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The mission of Seattle Presbytery is to participate, in word and deed, in God’s transforming work through the Gospel of Jesus Christ: †by strengthening the witness and mission of our congregations and members and by building strong partnerships with each other and the larger Christian community.

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A Theological Reflection on Property and Ministry

Seattle Presbytery

A Theological Reflection on Property and Ministry

Rev. J. P. Kang

The claim has been made that “a clear theme of scripture is that God gives us land to steward for ministry.” However, this is not obvious and is in fact questionable. The Scriptures do not articulate a universal and consistent teaching about land (or ground or earth) and our relationship to it, and so interpretation and discernment are always required when thinking about and making decisions about land.

The two creation accounts found at the beginning of Genesis characterize the relationship between human beings and land in significantly different ways. In the first account, humanity is commanded “to fill the earth and subdue (lit. ‘dominate’) it” (1:28)—as masters and owners. In the second account, Adam is placed in Eden to cultivate (lit. “serve”) and care for (lit. “guard”) it (2:15)—as servant and tenant. Differing visions of humanity’s place in creation are juxtaposed in these opening chapters, and the tension remains evident throughout the Bible.

In Genesis 11, the primary problems with the tower-builders of Babel are that (1) they chose to settle down, in open disobedience to the thrice-repeated command (Genesis 1:28; 9:1, 7) to fill the earth, and (2) they had no interaction with the LORD in their planning and building—until it was too late. For their defiance and self-reliance they were evicted, becoming a cautionary tale for projects undertaken without consulting the divine building inspector. Note that the story is not criticizing the otherwise natural human desires for stability or ambition, but it is an early reminder that wisdom is vindicated by listening and obeying (Matthew 7:24–27). In these examples, land is literally and figuratively a stage on which human motivations are exposed.

It is true that land, along with lineage, are the LORD’s oft-repeated promises to Abram (chapters 12–50). Abram’s descendants, however, realize the “promised land” through genocidal conquest (Joshua), which complicates, if not compromises, the value of the gift. The subsequent history of the land (Judges through 2 Kings) that ended in the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles shows that, far from being cultivated for holy use, the land was defiled by the idolatry of the Israelites and Judeans. God purges polluted land by removing its inhabitants, one time by flood (Genesis 6–7) and later, by a figurative vomiting out in the exile (Leviticus 18:25–28). Bottom line: the exile teaches us that land is not an ultimate good, and that God’s purposes are not frustrated even when God’s people are landless.

Thus we see a variety of attitudes toward land in the Old Testament, and we need to be on guard against readings that conclude that the value of land justifies any means of attaining or retaining it. Such readings of the Old Testament, transposing “promised land” onto contemporary maps, have been used to legitimate the imperialism of ideologies such as Manifest Destiny and Zionism.

The New Testament likewise expresses a variety of views about land.

In the parable of the sower (Mark 4; Matthew 13; Luke 8), the responses to the word that is sown are represented by different types of terrain: smooth, rocky, thorny, and good soil. Perhaps the most disquieting thing about this parable is that God is free to sow wherever God chooses, and that the terrain has no power to “improve” itself. This story is paired in all three accounts with the confounding word of Isaiah 6:9 (“Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand”) that divinely ordains deafness and blindness even for those who hear the good news. Humility and reverent fear should attend our reflections on the terrain represented by our lives.

If we seek models for how land is to be used for ministry, we might first consider the negative example found in the parable of the man who planted a fig tree, which repeatedly failed to produce fruit: “So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’” (13:7; compare Isaiah 5:1–7’s song of the vineyard). What do these parables suggest about a possible faithful response to a non-productive ministry?

Then there is the example of Acts 4:32–37, where the early church’s communal ethos extended even to real property for the sake of eliminating poverty: “for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold” (v. 34). Even if we don’t believe we are supposed to imitate them in this particular way, we can certainly learn from the spirit of the way they disposed of their assets as we consider the question of the proper disposition of property.

Land thus has potential to be a tool for ministry, but like any tool, its positive or negative value results from the way in which it is wielded. And as with tools, using the right tool at the right time can make all the difference in finishing a job well; conversely, using the wrong tool or using a tool in the wrong way usually leads to wasted effort and even damage. Land can be, like a sacrament, an ordinary substance that becomes a vehicle for God’s grace, but in and of itself land has no special properties or powers. What it is or will be depends on God first, and secondarily, our response to God’s word to us, here, in this place.

Return to: FPCS AC/Session FAQs 10-8-18

Presbytery Property & Finance: Where We've Been And Where We Are Going

Seattle Presbytery

By Rev. Scott Lumsden, Executive Presbyter

Over the past few months, there have been a number questions about how the presbytery manages its properties and finances. I want to give some background so that the presbytery better understands where we've been and where we're going.

Background

I began in April of 2008, and among other challenges in the presbytery at the time, I was made aware that the presbytery owned about 3 properties that were not being actively managed by the presbytery: Buck Creek (Camp & Conference Center), Beacon Hill (containing presbytery offices, one church, and one fellowship), and Brighton (Vietnamese Good News Fellowship, and a few other churches not related to the presbytery). It was also reported that the pastor of Black Diamond PC left the area and abandoned the building.

In none of these 4 properties were there valid leases or agreements with any entity in any of these buildings (and keep in mind that fellowships have no official legal or ecclesiastic standing in relationship to the presbytery). In addition, the presbytery paid for most of the costs of these properties—had all the liability—and received almost no income from any of the tenants.

The presbytery incurred about $100,000 a year in operation/upkeep costs related to these properties from 1996-2008, a total loss of about $1.2M on property management.

Relating to day-to-day financial management, the situation was worse. On the day before I started, our bookkeeper resigned—the third bookkeeper to resign in the previous year. Her reason was something along the lines of "I cannot be responsible for what happened here." And the committee whose job it was to oversee our finances had resigned as a committee in 2007 after it was stated publicly (by then-moderator Madeleine Brenner) in a presbytery meeting that our finances were not reliable. Sadly, this was true, but now on top of not having a committee, we did not have a bookkeeper either.

Enter the guy (me) who previously had never balanced his checkbook and you have what could have been an unmitigated disaster.

What Happened

What happened was exactly the opposite—we rallied as a presbytery, formed a Property and Finance committee, reviewed our books, got our financial house in order, and began the slow, difficult process of learning how to manage vacant church buildings.

Let me share just a little about the financial picture in 2008. In 2008, we had a $40 per capita, a $500,000 personnel budget (that supported a staff focused primarily on administrative work, not on field work with congregations), supposedly about $1M in the bank (which turned out only to be about $400,000), and two sources of income: per capita (operations) AND mission giving (additional freewill giving from our churches for mission causes).

Despite giving the impression that mission giving from our congregations went to presbytery mission efforts, all the income received from our churches was subsumed into Operations. I know that this is not how people wanted it, or thought we were doing it, but it's how things were. And since mission giving was beginning to dry up, the only way to resolve the operations shortfall was to increase per capita (and do less "mission"). In the meantime, the financial realities for our congregations was getting worse in the light of decades of decline and now a bona fide global recession.

To address the presbytery shortfall, there was a plan to raise per capita in 2009.  However, with the backing of the newly formed Property and Finance committee, we continued to tighten our belts and steward our resources toward healthier practices—meaning we chose not to raise per capita in 2009 and have been able to keep it at $40 for the past 10 years.

This also meant that we had to deal with the "mission giving" problem. We did this by utilizing our properties as mission assets and using the additional revenue from property management for mission through what is now called the grant program. Thus not only have we kept costs contained for our per capita (operations) budget, we've also addressed the mission funding question by changing the way we managed our properties.

In short, our churches have been able to receive the same, if not better services from the presbytery (without any increase in per capita for 10 years) AND financial help for capital improvements, mission projects, or even operational expenses without having to raise this money from other churches.

This means that now when we talk about doing something new or different for our churches or as a presbytery, we don't have to raise the money from our churches (which is what we used to do, e.g. the capital campaign to "save" Buck Creek, or the old fundraising efforts for new church development). Now we allocate money from our grant program.

A New Approach

It's important to know that a critical reason we have gone from financial crisis to financial health is because we not only dealt head-on with our financial challenges, we also addressed the cause of much of our chronic financial distress: property.

Instead of seeing vacant church properties as just old church buildings that could only be used for congregational purposes, we began to look at them as buildings that could be employed for the ministry of the larger presbytery. In other words, since we had no congregations of our own in the buildings (except one at Beacon Hill, who then found another location at Wallingford), we were open to pursuing leases with other entities.

This change, however, took years to manage and many thousands of hours of working with the fellowships that were in our buildings—working with them to find other churches they could nest in or even other locations with money pledged to help the transition, including support with rent. We even offered one of our fellowships a share in the proceeds from a lease. (These offers were all flatly turned down).

In the meantime, a number of churches have closed: Duwamish, New Hope, First Renton, White River, and Bethel. Each new property had its own history and story, as well as its own challenges and opportunities.

It was during this period that the P&F committee was most busy. One by one, each property was appraised and evaluated in light of the larger mission of the presbytery: White River was sold to Pyung An (a predominantly Korean-speaking congregation nested at Steel Lake and who later was dismissed to ECO), Duwamish was sold to the congregation that shared space with the Presbyterian church when it was there; New Hope (in South Park) was sold to a Slavic speaking Russian Orthodox Congregation; First Renton was sold to the Children's Institute for Learning Differences; Bethel was leased and then sold to Seattle Area German Academy; Black Diamond is in a lease with an option to purchase to Grace Road Church; and Beacon Hill is being leased to the Torah Day School (which expires in 5 years).

And recently Kent and Capitol Hill have closed, and Seattle Presbytery is managing Seattle First on the AC's behalf. (More on these properties another time).

Why Are We Managing Property?

From time to time people ask, why is "the presbytery" or "Scott" managing property? Shouldn't we/he be doing something else? Great question. We are managing property because just as buildings and property are a part of the ministry of a local congregation, they become just as much a part of the ministry of the presbytery when a church closes.

And for the same reasons an active church doesn't hire out the management of its facilities to an outside entity, neither do we -- it's cost-prohibitive; the decisions about the use of the facilities should be made by the church/presbytery without having to go through an outside party; and in the end, property is for the mission of a church/presbytery and thus even if it is leased, the decisions about leases have to make sense for the church/presbytery and thus not be handed over to other entities to make for us.

There's more to this story, of course, and more decisions to be made ahead relating to Kent, and Capitol Hill, but I wanted to share some background information as you consider the presbytery’s stewardship of our collective resources for mission.  

—Rev. Scott Lumsden, Executive Presbyter

Read also: FPCS AC/Session FAQs 10-8-18

Ecclesio: Memories of an Immigrant Child by Eliana Maxim

Seattle Presbytery

By Eliana Maxim, on Ecclesio.com

2017 Eliana Maxim headshot.jpg

Shortly after arriving in this country, someone – probably my parents – gave me my first doll. She was Chatty Cathy, a large size hard plastic doll with a pull string in the back of her neck, blond wavy hair, unreal blue eyes and a fixed smile.

My greatest joy was that Cathy spoke to me personally. In my language.

When I pulled her string, I became convinced that among her many utterances, she stated in a clear loud voice, “Que rico Colombia!” (loosely translated to “How wonderful is Colombia!) I look back now and realize the complete nonsense of my belief. There was no way Mattel was going to personalize Chatty Cathys for homesick immigrant girls.

I know I ran around pulling that string like crazy, demonstrating to anyone who would listen the brilliance of my doll; she was able to know where I came from and how wonderful it had been there.

My parents humored me and nodded with what I assumed was our shared melancholy for home but now that I think about it, it was probably sadness for a little girl who could not let go.

There were well meaning folks, our new American neighbors, whose greatest desire was to educate me and were quick to point out that Chatty Cathy was American and therefore only spoke English, that she could only repeat 11 English phrases, that I needed to listen carefully and this would help me learn English.

And so I did.

Eventually.

Read more on Ecclesio.com.

Pacific Northwest Culture and Religious Identity

Seattle Presbytery

An invitation from Rev. Kelly Wadsworth:

Pacific Northwest Culture and Religious Identity: Seattle University

This online, professional development course runs Oct 1 – Nov 13, 2018 and will equip local faith leaders to 1) navigate the particular culture, history, and geography of the Pacific Northwest and 2) articulate one’s own ecclesial tradition within the context of this unique region and ethos. Cost: $210. Space limited, sign up soon. Contact Kelly Wadsworth @ wadswork@seattleu.edu for more information. Registration: https://www.seattleu.edu/stm/professional-development/

RAW Tools Service Reflection

Seattle Presbytery

A message from Rev. Lina Thompson, Lake Burien PC:
Like many communities in this region and across the country, we struggle to make real our desire for peace in the midst of senseless violence.  On August 26th, nearly 250 people from our community, gathered to consider God’s word to us as peacemakers.   We had the privilege of partnering with RAW TOOLS 
www.rawtools.org to create liturgy that spoke to the transformation of violence into peace - all who were there were witness to a beautiful and powerful image that you can read about below in Rev. Aaron Willett’s reflection. 

Peacemaking Starts with the Heart

-Rev. Aaron Willett

The gun barrel entered the forge and the hammer pounded--bang, bang, bang--we prayed, we sang--bang, bang, bang--people whose sisters and brothers have died at the end of a gun shared their stories--bang, bang, bang--the Word was preached--bang, bang, bang--and then the forge was still and a pair of garden tools were given to those survivors as a sign of God’s redemption. We witnessed the hope-filled words of Isaiah 2:4 enacted before our eyes: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”

I was particularly struck by the story of one young man who shared his story of having an older adopted brother killed by gang violence--killed by a gun. He told of the day, some years later, when another of his brothers shared a secret with him: a gun, hidden away. Together he and his brothers would just hold the gun, in awe of the power it represented. They bragged to each other of the people they would shoot if they were disrespected, threatened, or endangered. The gun represented safety, security, and strength. But then, on a fateful day in 2006, the gun went off and one brother was dead.

Here at Southminster, we had two students at Evergreen High School who were on the wrestling team with those brothers. They mourned with that family. That gun, acquired to be a sign of safety and power, brought darkness and powerlessness.

At Lake Burien Pres., on August 26th, members of John Knox PC, Highline UMC, and several other local congregations gathered under a gray sky that eventually broke into a chilling drizzle. In the discomfort of the cold, we heard the discomforting tones--bang, bang bang--as we faced the discomfort and darkness of violence in our community. Together we prayed:

“Lord, we know that if there is to be peace in the world,
there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
there must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
there must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
there must be peace in the heart.”

We shared communion and we celebrated our God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, who makes peace in our hearts… that there might be peace in the world.


A Practice of Peacemaking

Each part of Isaiah 2:4 helps teach us the practice of peacemaking.

“[God] shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;”

God establishes our peace. In Jesus Christ, the peaceable kingdom has begun. The first step in any practice of peacemaking is to relinquish the responsibility and pressure for that first step! In our own peacemaking, we are participating in God’s own action and desire to establish peace in the world and in our hearts.

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;”

The first action belongs to God… but we own our responses. We do carry the responsibility to choose to act in God’s way of peace, whether it be smithing weapons into garden tools or choosing compassion instead of judgment when someone cuts us off in traffic.

“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.”

Finally, God’s peace impacts both the political world of the nations, as well as the much smaller world of our homes. “Neither shall they learn war any more.” Choosing to teach peace requires that we practice peace.

Next time you are faced with the choice between violence and peace, give yourself a moment to consider Isaiah’s call to you. Move past your own fight or flight instincts to consider how you can refashion the violence in your own heart into a tool of God’s peaceable kingdom.

August 30 SeaPres Update: NEXT Church 2019 in Seattle

Seattle Presbytery

2019-save-slider NEXT Seattle.png

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.” ( Acts 2)

As a PresbyGeek or denominational nerd, I attend my fair share of national church gatherings. I’m always on the prowl to hear good news, insights, and innovative ways of rethinking church. Five years ago I attended what was then labeled as a “brand new gathering of Presbyterians” in Charlotte. They called themselves NEXT Church.

This gathering was unlike anything I had attended before. Rather than bemoaning the state of the church or how things aren’t as they used to be, I found leaders - ordained and not - engaged in thoughtful conversations about thinking of the church in a different way, of taking a chance to risk, of celebrating who we are and can be. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this event was that is was - by PCUSA standards anyway - far more culturally and ethnically diverse than other denominational gatherings. Yay! More people who looked and sounded like me, doing ministry, being PCUSA together!

Since then, I have attended the NEXT Church national gatherings in Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Baltimore. And in 2019 NEXT Church will be in Seattle. Yes, finally on the west coast!

Preparations have begun for Seattle Presbytery and Seattle First Presbyterian Church to host the event which usually gets about 400-600 attendees. We’ll need your help in order to roll out the hospitality. Please sign up if you’re interested in volunteering.

Mark your calendars for March 11-13. More details here.

The NEXT Church gathering  will be a place where we can revel in teaching and fellowship, break bread and pray together.

In grace and hope,

Rev. Eliana Maxim
Associate Executive Presbyter

August 23 SeaPres Update

Seattle Presbytery

By Ben McConaughy

Ben McConaughy is a ruling elder from Mercer Island Presbyterian Church and currently serves on Seattle Presbytery’s Permanent Judicial Commission and the Seattle First Presbyterian Church Administrative Commission. He shared this devotion at a recent AC meeting and gave us permission to share it with the presbytery. 


35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” (John, Chapter 1)

Twenty years ago, I found myself in Amalfi, Italy, with an afternoon on my hands. I randomly decided to stop in at the cathedral. There were signs all over the place pointing to the Crypta de Santo Andrea. Curious, I followed the signs, through the sanctuary, down hallways, around corners, until I got to . . .  the gift shop. I thought that was a bit strange, until I noticed one last sign pointing down some stairs. I asked one of the cashiers who Santo Andrea was, and she said, “That’s St. Andrew. Thke Andrew -- The first disciple of Jesus.” The Amalfians claim that during the crusades, they captured Andrew’s mremains from Constantinople, brought them back, and then built a cathedral to house them. I didn’t really believe this, but I went down into the crypt. It was dark and kind of creepy, and surprisingly, I was alone. As I approached this golden box of bones on an altar, I was overwhelmed by this powerful sense that I could be in the presence of the remains of someone who had actually been with Jesus. I wanted to touch the box, but wasn’t sure if it was allowed. But there was no one else there, and my hand was almost magnetically drawn to the box. I touched it, and felt this incredible surge of energy flowing through me. I felt like I had come into contact with a force more powerful than I could explain. When I told my pastor at the time this story, he said, “Maybe this wasn’t some deep spiritual phenomenon – maybe they just electrified the box to keep people from touching it.”

I bet Andrew’s encounter with Jesus was a bit like mine with Andrew – coming into contact with a force more powerful than one can explain.  One of the reasons I love this passage from John is its quirky dialogue. The disciples go walking after Jesus and he turns to them with a question – “what do you want?” In fact, these are the first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John –“what do you want?” Given the context, it’s not a question about why the disciples are trailing after Jesus.  It’s a question about the deepest desires of being human. It’s a question about why it was necessary for Jesus to step into our world. And it’s a question for the church to ask itself. What do we want?

Andrew, perhaps taken aback by Jesus’ question, responds with his own question – “where are you staying?” He’s not asking who’s putting Jesus up for the night. The Greek here is closer to “where do you abide?” Where does Jesus abide? If we want to know more about Jesus, where can we expect to find Him? In my view, it is outside the walls of the church – in the streets, amidst the poor and the oppressed; the hungry and the lost. At homeless shelters, AA meetings, memory care units. At Charlottesville. This scripture invites us to ask where is Jesus calling us to.

Jesus responds to Andrew’s question with an invitation: “come and see.” This story tells us that the way to find the essence of Jesus isn’t through spiritual practices or theologizing. It is by following Him out into the world and enacting the love of God. Father Richard Rohr puts it this way: “we do not think ourselves into new ways of living – we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”

Our work as an administrative commission, our call as followers of Jesus, is to go to the places where Jesus abides. To do, to see, to act. To change the lives of others, and to be changed in our own right.

I leave you with three questions:

What do we as a church want?

Given what we know about Jesus and His character, where can we expect to find Him?

How will we respond to the call to follow Christ into the places where He abides?

August 16 SeaPres Update

Seattle Presbytery

Dear friends,

I recently got together with a priest friend who serves in a local Catholic parish. We shared a little about current ministry challenges when he suddenly looked at me and said, “Wait. If you guys don’t have a bishop, who’s in charge?”

Not an uncommon question to ask, especially if you’ve been accustomed to a church system where the buck stops with a particular person, the official decision maker.

I responded to my friend as I have to many others who’ve asked me the same question. “The presbytery is in charge.”

You see where this is going, I’m sure.

You are the presbytery. We are the presbytery. Women and men, young and old, ruling elders and teaching elders (ministers of word and sacrament) coming together to serve together on committees, commissions, and task forces. And then quarterly gathering as a larger body at presbytery meetings to discuss and make decisions. As presbytery. The ones in charge.

This doesn’t happen organically or by happenstance. It requires pastors (teaching elders) to take time away from their already busy ministries to serve at the presbytery level. It also requires ruling elders from all our churches to prayerfully consider how they can serve the presbytery as well. I say requires, because serving “the higher council” (not just your church’s session but the presbytery committees, commissions, and task forces) is part of the ordination vows we all make.

“Will you share in government and discipline, serving in councils of the church, and in your ministry will you try to the show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?”

Our polity also directs ruling elders in this fashion.

G-3.0202 in the Book of Order states: “Sessions have a particular responsibility to participate in the life of the whole church through participation in other councils….(b) serve on committees or commissions, bearing in mind principles of inclusiveness and fair representation in the decision making of the church.”

If you are a congregational pastor reading this, we ask you to consider elders in your community who might be called to serve the presbytery.

If you are a ruling elder reading this, we need you.

How might you more fully live into your ordination promises to serve the councils of the church? Where within our presbytery leadership might you find your gifts needed?

I welcome and celebrate the opportunity to BE the presbytery with you all!

In grace and hope,

Rev. Eliana Maxim
Associate Executive Presbyter

p.s. Want to know about opportunities to serve at the Presbytery level?

Contact our Nominating Committee or any staff member.

August 10 SeaPres Update: A Hike and A Question

Seattle Presbytery

A Hike and A Question

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I remember as we were driving to the trailhead that there was still one question I had not yet asked about our trip. That question though was like the hazy, haunting smoke from the Diamond Creek and BC forest fires we were driving into -- it was all around me yet too ethereal and distant in my mind to think much about.  

It was day four when the question became clear. I was navigating Cutthroat Pass alone (we tended to get spread out on the trail) when it hit me. As I approached the first cutback on my descent, I peered out over the ledge to see the startling 1,000 foot drop into the valley below, and all of a sudden it popped into my mind like the terror that was beginning to envelope my body: "how high are these peaks we’re going to be hiking?" And a related question (actually many) also came: "Will there be any sheer cliffs on this hike?" 

I've always been a big fan of questions, and even more so now. Questions allow us to explore, learn, grow, and often times to assess things before we experience them for ourselves. They open us up to possibilities and understandings that help us navigate what's ahead. I'm convinced we make better, more faithful decisions when we lead with questions. 

What questions are you asking in your life now? What are you curious about? What are your questions? 

I wish I had asked that one question before heading out on the PCT last summer, but even that was a learning experience. It didn't end terribly well (I'll share that story another time), but I lived to tell the tale, so that's got to count for something. 

"[Jesus] said to them, 'What are you talking about as you walk along?'"  Luke 24:17 (CEB)

Rev. Scott Lumsden
Executive Presbyter

Resources to help separated immigrant families

Seattle Presbytery

On June 16, 2018, the PC(USA) Stated Clerk issued this statement on separated immigrant families:

Nelson: ‘We must not punish desperate parents by tearing their children away from them’

Office of the General Assembly Communications - June 16, 2018

ST. LOUIS

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II —Randy Hobson

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II, issued a statement  from the denomination’s 223rd General Assembly condemning the Trump administration’s new policy of separating young children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“What has this nation become?” Nelson queried. “How have we wandered so far from Jesus’ kind admonition, “‘Let the little children come to me…’” He also criticized the Justice Department’s stated use of separate detention of parents and their children as a “deterrant” to immigration and accused the administration of selective use of scripture, saying the citing of Romans 13:1 to obey the law (presumably whatever the law says), while ignoring the higher scriptural demand that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10) is a blatant misuse of the biblical message.

The full text of Nelson’s statement, dated June 16, 2018: 

As Presbyterians gather for the meeting of our 223rd General Assembly, we are mindful of the many issues of justice, peace and compassion we face, both as citizens of the United States and members of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

While we face issues of peace on the Korean peninsula, tragic injustice in the Middle East, and the spectre of climate change in our nation and our world, there is nothing of more urgency than the tragedy that is unfolding at our borders, where children are ripped from their parents and placed in holding cells, while their frantic parents scream in agony at the separation.

What has this nation become? How have we wandered so far from Jesus’ kind admonition, “Let the little children come to me … for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs”? How can this be happening in a nation in which so many claim the traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and the critical importance of families to the fabric of our lives together?

Perhaps the most egregious aspect of this policy is the willingness of the highest legal official of our nation to suggest that if a mother has fled violence in her own country to save herself and her children but has not had a chance to make a proper petition for safety in the U.S., she should be taught a lesson by having her children taken from her. It is almost incomprehensible that these acts should be used as a warning to others who would come.

What makes matters worse is the audacity of quoting the Apostle Paul’s admonition to believers in Romans 13:1 to obey the law (presumably whatever the law says), while ignoring the higher scriptural demand that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).

The crisis of tens of thousands of desperate people coming to the United States for relief seems almost overwhelming. But as the officials of our government attempt to address the crisis, we cannot afford to tarnish the highest values of our nation. We must not punish desperate parents by tearing their children away from them, leaving the parents without access to the children or assurance of their welfare. 

In the name of God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stop!

In the faith we share,

Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


PC(USA) General Assembly 223 in St. Louis

Seattle Presbytery

Kindom Building for the 21st Century

"But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness." Matthew 6:33

June 16-23, 2018 in St. Louis

GA 223 website 

Seattle Presbytery GA 223 Commissioners:

Leslie Ferrell, Mercer Island PC
Rev. Doug Kelly
Julia Sensenbrenner, Bethany PC
Rev. Eliana Maxim
Rachel Jewett, Mercer Island PC/YAAD

A comprehensive list of actions taken and groups formed at the General Assembly can be found here and here.

More links: 

2018 Gift Project

GA223 news updates from Office of the General Assembly

Spirit of GA on Facebook

GA223 news updates from The Presbyterian Outlook

Post-GA bulletin inserts from The Presbyterian Outlook

Eliana Maxim & Jeff Keuss Featured on KUOW

Seattle Presbytery

Is Seattle a 'None Zone?' And the future of the church

By MATT MARTIN & BILL RADKE

Did you know that Seattle has the second most places of worship per capita in the nation? Meanwhile, we are also the second most religiously unaffiliated city in America. So basically, Seattle has a lot of empty churches. And after June 24th, there will be one more empty church. That will be the last day of service for the Capitol Hill Presbyterian church.

Bill Radke speaks with Seattle Pacific University Professor Jeff Keuss, Reverend Eliana Maxim with the Seattle Presbytery, and Pastor Tyler Gorsline from A Seattle Church about the landscape among Chrisitian churches in Seattle and what the future of these institutions looks like in the city.

Listen online.

Meet those standing for moderator

Seattle Presbytery

June 6, 2018 by The Presbyterian Outlook 

The Presbyterian Outlook asked those standing for co-moderator or moderator and vice moderator to share their sense of call as well as their vision of what God may be calling the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to do and be in the years ahead. We are grateful to each of these candidates for their willingness to serve, their honest responses and their faithfulness to seeking God’s will. 

Read more.

The PC(USA) needs gender equity

Seattle Presbytery

Time’s up, #MeToo and #ChurchToo

By Rhashell Hunter | The Racial Ethnic Torch

LOUISVILLE – The 2016 presidential electoral campaign brought up issues that were disturbing to many women. The criteria for fitness of the woman candidate for the office of president, such as comments about the clothes she wore, for example, were standards seemingly not imposed on male candidates in the race. The comments surrounding women’s bodies were also alarming. These conversations brought up a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for some women, as they themselves have experienced sexual harassment and discrimination.

Read more.

 

Sustenance to Bloom - NEXT Church blog article by Eliana Maxim

Seattle Presbytery

Sustenance to Bloom

May 2, 2018/in National Gathering /

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Jeff Bryan is curating a series reflecting on the 2018 National Gathering in late February. You’ll hear from clergy, lay people, community leaders, and others reflect on their experiences of the National Gathering and what’s stuck with them since. How does the “Desert in Bloom” look on the resurrection side of Easter? What are your own thoughts of your National Gathering experience, or on what these reflections spark for you? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter

by Eliana Maxim

In a busy season of ministry, the opportunity to attend the NEXT Church National Gathering popped up on my calendar quite unexpectedly. I remembered the enthusiasm with which I had registered back in early winter, but now with to-do lists multiplying magically, I wasn’t sure I would find the time or “head space” to engage.

I am so glad I did.

The theme of “The Desert in Bloom” appropriately described what many of the pastoral leaders with whom I work have been experiencing. The realities of ministry can certainly make one feel as if you are in extended wilderness time. And that you are doing it alone.

In order to bloom in said desert would require sustenance, at least for this pastor. A desert in bloom means hope above all else.

Read more.

The Religious Imagination of Children Project

Seattle Presbytery

The Religious Imagination of Children Project

Dr. J. Bradley Wigger, Professor of education and childhood studies at Louisville Seminary, is directing a research project to better understand children’s thinking and imagination, including the ways children reflect upon God and religious life.

If you are a parent with a child (3-12 years old), who would be willing to participate in the study, we would appreciate a chance to talk with you, and with your child’s assent, interview your child. Interviews typically last about 30 minutes and are set up at your convenience.  Participation could make important contributions to better understanding children.

If you are possibly willing to participate, have questions, concerns, or are curious, please contact:

            J. Bradley Wigger

            bwigger@lpts.edu

            502.489.2842

***

The study is funded by the Henry Luce III Foundation through Louisville Seminary and conforms to the ethical standards of research with human subjects as approved by the school’s Institutional Review Board. Confidentiality will be maintained by disguising the names or other identifying features of participants.

Elizabeth Juarez Memorial Fund

Seattle Presbytery

A message from Lake Burien PC:

 

Dear Friends and Family - 

Wednesday night, April 4th,  near the Alturas apartments in Burien, two young women's lives were taken.

The Juarez family is now without a sister and daughter, and our community is now without a classmate and friend.

Below, you'll find the remembrances of older sister, Maria, about her younger sister, Elizabeth.

"Elizabeth always put her friends and family before herself, making sure they were doing alright before focusing on herself. She had big plans; always talking about how she was going to change her life around. For a 13 year old to handle a hard life the way she did is impressive. She made mistakes but once she realized what mistake she made she went back and tried to fix it or do things differently so she could do things the right way. She never gave up. I would like for Elizabeth to be remembered as the loving caring silly person she was. That a 13 year old child had such a big heart and so much love to give is amazing."

Thirteen years old, can you imagine?

Our commitment to raising funds for Elizabeth's funeral costs flows out of our commitment to the health and wellness of young people in our community. We want them to know that they are not alone - in life and in death - and that we build this community together, alongside them and their dreams for a transformed community. Will you join us in raising funds for this untimely, tragic death? With your donation, we come alongside a grief-stricken family and offer the hope and generosity of a loving community.

Ways to give:

Please donate to Lake Burien Presbyterian online or with cash/check in person with the memo "Elizabeth Juarez”.

Make checks payable to:

Lake Burien Presbyterian Church and mail to

15003 14th Ave. SW

Burien, WA 98166

or you can make a donation via our website - (see information below) 

visit: SQUAREUP.COM/STORE/LBPC

scroll to memorials, enter amount and note: "Elizabeth Juarez Memorial" in the notes section at the end of checkout process. 

My relatively short time as a pastor in this community has been both beautiful and during times like this, heartbreaking.  Mostly, my days and weeks are filled with lots of promise and hope. Holding on to and proclaiming  the promise of resurrection,  not just for the "hereafter" but for justice, shalom and redemption in the  "here-and-now" is the unique and profound calling of the Church.  May we be bold enough to live, pray and proclaim, "on earth as it is in heaven"....

With Love and great thanks to you in advance, for your consideration,  generosity AND prayers for all those directly affected by this tragedy.  I'm very grateful to be able to call on you for help.  

Blessings to all of you...

Lina

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