It was an interesting week. Of course, this doesn’t need to be said. I am sure that everyone experienced it as interesting in their own unique way. It was interesting to me because I generally start working with a theme for my Holy Breadcrumbs blog on Friday with the intention of publishing it at 10:00 p.m. the following Wednesday. This week I chose no theme. I intentionally decided to wait to see what world awaited us after the presidential election.
Like all of us, I went to sleep on Tuesday night knowing that we would have to wait at least until the morning to know the outcome of the election. I woke up early, turned on the TV and pondered the reality that it might be days before a winner is projected and weeks before recounts and legal challenges run their course.
This is what I needed to know before I felt comfortable writing. Whatever message I had, I felt strongly that it had to be grounded in whatever reality we woke up to on Wednesday morning.
The message came to me quickly: No matter who emerges as the winner of this presidential election the church is still the church. The context may change, but our core essence remains the same. The issues we address may be unique, but the foundation from which we speak and act doesn’t shift.
I thought this was a good time to remind us of that foundation in the PCUSA—“The Great Ends of the Church.” For over a century we have referred back to these six great ends to remind us of who we are and what our mission is. They were originally adopted by the United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1910 and found their way into our Book of Order in 1958. These Great Ends have endured through two World Wars, the 19th Amendment, a Modernist Controversy, the Great Depression, the fight for Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, terrorist attacks, and more recently what we are just calling 2020.
No matter who emerges as the winner of this presidential election the church is still the church.
I share our historic Great Ends with you along with some minor personal commentary.
The Great Ends of the Church:
- The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind. In other words, no matter who is president, we have a responsibility to proclaim a message that calls our nation and our world (humankind) to overcome the separation that exists between people and between people and God (salvation).
- The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God. In other words, no matter who is president, we are called to bring the children of God (that is, all people!) into community where we shelter each other, nurture each other, and enjoy the gifts of connection and fellowship.
- The maintenance of divine worship. In other words, no matter who is president, we are called to show our gratitude for God and Life through sacramental acts, rituals that honor life’s rhythms, and expressions of joy and lament, wonder and awe.
- The preservation of the truth. In other words, no matter who is president, we have a responsibility to seek the truth, to protect the truth, to nurture the truth, to proclaim the truth, and to fight against anything that would distort the truth and present lies as truth.
- The promotion of social righteousness. In other words, no matter who is president, we have a responsibility to work for social justice, to advocate for equality between people, and to treat ALL people as God’s beloved children, siblings all of one human family.
- The exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world. In other words, no matter who the president is, we are called to embody the heavenly realm, practicing what we preach, and exhibiting the character of God through love, grace, forgiveness, mutual respect, peace and justice.
On the one hand, I found myself waiting until Wednesday morning to find out what our new reality was. But the fact of the matter is that the outcome of the election only gives us our context. It does not change our foundation or our core character.
Let’s do what we do.
Let’s be who we are.
The church is still the church no matter who the president is.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades