Leafing through the fall 2023 edition of Presbyterian Connection, the denomination’s quarterly newsletter, I find plenty of stories about social justice and activism: racism, aboriginal rights, climate, poverty, hunger, sexuality and affordable housing. There’s content on church business: use of property, social media, travel tales, congregational renewal and stewardship. There’s the usual multi-page spread of photos from congregation events, dedications, picnics, anniversaries and the like. There’s a smattering of pastoral care. And an interesting cover story on the theology of sanctification. It’s a typical collection. The summer and spring 2023 editions provided similar fare.
While it’s a rich collection of people doing things, I’m always left with a bit of an emptiness. What’s missing? I don’t see a lot of material that speaks to my mission and calling as a teaching elder who adheres to historic theology. (It’s there from time to time, but there’s not enough.) I don’t see a lot of content which reflects what in my mind is the greatest priority of the church: evangelism, apologetics, speaking the truth of humankind’s sinful state and pointing to faith in Christ as the only hope for the world. As the church continues to decline – rapidly and exponentially – I see very little being done across the wider PCC to practice the Great Commission. Social justice and feeding the poor are all worthy. But these are temporal issues. The greater need is spiritual health. Salvation. Souls saved from eternal separation from God. Can anything be more important?
(The inclusion of a photo in the summer 2023 edition of a person in dominatrix attire who gave a talk on the “history and spirituality of drag” at a PCC congregation in Toronto didn’t help.)
Presbyterian Connection is not necessarily the problem. The staff rely on contributions from church membership. As described in the 2023 Acts and Proceedings, the publication “highlights the work of the denomination and strives to inform and unite Presbyterians through stories, images and articles, allowing us to share and develop our ministries and faith.” It’s a snapshot of the PCC. Evangelical fervour is not reflected in its pages possibly because people who practice it have lost faith in the denomination, which is seen as constantly moving away from orthodoxy. They don’t care to share what’s going on. (Yes, we have liberty of conscience. But it’s being tested. How long will it remain and what exactly does it provide?)
Therein lies the frustration and sadness. I know that a great desire exists for evangelical spiritual renewal in the PCC. It’s why the Renewal Fellowship was formed in 1983 and has been supported by thousands of Presbyterians over the decades with their time, talents and treasures. Believers who adhere to historic and global Biblical truth remain in the PCC, as witnesses to the truth. Many struggle to remain in what they deem as an apostate denomination, one which has departed from authentic Christian witness.
I know you’re out there because I see you and I talk to you. You’re discouraged. You’re hurting. You’re tired of constantly being reminded by secular humanism that the Bible-believing, Holy Spirit-led church is either irrelevant or even dangerous. You’re even more tired of people within the PCC itself who just wish you’d change your tune, be quiet or retire. You’ve lost the battle, now go away.
Whether all that is 100-per-cent true is not the point. It’s how we feel. It’s disheartening and exhausting.
With all of that in mind – what do you need right now? What can the Renewal Fellowship (with a small staff, tireless volunteers, a dedicated board of directors and hundreds of members and supporters across the country) do to encourage you and help you advance the Kingdom?