Tag Archives: PC Ireland

2017 General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Ireland

bushAt this point it seems a bit like juggling where you keep adding one more ball to the collection that are in the air. It started with the OPC General Assembly. Add the 143rd GA of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Today we add the next one…

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland convened their 2017 General Assembly in Belfast a little while ago with a worship service and the installation of the new Moderator, the Right Rev Dr Noble McNeely. The Assembly runs through Friday 9 June. With the meeting under way here is some info to help follow along:

  • The live stream is embedded in the main Assembly page and further down the page a few of the streaming highlights for the week and even further down a summary docket of report dates and times.
  • The special Wednesday evening program is themed “Everyday Disciples” – the new Moderator’s theme for the year – and will be live streamed. In addition, following the Assembly’s adjournment there will be the traditional Youth Night on Saturday evening, which will also be live streamed. It’s theme is “(UN) Faithful – A faithful God and His unfaithful people, lessons from Hosea
  • More background for the Assembly can be found on the Assembly Resources page and the reports coming to the Assembly can be viewed individually on the Reports Page or as a whole by downloading the Blue Book.
  • The polity documents include the main document, The Code, as well as the helpful A Guide to Assembly Procedure.
  • The News page will carry official press releases and news items including the pre-Assembly press release which contains a rundown of the major moments and business at the Assembly this year.

There are plenty of social media contact points for the Assembly, beginning with the official Twitter account @PCIAssembly which always provides a detailed and comprehensive report of the Assembly. Please note the comprehensive part, because the level of detail can make the feed very busy. This is generally a good thing but you have been warned that the number of tweets will be very high. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) The official moderator’s feed at @PCIModerator has become a great source as well. We will see if Rev. McNeely tweets during GA and how much he shares in his moderatorial year. (He does have an almost unused personal feed @mcneelynoble, but I don’t think we will see much there this week, or maybe even this year.) The official hashtag for the Assembly is #pciga17. And it is worth keeping an eye on the PCI Facebook page as well.

Other ministries of the church that have Twitter accounts are Presbyterian Women (@PWinIreland), Mission Ireland (@MissionIreland) and PCI Global Missions (@PCIOverseas). Fair warning that I have included the latter two only for the sake of completeness, but they have been dormant for a while.

The other set of social media contacts to keep an eye on are those related to the Youth Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. They can be followed at a couple of different Twitter handles including the Youth Assembly account for PCI SPUD (@pcispud), and the Youth and Children’s Ministry account @PCIYAC. They have previously hosted Fringe Events and you can watch their Facebook page to see what they might be up to this year.

My list of others to watch for interesting and useful updates always starts with outside reporter and insightful commentator Alan in Belfast (@alaninbelfast). He has indicated that he won’t be around the GA as much this year, but still worth keeping an eye on his feed. For those active in leadership in the church I would point to former Moderator Rob Craig (@RobCraig54) and Cheryl Meban (@cherylmeban) who is active with WCRC and PCI board leadership. So far there seems to be potential from Stuart Morrow (@stuart_morrow), Niall Lockhart (@BallyhenryPres) and Ballygilbert Church (@ballygilbert). And while the PCI does not send a representative to Edinburgh for the Church of Scotland GA, the Kirk Moderator is present at this Assembly and tweeting @ChurchModerator. Will update with others as appropriate. UPDATE: To this list I would add Peter Bovill (@peterbovill) as he had been actively contributing to the feed. And while I have not seen him on the GA feed, please note the recommendation in the comments below for ongoing comments about the PCI.)

In looking at the business of the Assembly a few reports caught my eye. One of these is from the Council for Congregational Life and Witness. In looking at fostering revival in the denomination they are presenting the goal as Fruitfulness and many of the actions in agricultural terms. For example, one of the action items is “Clearing the ground for fruitfulness – Asking the hard questions.” I am encouraged when the stage is set to realize there are no easy answers and that change, particularly rebuilding from a biblical foundation, is called for. A consideration that plays into this and which is mentioned in multiple reports is the decline in those training for the ministry. (see the Council for Training in Ministry report) Another interesting report is the on Relationships with Other Denominations which is Appendix 3 in the General Council Report (starting on the 107th page in the Blue Book). One of the denominations discussed is the relationship with the Church of Scotland and it’s trajectory (and that is the word used in the report). The report also contains the PCI position on human sexuality and marriage (page 114). And the report presents a possible path to work through the differences in the section titled Principles for Pursuing Mutual Reform. It will certainly be an interesting discussion.

As always, our prayers are with the Assembly and the Moderator for the work ahead and their discernment and guidance by the Holy Spirit. We look forward to following their work.

Moderator Designate For The Presbyterian Church In Ireland 2017 General Assembly

It is the first Tuesday in February and as I begin writing this the 19 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland are meeting to independently vote on the nomination of the Moderator for this year’s General Assembly. There are four individuals who have qualified for the ballot:

  • Rev. Brian Boyd B.Sc., B.D., who has served as the pastor at Kells and Eskylane for the last 25 years. Ordained in 1986 he has served larger church including as convener of the Alcohol and Drug Education Committee.
  • Rev. Tony Davidson B.A. (Q.U.B.), B.D. (Aber.) became the pastor of First Armagh Presbyterian Church in 1994. He has extensive experience with the larger church having been the convener of the Irish Church Relations Committee, Inter-Church Relations Board, Church Relations Committee, and the Nomination Committee most recently.
  • Rev. Charles McMullen, M.A., M. Litt., B.D. currently serves at West Church, Bangor, where he has been since 1999. His service to the larger church includes serving as convener of the Magee Fund Scheme Committee, National and International Problems Committee, and Global Concerns Committee.
  • Rev. Noble McNeely,  B.Ed., B.D. is the pastor of First Holywood Presbyterian Church, a position he has held since 1997. He has been extensively involved in local and church-wide panels and has served as the the convener of the Youth Education and Mission Committee, City Area Committee, Ministerial Studies and Development Committee, Board of Christian Training, and the Council for Training in Ministry.

As a side note, it is a good reminder that the Presbyterian Church of Ireland does span the whole of the isle and while the headquarters is in Belfast in Norther Ireland, Rev. Boyd’s parish of Kells and a previous parish of Rev. Davidson in Limerick are both in the Republic of Ireland.

So the presbyteries have voted and we can say…

Congratulations to the Rev. Noble McNeely, pastor of First Holywood Presbyterian Church who has been endorsed by 10 of the 19 presbyteries. (Picture from his church web site.)

Rev. McNeely was ordained at Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in Belfast in 1982 and before being installed at Holywood also served at First Ballymoney.

He grew up in Crossgar and holds an Education degree from Stranmillis College, with a specialisation in jewellery and silversmithing. From college he taught Craft and Design at Deramore High School (now Balmoral High) in Belfast for two years. He then continued on and earned his B.D. from Union Theological College in 1981.

An interesting note on his wife, Florence, who is a physiotherapist. This is a similar line of work in the caring professions to Claire Sellar, the wife of the current Moderator, who is an occupational therapist. (Probably jumped out at me since my wife is also a physiotherapist.) Noble and Florence have three adult children.

Concerning his nomination, the official announcement quotes him as saying:

I am sincerely humbled. I have served the wider church in a number of roles and I see my nomination as Moderator as another opportunity to serve Christ and His church.

At the same time, I recognise the responsibility that has been entrusted to me and I pray that with God’s help and the prayers of the Church, I will be able to fulfil expectations.

While we expect Rev. McNeely to take over the @pcimoderator Twitter feed, he does have his own @mcneelynoble which is not heavily used. In addition, I could not find one for First Holywood, but the Young Life group there does have a slightly used one at @YLHolywood.

I would note that Rev. McNeely was the strong favorite in the voting with the other thee individuals fairly evenly splitting the remaining nine votes. (Boyd – 3, Davidson – 2, McMullen – 4)

We look forward to hearing more from the traditional press conference tomorrow morning and I will add links here following that event.

UPDATE: The press conference got good media coverage and reports can be read in the Belfast Telegraph – including a post with video clip – as well as the News Letter. Topics reflected in the coverage include a call for politicians to build bridges between the sides and his view, consistent with the current position of the church, that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Our congratulations to Rev. McNeely on his nomination and prayers and best wishes as he prepares for the Assembly and for his whole moderatorial year.

2016 General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Ireland

bushThe Assembly meeting in Canada has adjourned a few minutes ago and there is plenty to chew on from that meeting, but there is not time for that now. This week the meeting schedule has us drinking from a fire hose and we have to move on to the next one.

About the time I will be posting this the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will be convening their 2016 General Assembly with what is usually an exceptional worship service and the installation of the new Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Frank Sellar. The Assembly runs through Friday 10 June. As the meeting gets going here is some info to help follow along:

  • The live stream is embedded in the main Assembly event page and below it the programme of streaming highlights for the week.
  • The special Wednesday evening program is themed “A Community of Global Concern” and will be live streamed. In addition, following the Assembly’s adjournment there will be the traditional Youth Night on Saturday evening, which will also be live streamed.
  • More background for the Assembly can be found on the Assembly Resources page but I do not yet see the Reports or the full Order of Business posted there yet. Update: The Assembly reports page has gone live now.
  • The polity documents include the main document, The Code, as well as the helpful A Guide to Assembly Procedure.
  • The News page will carry official press releases and news items including the pre-Assembly press release which contains a rundown of the major moments and business at the Assembly this year.

There are plenty of social media contact points for the Assembly, beginning with the official Twitter account @PCIAssembly which in the past has provided a very helpful and comprehensive news feed on the actions of the Assembly. The official moderator’s feed at @PCIModerator has become a great source as well. We will see if Rev. Sellar tweets during GA and how much he shares in his moderatorial year. The official hashtag for the Assembly is #pciga16.

Other ministries of the church that have Twitter accounts are Presbyterian Women (@PWinIreland), Mission Ireland (@MissionIreland) and PCI Global Missions (@PCIOverseas). Fair warning that the latter two don’t seem to have seen much action in a which, similar to another account, Life in PCI (@lifeinpci), that seems to have gone dormant.  We will see if any of these might come to life again for this Assembly.

The other set of social media contacts to keep an eye on are those related to the Youth Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. They can be followed at a couple of different Twitter handles including the Youth Assembly account for PCI SPUD (@pcispud), and the Youth and Children’s Ministry account @PCIYAC. They have previously hosted Fringe Events and you can watch their Facebook page to see what they might be up to this year.

The list of others to watch for interesting and useful updates must start with prolific reporter and insightful commentator Alan in Belfast (@alaninbelfast). For those active in leadership in the church I would point to former Moderator Rob Craig (@RobCraig54) and Cheryl Meban (@cherylmeban) who is active with WCRC and PCI board leadership. So far there seems to be potential from Stuart Morrow (@stuart_morrow) and John Hamilton (@john_nornirn). Will update with others as appropriate.

Certainly have a look at the preview piece for a brief summary of the many topics before the Assembly this year. A report from an Abortion Task Force is getting some press coverage for its recommendation that the church only condone abortion if the life of the mother is at stake. One of the issues that has surfaced at most GA’s in recent years has been that of church officers in same-sex relationships and same-sex weddings in the church. The PCI has consistently stood against these but the passage of same-sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland – which has PCI congregations – has made it advisable for the General Assembly to consider their policies and practices in this regard. There are also a couple of important anniversaries this year related to events that shaped Ireland. This includes the Battle of the Somme in WWI and the events of 1916 in Ireland.

As always, our prayers are with the Assembly and their discernment and guidance by the Holy Spirit. We look forward to following their work.

But be warned, they may be the only one live streamed this week, but other Assemblies are out there as well. More on that shortly.

Moderator Designate For The 2016 General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Ireland

In their own unique approach to choosing the Moderator of the next General Assembly, all the the presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland meet simultaneously on the first Tuesday Rev-Frank-Sellarof February and chose their candidate from those on the official ballot. And so, having waited for the report from Church House in Belfast, we now know that The Rev. Frank Sellar will be the 177th Moderator of the General Assembly. And unlike the last few years, this vote was not even close with 18 of the 19 presbyteries endorsing Rev. Sellar.

In a post-election quote he says:

“It has been a huge privilege to have been involved in a lifetime of leadership in local congregations, south and north. I’m humbled that the wider church has trusted me with this responsibility, granting fresh opportunities of mission, which this year as Moderator of the General Assembly will bring, not only serving the wider church, but society throughout the whole of Ireland and further afield.”

Rev. Sellar is currently the pastor at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in East Belfast. A Belfast News Letter article last week described his theological leanings saying he is “an evangelical conservative.”

At this time I will note that one of his distinctions is that he has ministered in both the Republic of Ireland (“the south”) and in Northern Ireland – twenty years in the former and eleven years in the latter. And on a personal note I found it encouraging that his wife is an occupational therapist as I seem to accumulate physical and occupational therapists in my family.

I will write more tomorrow after the traditional statement and press conference as well as the local press reaction.

But, we do extend to Rev. Sellar our congratulations and prayers as he prepares to moderate the upcoming General Assembly as well as for his whole moderatorial year.

Ballot For The Moderator Designate Of The Presbyterian Church In Ireland General Assembly

About 24 hours from now the presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will vote on who will be the Moderator Designate for the 2016 General Assembly. The ballot was announced last week and there are three nominees for the position. They are, in alphabetical order:

It is worth noting that Revs. Bell and Sellar were also on the ballot last year.

The nominees were covered in the Belfast Newsletter and the brief bios there include a notation of their theological leanings.

The lack of any women being nominated has been noted and was called out by The Rev. Dr. Ruth Patterson in a Belfast Telegraph column by Alf McCreary. Dr. Patterson was the first woman in any denomination to be ordained as a minister in Ireland and was twice on the Moderator ballot herself. No female nominee has yet to be elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the PCI. Mr. McCreary developed this theme a bit further in his column three days later where he talked about “How Presbyterians have lost ground over gender equality.”

So there is the prologue. We will be waiting tomorrow to hear the results of the presbytery voting and look forward to Wednesday morning’s traditional news conference.

Stay tuned…

2015 General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Ireland

bushAbout an hour ago the Presbyterian Church in Ireland convened their 2015 General Assembly with worship and the installation of the new Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Ian McNie. The Assembly runs through Thursday 4 June. As the meeting gets going here is some info to help follow along:

  • The Assembly will be live streamed from the live streaming page. Note that links I have seen in tweets have gone to the main assembly page instead.
  • The theme for the Assembly is “A Caring Fellowship” and among other places, it will be highlighted in the worship on Wednesday evening.
  • The business of the Assembly can be found on the Reports page and there is also a page with the full Order of Business.
  • The polity documents include the main document, The Code, as well as the helpful A Guide to Assembly Procedure.
  • The News page will carry official press releases and news items including the pre-Assembly press release which contains a rundown of the major moments and business at the Assembly this year. For a bit more lighthearted look at the Assembly you can also check out their 10 things you didn’t know about #PCIGA15.

There are plenty of social media contact points for the Assembly, beginning with the official Twitter account @PCIAssembly which in the past has provided a very helpful and comprehensive news feed on the actions of the Assembly. The outgoing Moderator, Rev. Dr. Michael Barry, has been tweeting at @PCIModerator. We will see if the new Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Ian McNie, assumes the account. The official hashtag for the Assembly is #pciga15 as you might have guessed from that news article above. There is a hashtag from last year, #lifeinpci for dialogue and sharing about the life and work of the church and it seems to be getting a bit of activity this year too.

Other ministries of the church that have Twitter accounts are the Life in PCI (@lifeinpci), Presbyterian Women (@PWinIreland), Mission Ireland (@MissionIreland) and PCI Global Missions (@PCIOverseas).

The other set of social media contacts to keep an eye on are those related to the Youth Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. They can be followed at a couple of different Twitter handles including the Youth Assembly account for PCI SPUD (@pcispud), and the Youth and Children’s Ministry account @PCIYAC. Last year they hosted a successful Fringe Event and I am looking to see if something similar might be happening again this year at Assembly. Watch their Facebook page for updates and to see what the youth are up to.

In the list of others to watch for interesting and useful updates it must start with Alan in Belfast (@alaninbelfast) who is always prolific (in a good sense) and insightful during the Assembly. For those active in leadership in the church I would point to former Moderator Rob Craig (@RobCraig54) and Cheryl Meban (@cherylmeban) convener of the Board of Mission Overseas. Looking at the activity so far it appears that we will get the view from the tech booth from Jonathan Tweedie (@jonnytweedie). A trio of others that are active early include Christina Baillie (@cjanebaillie), James Currie (@JCBelfast) and David McCullagh (@wdsmccullagh), although the last may be remote like myself. I will update if I see others that are helpful to follow.

Much of the business for this Assembly will include administrative work related to the reorganization begun at last year’s Assembly. In addition, some work needs to be done to register with the Charities Commission for Northern Ireland and Charities Regulatory Authority in the Republic of Ireland. And I am sure we will see reaction and discussion related to the Republic of Ireland’s recent same-sex marriage referendum and the movement in a similar direction by the Church of Scotland.

So our prayers are with the Assembly this week and Moderator McNie. Best wishes in your discussions and discernment.

PCI SPUD Overnight 2015

SPUD-logo-purpleAs I hit the button to publish this post the annual SPUD Overnight of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is about to begin.

As youth input into the General Assemblies of the different Presbyterian branches go, each has its own particular flavor. In the Church of Scotland the National Youth Assembly meets a full nine months before the GA and through a multi-day deliberative process of their own they write deliverances that contain material that will be presented directly to the commissioners at the Assembly in their own report. In the case with the Young Adult Advisory Delegates of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), they do not meet beforehand but during the Assembly they gather in the evenings late at night and hear about the issues the Assembly is considering.

The PCI SPUD Overnight is a bit of both of these. While it does not directly generate business of its own to go to Assembly, it is a time of deliberative consideration of items that will be considered by the Assembly just over a month later. It is a time of discussion and providing input and feedback to the Assembly, through their representatives. The discussions are wider ranging then just the business of the Assembly and also aim to equip the attendees to work back in their home congregations. And yes, there is time for a bit of fun as well.

This year’s Overnight kicks off at 7 PM local time today, 24 April, at the Faith Mission Centre in Portadown, Northern Ireland, and runs until 9 PM the next day. Each congregation is invited to send representatives to the event.

The SPUD web page includes a short video about the event and the presenter, Helen from the SPUD working group, specifically mentions topics within the church like outreach, community, and youth leadership, as well as the wider societal issues such as “abortion, the conscience clause and sexuality.”

If you want to follow along on social media the starting points are the PCI SPUD Youth Assembly Facebook page and their Twitter feed @pciSPUD. They are promoting the hashtag #useyourvoice, but it is not exclusive to this event. Other official Twitter feeds that might be active during the event are the one for PCI YAC – the church’s Youth And Children Board of which SPUD is a part – at @PCIYAC, as well as the church’s official assembly feed at @pciassembly.

It is worth noting that SPUD is active throughout the year in many different ways, as you can see on their PCI YAC web page. In particular, their GA Fringe event was a success last year so they will be doing it again this year. And in addition to this Overnight event, they did regional events with the SPUD On Tour theme.

So as the SPUD delegates gather we wish them a good weekend of discussion and fun and look forward to their input at the Assembly in just over a month.

Moderator Designate For The Presbyterian Church In Ireland — Rev. Ian McNie

Today is the first Tuesday in February and that means it is the day that the nineteen presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland each gather and vote for their choice for the Moderator of the upcoming General Assembly.

This year, from a field of four candidates, they have nominated as the Moderator-designate for the 2015 General Assembly the Rev. Ian McNie. Rev. McNie received the endorsement of twelve of the presbyteries.

Rev. McNie is the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney where he has led that parish for the last 23 years. From his brief bio we know that his previous position was at Kilkeel Presbyterian Church for 11 years. He has served the wider church as Moderator of the Synod of Armagh and Down and as convener of the Youth Centres Committee for seven years.

He was educated at Belfast Royal Academy and Queen’s University in Belfast, receiving his Bachelor of Divinity from the latter. He continued his ministerial training at Union Theological College. He and his wife Anne have two sons, one of whom is also a PCI minister.

In his comments following his election he spoke of his ministry:

“As a conservative evangelical, I recognise that we are living in the 21st Century and therefore seek to steer the congregation in such a way that we do not cling to the traditions of the past, but seek to be relevant today. At the same time, I also recognise that the truth of the Gospel has not changed and we should not allow society to pressure us into departing from the core values of the Scriptures.”

In talking about the year ahead he said

“During my year of office I would hope to be given the opportunity to present the Gospel in many different situations, both within the church and community, to learn from the experiences of others and to encourage congregations to be pro-active in their presentation of the Word of God. I would also look forward to the opportunity to encourage ministers and their families, particularly those who have just started their ministry.”

It is worth noting that in this election there was once again some anticipation of whether the church might get its first female Moderator. But while the Rev. Liz Hughes of Whitehouse did come in second in the voting, it was a distant second with four votes. She placed similarly last year peaking at six votes last year and in both rounds she tied with Rev. McNie. There were three presbyteries that voted for her again this year and while losing three to other candidates did pick up one new one. As the old sports cliché goes, maybe next year.

But for this year we congratulate Rev. McNie on his nomination and offer our prayers as he prepares for the Assembly and Moderates it. His installation will be on June 1 and we wish him the best for his moderatorial year.

UPDATE (4 Feb 15): Well this got interesting really fast…

Rev. McNie started making the media rounds this morning and speaking on a BBC NI broadcast he said:

“Those who are not all that in favour, if you want to put it like that, of women’s ordination don’t hold that point of view from the position of personal preference,” he told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster.

“They hold that position from the point of view that as they interpret the scriptures, the leadership role within the church is not necessarily the leadership role within society – that men and women complement each other, and consequently, possibly that’s why many people have taken the view that they take and that’s why the church has not embraced the election of a woman moderator.

“I would have a conviction that, like many other people within all major denominations, that there are some concerns about that issue, and yes, I would share that conviction as well.”

Needless to say, that generated headlines really fast. At the traditional news conference later on he did qualify his remarks saying “that if the church was to vote in a women moderator in the next few years, the church would have his ‘full and complete and utter support'”.

On Twitter, Alan in Belfast lets us know that at the press conference the Principal Clerk Trevor Gribbon expressed his considered judgement that the PCI will have a female moderator before there is a woman as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The other headline grabber was the Moderator-designate’s comment that well know atheist Stephen Fry is “spiritually blind” responding to comments Fry made in a TV interview last week. I won’t rehash it here but you can get the full context from an article in the Independent.

And finally, in another tweet Alan in Belfast gives us some critical information about Rev. McNie

The important Q has finally been asked at the close of the press conference – Rev Ian McNie supports Man Utd

There is follow up to the press conference from Alan in Belfast with the audio of a 12 minute interview with Rev. McNie and his piece on his blog.

Top Ten Presbyterian News Themes Of 2014

As we close out this eventful year I will once again join the numerous sources putting out top ten lists for the year that was. And as in past years my primary focus will be on stories, or themes, that were seen across multiple Presbyterian branches with a few more selective ones thrown in.

General Assemblies and Same-Sex Relationships

This was probably the top news theme of the year: The Church of Scotland GA sending to the presbyteries, and the presbyteries approving, language for churches to opt-out of the traditional standards. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 221st GA approving language to redefine marriage in its Book of Order and it appears on path to approval in the presbyteries. The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand approving a change to their Book of Order to prohibit same-sex marriages. And momentum is building around an overture to the next Presbyterian Church in Canada GA that would remove the prohibition against ministers being in a same-sex relationship.

Seminaries

This was a category that really caught my attention this year but which I have yet to write up in detail. In any year there is interesting seminary news, like Doris J. García Rivera’s installation as president of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico. But this seemed to be a year with more initiatives than normal.

These included the reorganization of the Free Church Seminary as the Edinburgh Theological Seminary. There was also the new joint initiative between Reformed Theological Seminary and Redeemer Church in New York City.

More radical seminary initiatives include a non-accredited communal seminary associated with Church of All Nations in Minneapolis and San Francisco Theological Seminary has launched a Center for Innovation in Ministry with a workshop on the theology of video games.

But the one that I have found most interesting is the Redesigned Master of Divinity Program at Fuller Theological Seminary. Fuller listened to their alumni and launched a new program which is described in part like this:

Many graduates can no longer count on traditional systems to create jobs for them. They will have to invent new ways to minister. Our reshaped curriculum is designed to prepare students with entrepreneurial skills.

One of the interesting things about this new initiative, and Fuller in general right now, is the prominence of Presbyterian leadership. In addition to Mark Labberton becoming President last year, the initiative is under the oversight of Scott Cormode, the Academic Dean. Behind the Vocation and Formation part of the initiative are some well-known Presbyterian faces that include Tod Bolsinger, Steve Yamaguchi and Laura Harbert.

Congregations Switching Branches

The moves between branches continue with the PC(USA) once again transferring more churches than it closes. And in the Church of Scotland there has been a slower, but noticeable, departure.

The other interesting movement is churches moving from the Reformed Church of America to the Presbyterian Church in America. Last Spring one of the flagship churches, University Reformed Church, voted to transfer. This fall five churches in Illinois have also voted to make the move.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

The General Assemblies of both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand considered this issue. In the PC(USA) the Assembly did not approve an outright divestment but referred it to the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee for further consideration. The PCANZ instructed their Property Trustees to divest and recommended that individual churches do likewise.

Independence Referendum in Scotland

The Church of Scotland was prominent in the time leading up to the Scottish Independence Referendum with an open session at their General Assembly that presented a variety of voices on the subject and further national and regional level gatherings leading up to the vote. Following the vote there was a service of unity hosted by the Kirk.

The Free Church of Scotland also held a session at their General Assembly and issued their own material providing viewpoints on Independence.

Property

For the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) this was certainly a hot topic with a GAPJC decisioncivil legal challenges, settlements and high-valued negotiations. For this post the full extent of the property news is left as an exercise for the reader but there are still a lot of open questions and at the moment there seems to be momentum in favor of the hierarchical church.

Another property news item is the Greyfriars Church in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The historic structure was sold to a developer and it’s future is uncertain. Some preliminary demolition has begun and efforts are underway to try and preserve it.

PC(USA) Ethics Investigation

In a still developing story, it was revealed that four PC(USA) church development employees associated with Presbyterian Centers For New Church Innovation were the subjects of an internal ethics investigation for not following policy in setting up an outside non-profit corporation to facilitate distribution of 1001 Worshiping Communities funds. Initially there were administrative actions taken but as the story grew the four were placed on administrative leave and an outside law firm brought in to conduct an independent investigation. At year’s end it was decided that firm had a conflict of interest and a new firm was chosen.

Israel-Palestine Actions

The other hot topic leading up to the PC(USA) General Assembly was issues around Israel-Palestine. At the previous GA a proposal for divestment from three companies who profited from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory failed by a very narrow three-vote margin. The proposal was returning to this GA. In addition, a PC(USA) affiliated group, The Israel/Palestine Mission Network, (IPMN) issued a controversial study guide Zionism Unsettled that questioned Israel’s character and identity. While IPMN does not speak for the PC(USA) the study guide was sold by the official Presbyterian Distribution Services making the distinction fuzzy in many minds. In addition, there was some advanced controversy when the commissioner chosen to moderate the related commissioner committee was asked to step down because a number of people questioned his impartiality.

The 221st General Assembly did approve the divestment proposal by a slim seven-vote margin, but the action also encourages ecumenical dialogue in the region and affirms the denomination’s commitment to Israel and the peace process.

The Presbyterian Distribution Service dropped Zionism Unsettled shortly after the Assembly and it is now available on the IPNM web site. However, studies around this topic are available on Thoughtful Christian.

Women’s Ordination and Related

The religion gender issues news this year was dominated by the Church of England and the completion of the process to have women serve as bishops. In fact, in Presbyterian circles it was a very quiet year for complementarian/egalitarian discussions, which in itself is probably news.

The one big item is the decision by the Mizoram Synod conference to reject a long-standing request from Kohhran Hmechhia, the Women Ministry of the Presbyterian Church, to ordain women theologians.

In another story, history was made when Michael Barry and Liz Hughes tied in the first round of voting for Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rev. Barry was elected in the second round by one vote over Rev. Hughes and a third candidate, Rev. McNie. This was the strongest showing that a female candidate has had in the election.

Death of Ian Paisley

Among several notable deaths in the Presbyterian community, the death of Ian Paisley stands out for his iconic status in both Northern Irish religion as the leading founder of the Free Presbyterian Church and for his important roll in politics and reconciliation in Norther Ireland.

And a couple of other Presbyterian-ish stories

Knox 500

While the date of birth of John Knox is not known with certainty, the best information suggests that it may have been in 1514 making this the 500th year of his birth. This was marked by the Knox 500 Conference in Edinburgh as well as the making of a documentary about him titled “Give Me Scotland.”

Spectacular Viking treasure hoard found on Church of Scotland land

Not your typical religion news story but a very important archaeological discovery involving the Kirk and a couple of its ministers as well as a metal detectionist.

And let me take a moment to throw in two transitions: The retirement of Jerry Van Marter after over 26 years with the Presbyterian News Service and Jack Haberer stepping down from the helm of the Presbyterian Outlook to return to parish ministry. Best wishes to both in their new settings.

And those are some of the highlights of 2014. Now as we look ahead to 2015 – and many of my friends around the world are already there or now busy celebrating Hogmanay – I wish all of you a very Happy New Years and best wishes for the coming year.

May you balance your ardor and order and remember to be decent and in order.

Happy New Year!

Presbyterian News Headlines For The First Half Of August 2014

With the GA Season winding down and my summer vacation behind me it seems time to resume the headlines posts. While I have delusions that I might get caught up back to when I dropped the posts for GA season, that will probably not happen. There were a couple of interesting items in that time period and I might do one major highlights piece, but we will see if that actually happens.

But for now, let’s turn to the first half of this month and what caught my attention.

A significant news thread in Europe was the centenary of the start of World War One and the involvement of the UK in that conflict. For a number of reasons I won’t go into several significant national commemorations were held in Scotland with the major involvement of the Church of Scotland.

Scotland commemorates World War One centenary (from BBC News Scotland)

Church of Scotland Moderator urges world leaders to learn from WW1 (from Ekklesia)

Across the Presbyterian branches there were calls for peace in Gaza

Gaza: Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland in plea for peace (from Belfast Telegraph)

Largest Presbyterian Denomination in US Demands Obama Push for Israeli-Hamas Ceasefire (from The Christian Post)

Head of Church of Scotland in plea for peace in Gaza (from Herald Scotland)

And in an interesting side note, that last headline brought some comments about how for Presbyterians that headline should have referred to the Moderator of the church since, as this letter to the editor points out, Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church:

The true head of the Kirk (letter to the editor in Herald Scotland)

An Irish minister who died in a tragic scuba accident is remembered

Deeply committed and straight-talking Presbyterian minister (from the Irish Times)

In Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, the historic Greyfriars Church of Scotland building was sold to a local businessman leading to some concern over the fate of the building. The new owner is having the building inspected to determine what it would take to preserve the building and possible uses while others are looking at possible paths to ensure preservation.

Greyfriars church sold (from Trinidad Express Newspapers)
‘I felt compelled to buy Greyfriars’ (from Trinidad Express Newspapers)
National Trust moves to protect historic Greyfriars Church (from Trinidad Express Newspapers)
I can’t make guarantees (from the Guardian)

Southside Presbyterian Church of Tucson, a church which was a leader in the sanctuary movement 30 years ago, is once again offering sanctuary to undocumented individuals.

Presbyterian church in Arizona offers sanctuary to undocumented migrant (from Reuters)

Also, from the PC(USA), a lawsuit that includes the denomination as a defendant

Minister’s lawsuit targets his own denomination over sexual abuse allegations (AP story in The Kansas City Star); “The Rev. Kris Schondelmeyer, a youth minister in Toledo, Ohio, is seeking unspecified damages in a lawsuit he filed against the Louisville, Ky.-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Mo.; the Missouri Union Presbytery in Jefferson City; and his alleged abuser, Jack Wayne Rogers.”

Finally, a profile of Doran, Minn., population 55, caught my attention because of the emphasis on the Presbyterian church and how it is the last remaining house of worship in town as well as a community gathering spot.

Doran, Minn.: Little town on the prairie (from the Daily News of Wahpeton, ND and Breckenridge, MN)

So until next time…