"Gracious God, may we look back upon this time of trouble, in repentance and hope, and see that in coming together to confront our differences, we found a new measure of the peace, unity, and purity that were already ours in our loving Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."On August 25, 2005 the Theological Task Force on Peace Unity and Purity of the Church approved its final report, "A Season of Discernment", to be distributed across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) before it is presented to the General Assembly in 2006. The approval of this final report begins a final year during which the members of the Task Force will itinerate around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to interpret the report.- Prayer at the close of Section I of "A Season of Discernment"
This report is a valuable gift to the church from the 20 members of the Task Force who have worked together, listened to each other, disagreed with each other, and sought to comprehend our Presbyterian identity over almost five years. Almost anyone who seeks primarily validation of one's own current position will be disappointed by this report, and many already have expressed their disappointment. [See this list of responses.] Nevertheless, the core gift of this report is in the Task Force's agreement and faithfulness in following a process of dialogue and reflection, and not in whether they found a final position which will solve all the problems of the PCUSA.
The formation of the Theological Task Force in 2001 emerged out of deep conflicts within the PCUSA. An annual cycle of polarizing debates at the General Assemblies followed by similarly polarizing debates in the presbyteries had been draining energy away from our common mission concerns, and had been straining the fabric of our fellowship. Even in small membership churches, where members are accustomed to getting along with one another, there has been an awareness of a certain level of tension within the Presbyterian Church at large.
When the 213th General Assembly met in Louisville, Kentucky in 2001, the first year of the 21st Century, there was already business being proposed for that meeting that had the potential for continuing or even intensifying the cycle of divisive debates and votes. Early in that meeting, on Wednesday, June 13, the first day of plenary business when the assembly committees began presenting their reports, the assembly approved a recommendation to form the Task Force by a 91% majority.
The charter for the Theological Task Force was as follows:
The Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church is directed to lead the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in spiritual discernment of our Christian identity in and for the 21st century, using a process which includes conferring with synods, presbyteries, and congregations seeking the peace, unity, and purity of the church. This discernment shall include but not be limited to issues of Christology, biblical authority and interpretation, ordination standards, and power.
The task force is to develop a process and an instrument by which congregations and governing bodies throughout our church may reflect on and discern the matters that unite and divide us, praying that the Holy Spirit will promote the purity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Other installments of this review of "A Season of Discernment" are: 1 2