Presbyterian Hunger Program cooperates in World Food Day
The churches' Week of Action on Food runs from October 13 to October 20, surrounding World Food Day on October 16. Leading the planning for this week has been the international Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), of which the PC(USA) is a member organization. Its focus for the week will be on seeds in 2013. The EAA and PC(USA) Hunger Program both have posted resources. Food is one of EAA's current campaign issues, together with HIV/AIDS. Its purpose is to provide strength through working together.
Presbyterians remain a partner in transitioning ecumenical effort
The National Council of Churches' Eco-Justice Program has educated, organized, and advocated for the healing of God's Creation from 1983, often receiving high praise for its efforts. But transition has now occurred. The program has moved to become the Creation Justice Ministries "on its own," thus assuring continued engagement in the issue by Protestant and Orthodox communions. Tyler Edgar, the former assistant director of the "old" program, is now the "new" body's executive director. Leslie Woods of the Presbyterian Washington Office is a member of the "new" board of directors.
WCRC team visiting South Africa includes PC(USA) ecumenist
Over thirty years ago, the then World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) declared that the situation of apartheid in South Africa was a status confessionis, an issue on which it was not possible to disagree without breaking the integrity of the confession of the Reformed churches. And out of the ferment of that situation arose the Belhar Confession, which is being proposed to become a part of the PC(USA)'s Book of Confessions. Now a visiting World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) team has commended WCRC member churches in South Africa for their recent progress in overcoming hurdles remaining since the removal of formal apartheid. The PC(SA)'s Oscar McCloud was one of the team members. Speaking of the Nederduitse Kerk van Afrika (NHKA), a church that remains suspended from the fellowship of WCRC on the basis of the status confessionis stance, McCloud reports that it has come a long way and is "struggling with pain in the process of doing the right thing." McCloud has long related to South Africa, which he visited early as the general director of the Program Agency of the former United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
Global ecumenical formation effort involves PC(USA) educators
Five educational leaders who are part of the PC(USA) are among those who are developing a Global Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI) to function alongside the World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, Korea.
The intensive program in ecumenical formation will run from October 25 to November 9. Twenty-seven advanced students of theology will go from the U.S., among them six Presbyterians. The PC(USA) seminary educators are Rodney Petersen (Boston Institute), Heidi Hadsell (Hartford Seminary), Marsha Snulligan-Haney (Johnson C. Smith/ITC), Cliff Kirkpatrick (Louisville), and David Esterline (McCormick) (pictured in order, left to right). The North American program facilitator is Madison Muñoz, a Louisville Seminary student (pictured, farthest right). She has written about GETI in the October 2013 issue of Presbyterians Today.
Cross-generational interests impel PC(USA) delegates to WCC Assembly
The World Council of Churches has lifted up the goal of ecumenical formation and nurture of the next generation of leaders in the churches. The PC(USA) has filled one of its two spots in the delegation list for the coming 10th WCC Assembly with a delegate and alternate who demonstrate concern for the next generation in their own lives and work.
Laura Mariko Cheifitz, selected as a PC(USA) delegate, was enabled by the PC(USA) to participate in an ecumenical women's event while she was in her early twenties. She was the youngest in the room, she says in a video produced by Day 1. Later she was able to help nurture younger adults through her role staffing the Fund for Theological Education's Leading Generations Initiative, which has brought generations together. Cheifetz has played special key roles in the nurture of young Asian Americans. She says, "I as a multiracial person [white Jewish and Japanese American] seem to trip up people's paradigms. In the end, I know history, culture and law would have me sit in the back of the bus, so I purposefully align myself to work for racial / gender / class justice whenever possible." She directed the AADVENT Project (Asian Americans for Discipleship, Empowerment, Nurture and Transformation) that provided hundreds of Asian American young adults with the opportunity to grow in leadership and to think about God's work in the world. As of June 3, 2013, Heifetz has become the executive director for church and public relations with the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.
Everdith Landrau, selected to be the alternate delegate, experienced international ecumenism in her early twenties through serving as a steward at the WCC's Central Committee meeting in 2006. Of that experience in Geneva she says,
"I learned that beyond confessions, an imperative aspect of unity is respect for each other beyond our personal experiences. This is an important characteristic of ecumenism and the stewards did a great job in practicing it."
A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she came to New York City's Spanish Harlem to live with a grandmother. Later, while a South Carolina pastor, she said,
“Understanding diversity, culture and violence is my ‘city girl’ gift to this community. I’ve learned you can either kill one another or work it out. Our community can create differences in others’ lives by fully engaging, transforming and healing.” Her vision is that there can be trans-generational healing through connectivity, she said in reference to the 20-40 year olds who are leaving mainline denominations. Landrau is now going to Charlotte to become associate pastor at Caldwell Presbyterian Church.
Minister volunteers for Reformed Communion funds development
Stephen Lytch, a PC(USA) minister, is presently donating a year to get a World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) development office started. He admits the WCRC fund raising goals are ambitious but, he says, "I am convinced that Christ's church needs WCRC as a living expression of Christ's body. The Reformed communion is not the whole body, but it is an essential part." Lytch reveals something of what he is learning about the global church--and what he has brought with him in global awareness--as he writes on the WCRC blog about an ecumenical visit in North Sumatra. Lytch has contributed several titles to the Thoughtful Christian series of curriculum resources available for download online.
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Relationships with other Reformed churches in the U.S.
|"Ecumenism is living together in this world on a local, national and international level. As Christians we have the common goal to be united. Our unity is a sign of God's uniting all human beings. It is a sign that we live together, talk to another and stand up for each other in solidarity."
-- Olav Fyikse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches
The Heidelberg Catechism highlighted for Reformation Sunday
The year 2013 marks the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism. In celebration of the occasion, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches has published an online booklet especially useful for Reformation Sunday on October 27. (See also other resources for this special Sunday prepared earlier by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.)
The synods of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and Reformed Church in America (RCA) have already adopted the new translation of the Heidelberg Catechism. And now, after the affirmative vote of over two-thirds of the PC(USA) presbyteries, the translation will become a part of an amended PC(USA) Book of Confessions following confirmation by the 221st General Assembly. Neal D. Presa, the moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012), says, “This is a significant and momentous occasion for ... three Reformed churches in North America to come together over a confessional document that has been, arguably, the most used and translated document in the Reformed tradition.” The catechism is divided into 52 sections, upon which Presa began to present weekly reflections beginning on June 14, 2013; follow these on his blog site.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) bilateral relationships
Reformed-Catholic dialogue now in its eighth round
In the U.S., an eighth round of Reformed-Catholic dialogue began a study on the mission and identity of the church in the modern worldmet when it met in Austin, TX, in January 2013. Co-chairs of the dialogue are Cynthia Campbell (pictured), pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church, Louisville, KY, and retired California bishop Tod Brown. Associate stated clerk Robina Winbush and David Gambrell, a Presbyterian Mission Agency staff member, are also PC(USA) participants for this round. The group will draw from the 2012 international Faith and Order report, "The Church--Toward a Common Vision." It will also tackle the nature and role of authority and the episcopacy in direct response to the 1995 encyclical, "Ut Unum Sint."
Those who have followed the proceedings of the seventh round of Reformed-Catholic dialogue hope that congregations will find ways to study its results. Among them, "These Living Waters: Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism," an ecumenically historic baptismal agreement, was approved by the PC(USA)'s 217th General Assembly (2008) and later ratified by vote of the presbyteries. Thereafter, it was approved by the Catholic bishops in October 2010. This agreement gives full official acceptance to one another's baptisms, based on the use of flowing water and the biblical invocation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was celebrated in a service at Austin's Catholic cathedral, during the opening day of the January 2013 meeting of Christian Churches Together, at which Gradye Parsons signed for the PC(USA) and copies of the agreement were distributed to each participating member group in the hope this might be a model for other responses.
"This Bread of Life," from a later stage in the seventh dialogue round, reflects the dialoguers' positions on the eucharist. The paper acknowledges that "full ecclesial communion" does not exist between Catholic and Reformed Christians but that an "imperfect" communion is a reality. One of the Catholic dialogue partners said, "We may not be on the same page, but we are a lot closer . . . than we thought." Tthe Catholic Church, however, cannot extend an invitation to receive Communion; conversely, "Roman Catholics who attend Reformed celebrations of the Lord‘s Supper must refrain from receiving communion there, even though the Reformed liturgies of the Lord‘s Supper invite all the baptized . . . to receive at the table."
Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw, representing the PC(USA), was a co-chair of the seventh round, and Robina Winbush and Martha Moore-Keish also participated from the PC(USA). See a history of forty years of the Reformed-Catholic dialogue.
|" [W]e learned what the nature of a dialogue is. It is not just comparative theology. We accepted that the other believed what they believed in good faith. As a result we never felt the need to ask, ‘Why do you believe what you believe?’ Rather we clarified our doctrine with each other so that we could find convergences, then we were able to explore the differences to see if they were church dividing.'”
---from the Reformed-Catholic dialogue, seventh round
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Recent Presbyterian dialogues and agreements in the U.S.
The PC(USA) understands itself to be in international dialogues through the World Council of Churches and, especially, through the Reformed conversations carried on by the World Commuinion of Reformed Churches.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a full communion agreement with the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commonly identified as the Formula of Agreement. As a recent paper, "The Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace" from the PC(USA) theology and worship office, says, the agreement "sets off ways in which [our] walls can become porous without dissolving the boundaries that distinguish the four denomination" (page 2).
An agreement that includes eucharistic hospitality was adopted by Presbyterians, through the General Assembly in 2008 and by subsequent vote of the presbyteries, and by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2009. New dialogue concerning liturgy, worship, and sacramental theology has begun.
A covenant relationship with the Moravian Church in America, Northern and Southern Provinces was adopted by Presbyterians through the General Assembly in 2008 and by subsequent vote of the presbyteries. Moravians are now considered a full communion partner after they voted affirmatively to accept the agreement in 2010. See the "An Invitation to the Table" document.
Additionally, the results of more bilateral dialogue are beginning to bear fruit. Some of these results are in the form of covenant agreements through which each church maintains its own autonomy and individual polity but is open to possibilities for greater witness and mission in joint relationship. (Note that all bilateral ecumenical agreements require adoption by both churches before they can become determinative in the relationship.):
• Korean Presbyterian-PC(USA)
With the Korean Presbyterian Church in America—A covenant relationship was adopted by the PC(USA), through the General Assembly in 2008 and by subsequent vote of the presbyteries. The KPCA is now considered a full communion partner.
With the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America—Strengthened relationships culminated in concurrent General Assemblies in 2006.
With the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (including, on the Reformed side, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church in Christ)—A formal Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism (p.5) was approved by Presbyterians at the General Assembly in 2008 and by subsequent vote of the presbyteries; it was approved by the bishops in 2010. The CRC, RCA, and UCC adopted the agreement this summer. Further dialogue has resulted in an agreed document on the eucharist yet to come before the respective ecclesiastical bodies (see above).
A new bilateral
• Seventh-day Adventist-PC(USA)
With the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA)—Authorization to participate in formal dialogue, to begin in the fall of 2010 and to extend over a four-year period, approved by the General Assembly in 2010. Topics for discussion will include the law, atonement, prophecy, Sabbath, social justice, religious liberty, worship and communion, and education of clergy with an intent to better understand one another and explore ways to approach the Table together. The next meeting will be in November 2011. (Before formal authorization, three exploratory conversations were held annually from 2006.)
Churches in correspondence
The PC(USA) understands a category of relationships known as "churches in correspondence." See the list of these churches. See the PC(USA) Ecumenical Relations web pages for more information.
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