From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Reflections of the Stated Clerk
27 Jun 1996 12:16:48
96250 Reflections of the Stated Clerk:
Jim Andrews Says Farewell
by Alexa Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Jim Andrews says it seemed odd to him back in 1942 that
while still Presbyterian, he was a member of a different denomination just
because his parents moved from New York to Arkansas.
It was probably that sense of oddness that kept compelling him to
deliver his spiel about reunion on the floors of presbyteries across the
South -- even when people said it was a no go.
Reunion, Andrews says, is still happening. It's a long, slow process
adjusting to differences, absorbing changes and acknowledging that
transitions -- though doable -- are often painful. "But what the church
can be was obviously more important than what the church had been," he says
now, looking back on those days.
"It was visionary, looking to the future. ... It offered the
opportunity to utilize our combined resources for planning and carrying out
mission. And we had a common constitution and theological base," Andrews
"Oh yeah," he admits, mistakes were made in reuniting the Presbyterian
Church in the United States (PCUS) and the United Presbyterian Church in
the United States of America (PCUSA) -- such as paying too little attention
to governing body relations and to impending financial crunches. But when
asked what he's most proud of in his near quarter-century of working as the
stated clerk of a Presbyterian denomination, it's reunion he mentions
first: "I deserve," he says, "some small share of the credit for
accomplishing reunion. I served both [denominations]. Had contacts in
both. And had some understanding of both."
What Andrews does understand is history. That's where he often turns
to understand conflict such as what he sees happening in the now reunited
denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). And he says crises about
doctrinal integrity -- though the issue now is justice -- church government
and increasing sectionalism strikingly parallel controversies raging among
Presbyterians in the mid-1800s.
But there's an undercurrent now that is highly paradoxical -- "a
current sense of rejection of authority ... put together with a sense of
longing for sources of certainty.
"You can't have certainty without sources of authority," Andrews says,
stressing that a way out of the bind may be "a rollback to old ways ...
re-realizing the importance of education and communication" as new ways of
nurturing ties and connecting with each other, such as electronic networks,
"The day of major denominational structures is in decline. Smaller'
may be the wrong word [because] the end result will involve more people,"
he says. " ... There's a very bright future in front of us."
But that means recognizing existing problems quickly, adapting to them
and not expecting looming transitions to be painless, Andrews maintains, if
institutions created in the 1950s are going to reshape themselves for a
different kind of world. He said some within the ecumenical movement
already foresee adapting themselves to a more interfaith focus, especially
among Jews, Christians and Muslims.
But there are griefs and criticisms, too, in surveying a
quarter-century of the church's life. Andrews says he's dismayed by some of
what he sees:
a lack of attention to mentoring promising individuals
the growing use of a "politics of threat"
more emphasis on professionalism than calling among clergy
a lack of regret among those "out of sync" with community
consensus for causing
a general loss of the notion of "covenant community" for the
primacy of the individual
too much worry about "more budget" rather than developing an
less vision in the leadership.
And he regrets that he was never able to persuade Presbyterians to
hold biennial Assemblies -- though the review committee's proposal to hold
legislative Assemblies every other year with more conventionlike gatherings
in between comes somewhat closer, Andrews says.
He attributes much of what happens in the church not only to the loss
of trust that came out of the Vietnam era and to what he calls the indebted
kinds of politics common to the Kennedy days, but also to the increasing
secularization of society.
But secular society is exactly where he's headed. "It's time to give
back. I've got a lot of political experience," he says, stressing that he
intends to spend some time training people to run for local political
office, such as on school boards and town councils, and staying out of
"There's an element of liberation in leaving," said Andrews,
acknowledging that he's ready for a change and he still believes that it's
"tragic when leadership figures do not move out of the way."
A remaining source of pride for Andrews is the staff he assembled in
the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) -- people, he says, who enjoy
working together and who work hard. He paused. "I will miss these people
intensely. ... We just had the final senior staff meeting.
"At the next one, the new clerk will be present," Andrews said, who
will have a consultative role for the first months of the new clerk's
tenure. "And at the next ... the old clerk will not be present."
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
Browse month . . .
Browse month (sort by Source) . . .
Advanced Search & Browse . . .