From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Turn from internal squabbling to resisting destructive culture, biblical scholar tells GAC

Date 12 Jun 2002 10:26:37 -0400

Note #7204 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


Turn from internal squabbling to resisting destructive culture, biblical scholar tells GAC

Create "life-giving communities," Brueggemann says

by Alexa Smith

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Squabbling liberals and conservatives ought to be fighting less and creating more counter-cultural communities of generosity, hospitality and forgiveness, biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann told the General Assembly Council (GAC) as it prepared to resume its "strategic visioning" process at its pre-General Assembly meeting here. 

Citing the biblical concepts of "call" and "sending," which are lived out as "discipleship" and  "evangelism," Brueggemann said that Presbyterians of all stripes should be talking about "our common trust in Jesus" and creating "life-giving" alternatives to a society that deals death.

His remarks prefaced two hours of small-group work where GAC members began identifying goals for ministry based on the "Great Ends of the Church," constitutional hallmarks that proclaim the life of the church and its role in the world, such as the "Proclamation of the Gospel for the Salvation of Humankind."

"People in the mainline churches little understand that call to discipleship and evangelism ... because our kind of churches have been so accomodationist for so long," he said, adding that mainliners have "scarcely a clue" that the baptismal calling is dangerous in a world that is governed by technological, therapeutic, military and consumeristic values that run counter to the biblical and prophetic traditions.

Brueggemann said both liberals and conservatives have accommodated the prevailing culture and, as an antidote, ought to be developing biblical disciplines that provide a radical alternative to the world's ways: creating a culture where the church is thought to be the most generous "place in town" and where forgiveness just comes naturally.

He said that Christians need to gather more than once a week to sustain themselves for the struggle and to practice prayer and fasting and listening to the scriptures.

When questioned by the Rev. Gary Skinner, retired executive of the Synod of Alaska-Northwest, about how to eliminate obstacles that stop liberals and conservatives from working together, Brueggemann replied that doing so is "damn hard" - that old habits and rigid absolutes get in the way.

"We're always looking for ways around the radicality of the call," he said, adding that Christians habitually cling to a "particular piece of the truth" and "imagine it to be the whole truth ...

"There's a deep itch to excommunicate everyone who is not (aligned with my) absolutes.  And we'd have a very small church when we get done doing that."

After listening to Brueggemann, a member of the United Church of Christ who teaches at Colombia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, council members projected future ideas for ministry, running from creating more hospitality for the homeless, to new pastors' conferences to equipping people to be theologians.

The Rev. Barbara Renton of Susquehanna Valley Presbytery - and the incoming chair of the GAC - described the exercise as an opportunity to advise and discern the council's work for the future. "You representatives of the council," she said, "represent the grassroots of the church ...

"What is it that we need to be about so that this part of the Body can work with other parts of the Body to build up the Body in love."

The council has been engaged in a visioning process since January.  In 2003, presbyteries and synods will be asked to respond to the council 's proposed goals for ministry at the national-level.

During business this week, the council will consider funding a Presbyterian Church (USA) Pastors' Conference that is designed to provide nurture for 1,000 ministers and their spouses at a cost of $75,000.  Funding will come from the six national PC(USA) agencies - the GAC, the Board of Pensions, the Committee on the Office of the General  Assembly, the Presbyterian Church (USA) Foundation, the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.
Send your response to this article to

To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send an 'unsubscribe' request to

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home