An interesting letter to the editor by David Cameron appeared last week in the Presbyterian Outlook regarding the New Wineskin Association of Churches. The writer asked why this group of churches would consider leaving the PC(USA) denomination due to the possibility that the Authoratitive Interpretation may lead to local option, because the EPC–the denomination which the NWAC would possibly join–is already employing local option.
While it is an interesting question, I think the answer is the same as the systemic problem of our current polity within the PC(USA): Trust. The NWAC and likeminded PC(USA) churches would feel safe and secure within the EPC theologically and with regard to scriptural authority, therefore they would be able to trust other church’s within the new denomination to uphold the standards they, themselves, adamently believe in.
Likewise, the reason that the AI will not work within the current state of the PC(USA) is due to the lack of trust from one CPM to another. If we believed that the Holy Spirit was still actively guiding and leading all of our Committee’s on the Preparation of MInistry to adequately admonish, encourage and challenge candidates for ministry (not to mention sessions with regard to elders), then local option would not be problem.
However, as most candidates can attest, the current process with CPM is rarely anything other than a beaurcratic hoop. Beyond the one point of contact (the liasion), the committee’s rarely are involved in the supporting and encouraging of the candidate, are not familiar with his/her Christian practices (worship, prayer, etc.) and generally not familiar with the person beyond a once a year interview. This prevents the CPM from providing admonishment and discipline in the call process.
Therefore, since we are in a season of dis-trust, and with little innovative and strong leadership (which is resulting in the push for more congregational and less connectional form of polity–i.e. property, local option), I am fearful of where the PC(USA) church will be led. While I am an old EPC member and align well with their theology, I see real harm in the NWAC proposal because by leaving one place, where they do not trust the new polity, in order to join another, which practices the exact polity they distrust, will produce a homogenious theological unit. To me, these seems analogous to “white flight.”
Personally, I believe this issue of denominational (dis)trust begins with a candidate’s interactions with the Presbytery through the CPM, which no longer seems to provide a safe, supportive and trustworthy environment, but merely an obsticle to get through.