Understanding Race Matters: Conversations with our Church Family
Can we talk?
Can we talk about racism in our country? Can we have a conversation among Christian siblings about how the church might help heal the racial divide in American?
There are many, many books, articles, podcasts, and videos out there–wonderful resources, for sure. But where can we go for deep conversation from a Christian, even a Presbyterian, perspective to begin to learn, grow, and better understand our own role in the systems of injustice? Where can we reflect, safely and without judgment, about how “good” white people have participated in racist practices and how to begin to make corrections?
On Tuesday, September 15, 2020 at 2:00 p.m., Presbyterian Outlook is offering a free webinar presented by Kerry Connelly, author of Good White Racist? Confronting Your Role in Racial Injustice. You are encouraged to participate in the webinar if you have the time. Register here.
On Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 7:00 p.m., Lehigh Presbytery is hosting a Zoom conversation among Presbyterians to examine our own complicity in racial injustice and begin the journey toward being better allies for our Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC) siblings. Register here.
Lehigh Presbytery’s Statement of Purpose calls us to “to partner to challenge and resource each other, so that we many boldly risk our comfort for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.” During this time of transition, we have also committed to experimenting with new ways of being Lehigh Presbytery.
Can we talk?
Small Church Forum
“Things can’t change” without fresh ideas, new input, and challenging conversations.
This is true regardless of church size, but often it’s smaller congregations who feel the most “stuck.” Yet, clearly small membership churches have many God-given possibilities if they can only find ways to confront and overcome their challenges.
Lehigh Presbytery’s smaller congregations (worship attendance round 50 or under) are invited, along with similar sized congregations from Lackawanna and Northumberland Presbyteries, to a series of Zoom gatherings with Ellie Johns-Kelley from the Presbyterian Foundation, starting Thursday, October 1, 2020 at 6:30 p.m.
She will lead a group of churches like yours in an exploration of assets that may be activated to create a positive, hope-filled future, and how even perceived liabilities can be overcome. Your time with Ellie will include a financial assessment, a roundtable discussion of best practices for small churches, and a Q & A session geared toward small churches facing financial challenges (building issues, decline in giving, increased dependence on endowment and/or rentals, etc.) You will learn about a variety of services offered by the Foundation that can help your Pastor and Session assess your church’s financial health and consider options to ensure its sustainability.
Unless things change, nothing can change. Please invited your Pastor, Treasurer, Session Clerk, Ruling Elders, and anyone actively engaged in the life of the congregation to consider leading yoru church into a new cycle of hope focused on preciously unexplored possibility.
You can register online by clicking here.
Church Officer Training
Have you been called to serve as a Ruling Elder or Deacon for your congregation within the last year or so and you’re still not quite sure what your role is?
Or have you been serving for years and you could use a reminder why you said, yes, when the nominating committee called?
You’re in luck! In response to popular demand, Lehigh Presbytery is offering church officer training online on Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. Register here.
The facilitator for this event will be Rev. Steve Cureton, Executive Presbyter for Northumberland Presbytery, our neighbor to the northwest and partner in ministry. Steve has offered this training in person in Northumberland for a number of years and has graciously agreed to take it virtual for Lehigh Presbytery’s benefit.
Why is it important for your congregation’s Ruling Elders and Deacons to participate? Because elected officers are too important in the life of a church to NOT properly equip them for the work they are called by God through the Holy Spirit to do. (Yes, church officers are called by God, not the nominating committee or the pastor, and when you agree to serve you are answering a call, not filling a slot.)
Unfortunately, many Ruling Elders and Deacons know little of the actual responsibility to which they have been ordained–and, speaking of being ordained, all too many church officers (and Teaching Elders!) forget that they ARE ordained. I’ve heard Elders and Deacons described as laypersons far too often, almost as often as I’ve heard church officers characterized themselves as “just and Elder” or “just a Deacon.”
What will this church officer training include? Among other topics, Steve will provide instruction in the Constitutions, foundations, and structure of the Presbyterian Church (USA) as well as an examination of the meaning and purpose of the Constitutional Questions asked during ordination/installation. You will learn a bit about our Book of Order, history, Reformed theology, and the connectional nature of our denomination.
You will leave with a more complete sense of what it means to be Presbyterian as well as specifics about the responsibilities of Ruling Elders and Deacons.
After training, Rev. Rhonda Kruse would be happy to meet with your Session, Deacons and other church leaders to answer any remaining questions. Just contact Rhonda or the Presbytery office to set a date and time.
Let’s Canoe The Mountains Together!
Those of you who attended the January Presbytery assembly heard a presentation by Tod Bolsinger about the concept of adaptive change for the church from his book, Canoeing the Mountains. When asked if ever imagined that this book would be so popular, Tod said “No, I was totally surprised, but it really seems to have struck a nerve in churches across many denominations.
Indeed, the theory behind Canoeing the Mountains, that the church must learn new ways to engage in ministry because the old ways no longer work, has also struck a nerve here in Lehigh Presbytery. We’ve heard excitement and energy around learning more about adaptive change and beginning to innovate and experiment in the hope that our congregations’ DNA will begin to shift in a positive way.
You can view the Zoom recording of the January 24, 2020 Presbytery Assembly with the presentation by Tod Bolsinger, along with his PowerPoint Presentation and additional free online training resources by clicking the links below.
A Different Kind of Leadership
Are you as a leader in need of new energy, renewed vision, which the typical leadership program hasn’t filled?
Do you desire to strengthen your inner being as prayed in Ephesians 3:16?
Then, perhaps the Oasis program Contemplative Leadership is just what you need. Andrew Barton, a member of our Presbytery, invites you to join him in this year-long program as a means of deepening your leadership. Registration is open and the program begins in October.
Details can be found at https://www.oasismin.org/cl or contact Andrew directly at .
Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS)
Preserve vital church records for free at the Presbyterian Historical Society. You can order digital copies of the records at a PC(USA) discount. If you join their church membership program, you would receive even further digitalization savings.
PHS is here to serve your congregation. From preserving your history, to accessing historical records, to learning more about the heritage of American Presbyterianism, there is a lot to explore at www.history.pcusa.org!
Presbyterian Historical Society, 425 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
2020 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving Announced
IR-2018-251, Dec. 14, 2018
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2020 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
- 57.5 cents per mile for business miles driven.
- 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes.
- 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
To read the entire notice visit their website at:
Mission does not belong to us; it belongs to God. God invites us to participate in God’s global mission, across town and across the world. Whether your congregation is planning to go on a short-term mission trip, study tour or partnership delegation, the new Short-Term Mission Trip Toolkit has resources to help trip leaders and participants prepare to engage in cross-cultural travel trips. To learn more, visit:
a href=”https://lehighpresbytery.org/lp/wp-content/uploads/3_How-to-use-this-toolkit_FINAL-1.pdf”>How to Use the Short-Term Mission Toolkit
Important Federal Court Ruling on Failure to Report Child Abuse
Published in Church Law & Tax Report, January/February 2016, pg. 12, Senior Editor Richard R. Hammar, Christianity Today, publisher.
A federal court in Pennsylvania ruled that a local church and denominational agency could be sued on the basis of the legal principle of negligence per se by a victim of child abuse as a result of their failure to report … This means that a mandatory child abuse reporter’s failure to comply with a state child abuse reporting law’s requirement to report a known or reasonably suspected incident of child abuse would render that person automatically liable for monetary damages without a need for the victim to prove actual negligence. [Doe v. Liberatore, 478 F.Supp.2d 742 (M.D. pa 2007)
Report submitted to assembly on identity, purpose of PC(USA)
A vibrant family portrait of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has emerged from the recent church-wide conversation on the identity and purpose of the denomination, and God, Christ, love, and the world are among the most prominent subjects.
Dominant, too, is a commitment to Reformed Theology, and to the scriptural call to ministry outside the church. That’s the message coming from “When We Gather at the Table: A PC(USA) Snapshot (PDF),” a report of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) to the 222nd General Assembly (2016).
It outlines the results of the comprehensive effort made by COGA in late 2015 to dialogue with the church about who it is and what it is called to be. COGA, with the help of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Research Services office, invited anyone who wished to complete an online form with open-ended questions and to engage in group gatherings to talk about the PC(USA) in this current time and place. More than 3,000 Presbyterians responded and some 21,000 pieces of data came in.
“The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly wants to thank everyone who gave thought, prayer, and insight to Research Services,” COGA said in its report. “It was clear in all responses that all people care about their Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). If our church was only fueled by passion there is enough to carry us well into the future.”
COGA’s report is available on PC-Biz and will be part of the business received by the General Assembly when it meets June 18–25 in Portland, Oregon. The data collected by Research Services is available in a report here, and an external report written by Dr. John Brueggemann can be found here.
“We are a blessed and fortunate people who have a heritage that still inspires us to be hearers and doers of the Word; to treasure the role of laity and clergy together; that privileges thoughtful discernment and compels us to act for justice,” COGA said. “There is a widespread appreciation for Reformed Theology and how it has shaped us a church.”
Simultaneously, “There is an urgent sense that our efforts must now address the needs of congregations, mid councils, and agencies of the church—venerable and emerging, as an expression of faithfulness to the Lordship of Christ,” the committee said. “COGA notes a healthy restiveness to reform our structures and perhaps even our Presbyterian culture in service to a renewed vitality of witness in our nation and around the world. There is a common desire to find ways to support healthy congregations and our commitment to helping others.”
COGA’s report will first be received by the Assembly Committee on The Way Forward before moving on to the full assembly.
Office of the General Assembly
Director of Communications and Assistant Stated Clerk
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) provides emergency relief and short-term recovery to the impacted areas with our partner, ACT Alliance and its members. Immediate responses help provide needed food, water, supplies and medicine to the impacted towns and villages.
The needs for the response are great. God’s people are once again called on to stand in the “GAP” – Give. Act. Pray.
- Give: Financial support for relief efforts can be designated. you can view the list at http://pda.pcusa.org/page/active-accounts/. Gifts can be made through your local church, online, by phone (800) 872-3283 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (EST), or checks can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.
- Act: Learn how your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed and like us on Facebook, download resources and share updates with your congregation.
- Pray: Pray for those who suffered loss of family or those who are working tirelessly to provide rescue, humanitarian aid, and spiritual and psychological support.
For more information, visit The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA),