you if by Theology you only mean confessions discussion. But from the first night of worship and Dr. Pedder’s teaching from Ezra through the Friday breakout sessions on the French Confession and reaching the next generation with the Gospel, this was a theologically focused and heavy conference. I, like you, would have loved more time for discussion of the French Confession, but I was provided with resources to bring that home and discuss with my elders.
I hope that these conferences will continue to focus as much on developing new leaders and discipling elders as it does on theological discourse for the future of the Church. Thank you for your post. I look forward to continuing to do ministry together.
Yours in Christ,
Rob – thanks for commenting. I was forced to leave early in order to make a mid-afternoon flight and I think that colored my perception of the conference. You’re right, leadership development (especially of ruling elders) is critical as is theological reflection. Dr. Pedder’s sermon was rich, I agree. Jeff
Thanks for the summary and reflection!