I just read a blog post from Chris, a friend out on the West coast, and it just makes me shake my head at the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC). I’m very thankful for my Presbytery when I hear of some of his experiences (although I’ve had my share of going through the PCC wringer). I’m sorry to see Chris move out of the denomination, but I’m not too surprised given that the PCC and our policies don’t seem fully embrace him, because he got his mDIV at a different seminary than one of our three. I went to VST, of which Chris is quite critical. I found VST to be liberal for sure and I became more liberal as a result of being there, but also found a good number of Profs who were engaging orthodoxy and had a very well thought out theology and faith. There were some excellent programs when I was there, but what I did find was a real sense of disdain for students from more “conservative” seminaries, especially the one down the road. For all their talk of dialogue, they didn’t really want that with other orthodox Christians – they wanted it with the outcast of society. “Imperial Christianity” represented by conservatives was seen as the enemy a lot of the time, and I really felt for those who tried to make up their “Presbyterian” requirement by doing a year at VST. They came into a tough environment.
What is really stupid is our denominational requirement around having to go to one of the three seminaries. It strikes of elitism. It also limits the breadth of education for potential clergy in the PCC – it limits something that I have loved about the PCC – a denomination where diverse perspectives can co-exist with healthy dialogue and patience. It also really doesn’t help with “specialists.” At the New Church Consultation for the PCC, we learned that Tyndale offers a large number of courses in Church Planting. How many Church Planting courses are offered at the PCC seminaries? Zero. So, if you are looking for someone to start a new PCC Church, what are you looking for in their education? What about youth ministry? music ministry? What if someone specializes in youth ministry in the mDiv and 5 or 6 years later they feel called to sacramental ministry. Can we not take their experience into account? What amazes me is that we are concerned about having “properly educated” clergy for sacramental ministry, but we let Presbyteries (by the work of moderators) discern who can preach in a given Church. Here in Manitoba we’ve had congregations well served by the preaching of ministers and students of other churches, educated at other seminaries and Bible colleges. But would we ordain them – oh no. I understand about standards, but if someone is already recognized by Presbytery to preach in a congregation, lead Bible Studies, visit the sick, pray for them, lead them in discerning their future, basically everything but the sacraments, why should we be stopped from ordaining them?
We are only stopped from this because of rules, and rules that aren’t really scriptural. The PCC needs to change all of this. We need to start recognizing our leaders and acting like the church that we are supposed to be, where we discern in community and recognize people’s gifts. Where we allow the Spirit to work through the courts of the Church, where rules that impede Christ’s Kingdom don’t rule, but where Christ himself is the only King and Head of the Church.
Chris – I wish you all the best. The PCC lost one of our best leaders in you, but the Kingdom will be blessed by you and your gifts wherever you end up. Hopefully sometime soon, the rest of us will get our heads out of the sand.