Presbytery Focus of Change

Are we preparing for a funeral or a celebration? Don't be deceived by the black boxes. They may look like coffins but they are towers on which will hang lots of information about our various programmes during our Church Without Walls Open week. Listening to some people you'd think the church was ready to be buried. I assure you if you visit during our CWW week you be surprised at the stories people will tell of resurrection and new life. Talking about burying things. I'm well aware that there are people in the church who'd like to bury the changes that are being proposed to reform presbyteries. I know there is much thinking and reflection going on in the church in this area. I'm convinced that we will see big changes. One of these changes might be that we become a church that is much more trusting. So many of our checks and balances are becoming hinderances in the way we lead and make decisions. The Church of Scotland as we know it today has never developed much beyond the mindset of a 19th Century Institution. Our centralized Boards and Committees emerged in the late 19th early 20th Centuries. The church centralised its mission policy for home and overseas and also began to develop a more centralist approach to ministry. The recent restructuring of the central activities of the church's functions a few years ago was nothing more than a re-arranging of the functions into different boxes. And while the present Councils are seeking to work more closely with each other understanding their role in relation to presbyteries and local congregations is something that needs to be continually stated. Too often we take part in a planning exercise but we forget to reflect on the reason why we do these things. We are still heavily governed through centralized structures. Although intellectually and theologically we will deny this however in practice we have allowed ourselves to be imprisoned by a committee structure that does not allow for good decision making. We rely too heavily on our committee structure to make things happen. We still find it hard to invest in individual leadership. Just because a committe is convinced of an idea it doesn't mean the wider church is. I know from experience it takes a long time to get over 600 congregations reflecting and journeying together that's what was happen with the CWW movement. Alas I feel we may have lost a great deal of our momentum due to the re-structuring of the Mission Council. Restructing may be necessary at times but it is seldom the answer to revival. At the heart of renewal is fresh expression of friendship and grace. Law and renewal don't always go together However we have inherited a church around the symbolism of a law court. Many of our ministers still dress like lawyers or judges on a Sunday and many of our church buildings resemble the court and the furnishings in them all reflect a court of law. Presbytery also reflects the mood of a courtroom. The problem is that the language of the court speaks of law and punishment. When we worship and relate to each other in this symbolic environment we continue, often unwittingly, to consign worship to the straight jacket of a court of law. There is little room for grace or freedom of personal expression. The question must be asked is this the right model in which to conduct our business and worship? If we have a gospel message that has at its heart the Cycle of Grace where does that thinking fit into our court structure? If you want to know more about the Cycle of Grace have a listen to this MP3 recording of Peter Neilson reflecting on the Cycle of Grace.
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