Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rank Order

     This morning I was greeted with an invitation from to check out some books in which they believe I would be interested. Most of the time I simply discard these e-mails without a second glance, but this time the item on top of the list really caught my eye.  On top of the list was, "Anyone Can Intubate (5th Ed.): A Step-by-Step Guide to Intubation and Airway Management" by Christine Whitten, M.D.  Now I am sure that Dr. Whitten's textbook on opening up emergency airways in crisis situations is a great read (and all of the reviews are 5-stars).  I am equally sure that when Dr. Whitten states in her title, "Anyone can intubate," that she means that anyone can learn to intubate, and not that anyone off the street with no knowledge of human anatomy and physiology can pick up the necessary tools and get started--or at least I hope that is what she means.  Of course, the average reader will immediately understand that Dr. Whitten's intention is to encourage timid health science students (doctors, nurses, technicians) that they too can perform an often life-saving procedure and need not be afraid.  Of all of the possible interpretations of the title of Dr. Whitten's book, this seems the most likely and best.
     Now what I have done here is to rank order a couple of possible interpretations of the title of Dr. Whitten's book and then, based on that ranking, chosen the one that seems the best fit for the author's intent.  To review, the proposed interpretations were:
  1. A bode of confidence to health science students and (perhaps) health professionals that they can perform a life-saving procedure and instructions to do so.
  2. A proclamation that anyone, no matter who they are or what training they may have, can perform a successful intubation procedure.
Given that range of interpretations, the first is the obvious choice and the second seems silly.  Now we could probably expand the list to contain a good number of other possible interpretations based on the available evidence (which, in my case, because I will not shell out the $30 for the book, is limited to what is available for free).  Indeed, when you read the introduction to the book, the author makes it clear that the intent of the book is to do #1 and so the title should be interpreted in keeping with the author's intent.
     As some of you know, my undergraduate degree was in economics (and political science, but the economics side has always proved much more helpful).  Economics is the science/art of making choices based on the available information.  In order to do this, we have to be able to rank order our choices.  This morning, as I helped my now 5-year old daughter put on her shoes we had the following exchange (it will be helpful to know that for her birthday she requested and received a stuffed dalmatian to keep her other stuffed dalmatian company while she was at school):
M:  (Looking at her two toys on the floor in front of her) Daddy, do you know which Dalmatian is my favorite?
PB:  I guess it is either Dotty or Spotty.  Since Spotty is new, I guess it is Spotty.
M:  You are right, I love Spotty, but I also like Dotty. 
PB:  Well that's good.  I am glad you like your toys and are grateful for them.
M:  Even if I had 25 Dalmatians, my favorites would still be Spotty and then Dotty.
PB:  Alright, can we focus on getting your shoes on and getting out the door on time?

My daughter was able to rank order her toys with regard to preference this morning.  Her sister, at two, is able to do the same thing at snack time.  Yesterday K ate all of her pretzels, then all of her goldfish crackers, then her pears, and only then drank her water.  Her rank order preference was easy to see.  Rank order preference is either an innate part of being human or something we learn relatively quickly.  Either way, it is part of how we operate as human beings.

     Now let's zoom out of the two examples above and apply all of this in our life of faith following Christ as his disciples.  Lately I have heard a lot of talk coming out of our (soon-to-be-former) denomination, the PC(USA) about celebrating the diversity of many interpretations of Scripture.  You can read all about in this propaganda piece aimed at keeping congregations considering dismissal in the fold of the PC(USA).  What the PC(USA) presentation fails to do is rank order that diversity of interpretations, claiming instead that all of them are equally valid within a vaguely defined theological perimeter.  The emphasis throughout the presentation is on a celebration of diversity, not on seeking truth.  "There is room for differing views, dialogue, discussion and discernment," the presentation claims.  Again, there is an idea that this should be framed, however loosely by the Reformed tradition, but the greater emphasis is on the celebration of diversity.
     There is truth in the statement that Christians have a variety of interpretations of the Scripture, but the proposed course of stating that as a naked fact and then celebrating the variety does not seem wise to me.  It seems that there ought to be a way to rank order interpretations, at least, and claim that some are better than others.  To be sure, as the presentation claims, we ought to do scholarly work in seeking to interpret the Scripture text and get at original context and other historical matters so we can get a peek at author's intent.  This will not, however, reveal the true meaning of Scripture in every instance.
     Let's get concrete.  In the Gospel according to John, in the midst of a conversation with his disciples leading up to his arrest Jesus stated, "Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 ESV).  For those of my readers who prefer the original language: "λέγει αὐτῷ [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς· ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή· οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸν πατέρα εἰ μὴ διʼ ἐμοῦ. " (John 14:6 NA27, identical to NA28).  Now we can come to a variety of interpretations of what Jesus means by these words.  Surely the context of the immediate verses will help to decipher.  For instance, it is helpful to know that the context is Jesus going to the Father and claiming his disciples know the way.
     Interpretations can then stem from that and vary greatly.  While we may not be able to say with absolute definitiveness that this is the correct and timeless interpretation of the text, we should, at least, be able to claim some are better than others.  Further, in the case of our example, the Apostle John reveals author's intent which leads us to suspect the ultimate meaning here is that you need faith in Jesus.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Challenges in my Ministry

It has taken my two months to complete my series reflecting on the questions I was asked during my examination before the EPC's Presbytery of the Pacific.  Today I turn attention to the final question, which was something like, "What do you find most challenging in your ministry?"
Now, I am prone to complaining and this question could have given me a platform to air out all of my complaints about pastoral ministry.  At the time, however, the Spirit did not lead me in that direction.  Perhaps consciously or unconsciously I was thinking about Jude 23:  "save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh."  So my answer then, and now, is that I do not know how to get the Gospel into the hands, hearts and minds of those who need it most.  To be fair, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, but as a disciple of Christ I am one through whom the Spirit works.  Indeed, Heinrich Bullinger in his masterful Second Helvetic Confession in the first chapter alludes to the idea that the ordinary, or at least usual, way for people to receive the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit is the proclamation of the Word.  The 154th and 155th question of the Westminster Larger Catechism agrees with the point Bullinger had made about 100 years prior:  "The ordinary external ways Christ uses to bring the benefits of his mediation to his church are his regulations, particularly the word, sacraments, and prayer, all of which are made effective for the salvation of his chosen ones...The Spirit of God causes the reading and especially the preaching of the word to enlighten, convince, and humble sinners..."  [As an aside, as you read questions 154-160 I really like that the Westminster divines concluded with a section of the requirements of those who hear the Word preached.  Too often the responsibility for the preaching ministry of the congregation is couched only with the preacher when the responsibility is actually shared between preacher and hearer under the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit].
To recap, I find the challenge of my ministry is that I do not know how to snatch people out of the fire.  The ordinary means of doing so is the proclamation of the Word--yet I do not know how to proclaim the Word effectively outside of the Sunday worship service.  In my ministerial context, I find this particularly challenging.
In my ministerial context I am 1) young, 2) in a foreign cultural context (moving from suburban to rural) and 3) fairly well convinced that my seminary training was not particularly useful for doing actual parish ministry.  Now that third point needs some qualification (the first two I addressed here and here).  I will be grateful until the day I retire that I received exegetical, theological and relational tools to use in my ministry from my seminary education.  The challenge is that I was trained for a ministry context that largely does not exist any longer. 
The cultural expectation of church attendance has dissolved in the Pacific Northwest.  The Pacific Northwest never had the church-going cultural of the rest of country, but there was still an underlying notion that most people would attend a church, at least occasionally.  That expectation first dissipated in the cities (Portland, Seattle, etc.) but has now reached the rural communities as well.  The result is that my training--conversion through proclamation from the pulpit--is no longer an effective ministry strategy.  To date, I have nothing to replace this strategy and so I feel the tension and challenge of the call of the Gospel to proclaim Good News to the captives (Isaiah 61:1-3), yet I do not know how to get into the vicinity of those who need to hear the Good News most.
I think that my personal challenge is really the challenge of the American Church in the 21st Century.  I am all ears regarding ways forward through this challenge.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Every Word of Scripture

This is the third part of my series further exploring the questions I received from the floor of the Presbytery of the Pacific (EPC) when I was examined for membership.  The third question I received was:  Tell us about your commitment to Calvin's lectio continua preaching style.
Throughout my long and illustrious career, all five years of it, I have become convinced of only thing regarding the preaching ministry of the church and that is that we need to read more of it and go deeper into it.
When I attended seminary I had no idea how to approach the preaching ministry of the church.  I had learned three basic systems of selecting the text.  The first was topical, in which the pastor, hopefully led by the Holy Spirit, selects a matter to be preached and then selects an appropriate Biblical text on that same topic.  The second is lectionary, in which the pastor receives a list of pre-selected texts, usually from an authoritative body (such as those behind the Revised Common Lectionary) and the pastor then preaches from the texts.  The third system is lectio continua, or, literally, "continued reading," in which a book of the Bible (or perhaps a portion of a book in the case of Psalms or Proverbs) is read beginning where the prior week left off with the sermon based on this reading.
In seminary I was taught that good preachers use the lectionary, mega-church evangelicals use rather shallow topical preaching and some fringe conservative Reformed folks use lectio continua.  Armed with this I ventured into my first call and proceeded to watch my preaching ministry flop for my first year while I preached using the Revised Common Lectionary and insisted on all four of the readings.  It is to the credit of the saints at First, Merrill that they put up with this for a whole year.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit smacked me up side the head at a sermon planning retreat.  A lectionary preacher usually focuses the sermon on one particular text of the four (Old Testament, Psalm, Gospel, NT Epistle).  During this retreat I had decided to focus on the epistle readings, specifically 1 Peter.  I remembered that Peter's father was named Jonah (in some translations, Jonas) and I thought it would be neat to pair 1 Peter with readings from the prophet Jonah and then call the sermon series, "Jo and Pete."  I carefully selected Jonah readings to go with the 1 Peter lectionary selections, but then I ran into a dilemma.  My trouble, basically, was that to do readings from Jonah would mean leaving the lectionary.  Now I had already dispensed with the way the Revised Common Lectionary skipped over a verse or, indeed, entire paragraphs when they seemed to be too controversial.  I learned to just ignore the lectionary and read the whole of the passage.  At this point, though, I was contemplating abandoning the lectionary and moving into uncharted waters.  If it were not for the Holy Spirit, I do not know that I would have made the move, but I took the plunge with God's help.
Now, technically in my first foray into lectio continua preaching I was still not quite all the way there.  I read selections from 1 Peter and selections from Jonah, but the seed was planted and this was the first tender shoot of my true preaching ministry.  When I finished 1 Peter (I think it was only 4 weeks) I decided that the way forward would be to move away from the lectionary and toward lectio continua.
This is when the real challenge began for me.  I had been trained as a lectionary preacher.  I did not know how to be an expositor (and in many ways, I am still a student of the Word, learning this craft) and even more, I did not know how to create a lectio continua preaching series.  What I did know was that these series were going to be long, perhaps taking months if not years.  My commitment as a Reformed pastor to the continuity of Scripture also made me want to be sure that regardless of the series, we would hear from both the Old and New Testament during every service.  Being a daily Psalm reader also called me to keep the Psalms in our worship.  I became convinced that proclaiming every word of Scripture would be my life's work as a preacher.
What developed from this slurry of commitments and convictions was my current preaching system and style.  The first lectio continua series I taught was through 1 Corinthians.  It took seven months and every reading from the epistle was accompanied by a supporting text from the Old Testament.  I recognize that this is an anomaly for a lectio continua preacher and I have taken criticism from others for this practice, but it is friendly criticism and has never even begun to sway me from my conviction.  It was also during that series that I began to employ the Psalms to call the congregation to worship.  My preaching style was still largely unchanged from the classic Princetonian sermon (three points and a poem in ten minutes or less, or your money back), but the substance of the material would soon begin to make changes.
After completing 1 Corinthians the logical next step would have been to move on to 2 Corinthians, but this is when the Holy Spirit again caught by the nape of the neck and directed me.
The new direction was to alternate the Old and New Testament.  John Calvin had the luxury to preach six times a week so he could go into more depth at any given service (usually covering only a handful of verses), and also he could preach from both Testaments in a given week. With only one worship service per week, I could not hope to go into the depth of Calvin, nor could I preach from both Testaments in a given week.  Instead, the alternating system was put in place.  Following 1 Corinthians I wanted to preach through the whole of Judges.  One of my mentors convinced me to only preach through a section of Judges (a decision I still regret), and I chose the Gideon cycle (Judges 6-8).  The six sermon series spanned Lent of that year, which meant that I needed something following Lent.  What followed forever changed my preaching ministry.
I began that year what I thought would be a one-year preaching series through Matthew.  I ended the Matthew series after two years, almost to the day from when I began it.  What I learned is that a lectio continua series will not be rushed.  It will begin and end precisely how and when it does. My role as the pastor of a particular congregation is to pace the series for those hearing the Scripture so that it is understandable to them.
My style of preaching also began to transform during this series.  I moved away from writing manuscripts and then notes from the manuscript, to just writing out notes.  This was, in part, due to a technological advance at the church that allowed us to make decent audio recordings of the sermon (and podcast them to our wide audience of 11 people, most of whom were in my family).  Over the course of the two-year series I began to become more free and extemporaneous in my preaching.  I was able to sit so long with the Gospel of Matthew that the text really shaped me and my preaching, rather than the other way around.  I grew a level of familiarity with the Scripture that allowed me to be free in my expression of God's Word proclaimed.  This was revelatory in the best sense of the word.
I continue to use my modified lectio continua system and extemporaneous style of preaching.  The careful observer will note when I feel less comfortable with the preaching material I have more notes and stay closer to them.  When the Holy Spirit is leading, however, I trust the Holy Spirit to speak loudest and I just try to get out of the way.
I have already completed three lectio continua series in Omak:  2 Peter, 2 Timothy and Haggai.  In a few short weeks our 19-month series on the Gospel of John will draw to a close.  What lies on the horizon is the prophet Joel, Colossians and the fourth book of Psalms (90-106).  After that we will study the nativity of Matthew, Micah, the Passion of the Gospel of Mark and perhaps a brief tour through the letters to the seven churches in Revelation.  The first three series are set pretty firmly, the latter is still somewhat flexible.  Following that, I am still praying for guidance and discernment.  I hope you will pray with and for me in this important part of the ministry of FPC Omak.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Country Is Calling

This is the second part of my reflecting and answering more fully the questions I was asked when the EPC Presbytery of the Pacific examined me on the floor in early February, 2013.
The second question I received, just to review, was "Explain your sense of call to the rural church."
The answer to this question takes me back to my days in seminary at a school in New Jersey.
As just an aside, I usually obscure the name of my seminary for three reasons. First, the name of my seminary carries with it a certain amount of cache since it is the same name as rather highly regarded Ivy League university. I do not take praise well and my already bloated ego does not need more people feeding it due to the name of seminary. Second, I am at odds currently with some of the policies of my seminary regarding its students. Finally, I am fairly convinced that I may have chosen differently had I to go to seminary over again. While I am thankful especially for the friendships that I made and for the financial assistance my seminary was able to give me due to an ample endowment, I am not sure that I received the theological education for which I had hoped. I certainly learned how to be theologically educated, but I have had to learn on my own much of what I hoped to receive from seminary. In the end, however, because I carry no seminary debt I am able to serve the rural church I have come to love.
Now, where was I? Ah yes, I was remembering my seminary days.
When I went to seminary I had no idea what sort of position I would seek when I graduated. My wife was fairly certain that I should seek a solo or head of staff position since she thought it suited my gifts and abilities. I trust my wife and truthfully, she is a better appraiser of my gifts and abilities than I tend to be. Nevertheless, I needed to know where God was calling.
As providence would have it, I made quick and fast friends with a number of other married men attending seminary. At least in the three years we were in school together, we formed a fairly tight bond. One friend in particular, A, helped more than most of the others discerning my call. A came into seminary with the purpose of going out to serve as a solo pastor. I was fascinated by his sure sense of God's call on his life and to some extent, I must confess, a bit envious.
I spent much of my time both in and out of class with my friends. We had prayer groups that would meet my first and second year of seminary and I used to pray in these groups begging God to tell me where He was calling me specifically.
What came to me in pretty dramatic fashion was that I was being called to serve the rural church. I do not know how to explain this adequately with words, but I became convinced that this was my call from God. Well, A, and others became a big help as I began to detail out this call to the rural church. Most helpful of all was my wife. She affirmed my call to the rural church and prepared, as best we could, to live in rural America.
The important bit I have left out is that I was raised in the greater Seattle area, as was my wife. While I was only one generation removed from those who had grown up on a working farm/ranch/dairy, I had personally spent very little time in the country. I began to read works about serving in the small church (as rural churches are predominantly small, that is, less than 100 members), but I really did not spend much time studying the rural church itself.
When the time came to seek my first call, I sent out copies of my Personal Information Form to many congregations in rural America and received interest from many of these congregations. Ultimately, I took a call in Merrill, Oregon. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the good saints of the First Presbyterian Church in Merrill ('in', not 'of' reads the charter of the congregation). It was in Merrill that I cut my teeth as a pastor and learned, mostly through failure, how to pastor a rural church.
When the time came to leave the Merrill church, I once again asked that question: to whom am I being called? I wondered if God had released me from my call to the rural church, but a quick flirtation with a more urban/suburban church convinced me that I was still called to the rural church. I accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church of Omak where I currently serve as pastor in a time of transition for the congregation.
Now, this is all good biographical and historical detail about my call, but it does not explain my sense of call. Perhaps the easiest way to describe my call to the rural church is that I it is where God has placed me. In both of my search processes I was always surprised at how many rural congregations were interested in me. Ultimately, many, if not most, of these congregations made the call that I was not a good fit for them. I know that, as a pastor, I am something of an acquired taste.
I find my joy in the church in preaching and teaching and struggle with the administrative and pastoral care aspects of the pastoral life. I work hard at preaching and teaching because I love the people I serve and I make valiant efforts at administration and pastoral care. Both the congregations I have served have been patient with me in the midst of my struggles, and for this I am very thankful.
As a pastor who is an acquired taste, I have found the rural church is more forgiving. Merrill put up with a few years of me figuring out exactly what is it I do for living. Omak has been kind enough for me to continue to define my calling.
Both of these rural congregations have been full of people who love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and struggle with the shrinking population of rural America. Poverty, substance abuse and hopelessness are palpable problems in the communities I have served. Also present, however, has been a sense that Jesus loves his congregations in the rural church. It is Jesus' love for places few of us could find on a map that has led to my love for the rural church.
The rural church is really different than the church in other environments. First, there are fewer interests competing for the time and energy of the congregation. Second, the rural church still struggles with issues of attendance and finance, but these challenges are on a much small scale. Finally, the rural church is more in touch with the predominantly agricultural images of the Bible. I do not have to spend a lot of time describing to people in the rural church that sheep really are pretty dumb. They know this because they have been around actual sheep.
Rural life has many advantageous, but it is shy of ideal. Regardless, the rural church is in need of good pastors who find their call here. Too often I have observed pastors in the rural church who have settled for it while they wait to find something else. I am not one of these. The rural church needs pastors who are called by God to lead in smaller membership congregations nestled in smaller communities. It is God's call on my life and ministry. Of that I am certain.
My greatest hope in my current call is to continue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the various people groups of Omak. My major frustration comes from a lack of technique and tactics to get the Gospel out faster to people who are being lost in the depths of hopelessness.
In the end, my call to the rural church is simply that; a call from God to serve the Church in rural settings. I do not know how long I will be in this current phase of my pastoral ministry, but I am glad for the time I am given.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Yes, I am a young pastor

This is my first time to sit with one of my questions from the Presbytery of the Pacific's examination for a little while longer.  In my last post I mentioned four such questions.  Today I will be exploring question #1:  Since you have been ordained for only five years, what has this transition been like for you?

True life confession time:  I am a young pastor in just about every sense of the word.  In just over five years of ministry I have served two congregations.  All that equates to not much time in the pulpit and not much of a variety of experience.  Also, age wise, I am considered a young pastor at 35--despite our Lord and Savior giving his life for us and for our salvation, as tradition holds, before this age.  Compiled on top of all this, I look young, or so I have been told.  I was told that this will be blessing later, but can be a drawback at the present time.
All of the above is just to say that I understood why I received a question like this, even if I was not prepared to answer it on the spot.  What I had prepared for were questions regarding my various theological positions.  What I actually received were questions regarding my ministry.
So, what has this been like for me?
In a word, challenging.  When FPC Omak began this process I was convinced that it would be brief and that I would skillfully lead the congregation to my predetermined conclusion that we would just swap the sign for ECO and move on with our life.  It would be a simple switch without much pain.
My youth was on full display in my approach in the early months of our process.  I wanted to define who we were as a congregation and then use that to determine our best fit (which I was already convinced was ECO).  What transpired was a good lesson in humility for me.  I learned that the congregation I serve is not confused about who it is--not even the slightest.  Some of our official language (e.g. our mission statement) is lacking, but the sense of identity of the congregation is firm and firmly grounded in the Word of God written.  We are people who put faith in Christ front and center and follow the Holy Spirit as we seek to proclaim the Gospel and minister to the needs of the community.  There is room for improvement on this front (some will say a lot of room), but that is who FPC Omak is.
It also became clear to me in the course of our process that ECO was not a good fit for me or for the congregation.  The thing that disturbed me most was the continual top-down approach of ECO regarding its formation, despite all of the rhetoric to the contrary.  When the Fellowship leadership made wholesale changes to the Essential Tenets document in the Theology section regarding the doctrine of election without consulting the membership, I became greatly vexed and disillusioned by the new body.  Further, ECO seemed to have a focus on large suburban, urban and ex-urban congregations and FPC Omak seemed outside of its wheelhouse, so to speak.
Further, as we began to explore the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), I learned that I had been fed a lot of misinformation about the denomination.  I instantly knew that I had found a denominational home for myself and the congregation had found not only safe harbor, theologically speaking, but also a greater focus on evangelism and ministry both collectively and individually.
The process was challenging and we have seen members leave the congregation.  The process generated stress and conflict both in the congregation and in my own relationships, both personal and professional.  For those who like to avoid conflict, this was almost an untenable predicament. Conflict has not really bothered me and so I simply needed to deal with the stress of the situation--which I handled mostly unsuccessfully, but now it has passed.
The reason for making the move was the theological unwinding of the PC(USA).  As the denomination that nurtured me through its member congregations into being a pastor continued to walk away from the unique Lordship of Christ and downplay the authority of Scripture, I knew that I would not retire as a PC(USA) Teaching Elder.  Much like my seminary experience, either I would go now or I would go later when it was more difficult.  My response was to go now and trust that God would lead us all through, which, of course, He has.
I am sure in my rambling response now and then, I have begun to answer this question.  As we complete the process I may revisit this.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Brief Review of My EPC Examination

It has been one week since I was received as a teaching elder in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church's Presbytery of the Pacific.  I went into my floor examination down in Orange, California, at the interesting independent Covenant Presbyterian Church [not a member of any presbytery, though it has called an EPC pastor].  I could fill a number of paragraphs describing the location, the overwhelmingly loving hospitality I received there (with Elder Dave Bishop) and the prayerful tone of the proceedings, but it let it be suffice to say that it, in the words of my little Marian, made my heart happy.
I was given James 5:16 as my text to give my sermon.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
My sermonette (five minutes) concentrated on Christ overcoming both the evil we do (sin) and the evil that befalls us (sickness) on the cross .  The righteous person, then, has power in prayer because Christ, the Righteous One, is our intercessor.  As the Church, the community of Christ, his bride, we confess our sins and pray for another for healing because this is the way of Christ.
Following my sermon, I was asked four questions, each of which will be a blog post in the coming weeks.
  1. Since you have been ordained for only five years, what has this transition been like for you?
  2. Explain your sense of call to the rural church.
  3. Tell us about your commitment to Calvin's lectio continua preaching style.
  4. What has been most challenging to you in ministry?
I look forward to exploring these questions further through the blog in the coming weeks.
Long story short, though, I was received as was the congregation pending our dismissal.  The Session, our negotiation team and the Presbytery of Central Washington still have work to do as we move toward dismissal, but we are moving and the end is in sight for this process.  Praise the Lord.