Preached on: February 22, 2015
Preached by: The Rev. Dr. Augustus E. Succop, III
Scripture lesson: I Peter 3: 18-22
Help, thanks, wow, and yes are the four most basic prayers that exist. “God, I need help!” and “Thanks for the help!” go together pretty easily and the more we say them the more ready we are to react in awe to what God has done (“Wow!”). And the more we see God take care of us, the more ready we are to say, “Yes!” to whatever God has in store for us. Throughout Spring Quarter in Small Group we’ll be taking a look at these four foundational prayers through discussion and study as well as prayer stations which will give you some creative ways to continue these prayer conversations with God on your own.
We’ve been focusing on understanding and defending our faith all year so this is our big wrap-up! Throughout Spring Quarter we’ll be taking a look at and discussing four movies and what they have to say about God, Christianity, faith in general, and morality. Which movies? We’ll watch trailers for a whole bunch and then narrow it down to four.
Leadership probably seems like a strange topic to tackle in Sunday School, but leadership should be a big deal to Christians. Why? Pretty simply: everyone is going to have to lead other people at some point in their lives and the Bible makes it pretty clear that there are good ways to lead and there are bad ways to lead. So, join us this spring as we learn about what it takes to be a good leader, as the Bible defines it, and how we can leverage that as we love and follow Christ.
Dear Members & Friends:
On February 21, 2015, the Presbytery of Charlotte will be convened for a stated meeting at Philadelphia Presbyterian Church, Mint Hill. Among the business to be conducted will be a vote on a proposed amendment to the Book of Order: to define marriage not only as a relationship between a man and a woman but between two people.
Over the past three months the Session has convened “Community Conversations” to inform the congregation about the proposed amendment and to encourage the sharing of opinions. The Session has sought the congregation’s feedback, and the Session has made a faithful effort to respond to questions about the amendment. It is the Session’s desire that the congregation be informed thoroughly about the facts pertaining to the proposed amendment and the process by which the amendment will be presented.
At a Stated Session Meeting on January 22, the Session elected Elders Joel Aelick and Rich Bonnell to serve as commissioners to the February Presbytery Meeting. Elders Linda Patterson and Sherrie Young were elected as alternates. Per our polity (i.e., church governance), no one is permitted to instruct a commissioner how to vote at a Presbytery meeting. Our Reformed faith leads us to believe that “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” Thus, it is incumbent upon a commissioner to discern the Lord’s leading by becoming aware of what scripture has to say and by listening to the various opinions that may be held within a particular congregation.
There are several ways our congregation may respond to the impending vote. The Book of Order permits the Session to hold a “straw vote” among the Elders (paper ballot or voice vote) and/or to hold a “straw vote” (paper ballot or voice vote) at the congregational level. The result of such “straw votes” would indicate, among other things, how we are divided within the congregation. It is the shared discernment of the QHPC Session that we are being called by the Lord to highlight not our division but our unity as the body of Christ. Thus, holding “straw votes” at either Session or congregational levels would merely establish the status of “winners” and “losers” instead of promoting and advocating the unity our Lord instructs us to pray for (cf. John 17) as the body of Christ.
To be sure, we are standing at the crossroads of significant change both within the prevailing culture and within the body of Christ. Some of us regret that such change within the culture has mandated the church to question its understanding of scripture. Nonetheless, the Session is of one heart and mind that the more important goal is to maintain at all cost the unity of the church. We believe as well that no one issue should be permitted to bring division among those who profess unconditionally Christ as Lord. The Lordship of Jesus Christ has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Despite particular differences within the congregation, we can and should celebrate Christ’s Lordship and the unity we know because of our faith in Him.
For the QHPC Session, the central issue is not who is for or against same-sex unions; rather, the pressing issue is whether we will put into practice what the Lord has taught us so we may live and serve together as the church of Jesus Christ. Being mindful that each of us must, at one time or another, decide individually our position on the proposed amendment, the Session advocates that QHPC choose to be known as a congregation where our plurality of opinions does not dilute our unity in Christ nor our love and respect for one another. To do otherwise would find us being a disappointment not to each other but to our Lord.
The Session encourages the members to share with the commissioners their opinion on proposed amendment 14-F. The congregation is invited and encouraged no less to pray for the peace, unity, and purity of the body of Christ at QHPC. Despite any one issue that would seek to divide us, let us be bold in our faith in Christ to see the current time of challenge as an opportunity to stand together faithfully and boldly in our unique calling to be Christ’s people.
Again, the Session perceives the central issue to be not who is for or against same-sex unions, but whether we will choose unity in Christ over division through a “supposedly” irreconcilable opinion. Before the Feb. 21 vote and after the vote, may the Lord find us faithful to those teachings and values that characterize not the prevailing culture but the body of Christ, and not merely for a season of challenge but for all time to come.
Gus Succop, Pastor Rich Bonnell, Clerk of the Session