The Presbyter’s Pen: Vision and Praxis Task Force Deepening Relationships for Change

Written by Rev. Robert C. Reynolds, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago

Often, in institutional life, there is a gap between vision and practice. Closing the gap to achieve the vision becomes a mandate for effectiveness, which is no less true for the institutional church. In this regard, Chicago Presbytery’s Vision and Praxis Task Force (VPTF) has a key role to propose the presbytery’s future vision and to recommend faithful practices that will close the gap between a new vision and its fulfillment.

VPTF consists of twelve teaching and ruling elders representing the presbytery’s diversity. It is embracing a model of deepening relationships for change in order to strengthen the presbytery as a PC(USA) Council. Through grace-filled listening and connecting, in ways Jesus did with his followers, our collective imagination can be freed for an emerging new vision to support, equip, and develop congregations.

Renewal of the presbytery’s vision and practices should follow its constitutionally defined roles, which are as follows:

“The presbytery is the council serving as a corporate expression of the church within a certain district and is composed of all the congregations and teaching elders within that district. . .

(It) is responsible for the government of the church throughout its district, and for assisting and supporting the witness of congregations to the sovereign activity of God in the world, so that all congregations become communities of faith, hope, love, and witness. . .

In light of this charge, the presbytery has responsibility and power to: provide that the Word of God may be truly preached and heard, provide that the Sacraments may be rightly administered and received, and nurture the covenant community of disciples of Christ.” Book of Order, G-3.0301

Just as Chicago Presbytery is the Presbyterian Church (USA) Council for the Chicago metro area, the session is the Council for each congregation. Because a key role of the presbytery is “assisting and supporting the witness of congregations,” the congregational connecting point for deepening the presbytery’s relationships there should be with sessions. It’s a mutually accountable council-to-council relationship. Sessions that value their relationships with the presbytery will wisely inspire church members’ appreciation for their connections within the broader church. In turn, an informed, trusted relationship between the sessions and the presbytery (and sessions with one another at times) cultivates a fruitful congregational life that values its connections with the whole Presbyterian family.

The presbytery’s relationships with sessions as continuous, creative, and compassionate partners are essential for our church’s future. I hope the Chicago Presbytery’s Vision and Praxis Task Force recommendations will include practices that close the gap and deepen faithful life together through dynamic Presbyterian council-to-council relationships.

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