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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

Why the Church?
September 23, 2010

I ask this question not in the sense of “Why did the church come into being?” but as in “To what ends does the church exist?” The Westminster Catechism proclaims our chief end and purpose: “To glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever.” This is not a purpose statement for individuals to realize on their own; rather, it’s about the church’s purpose as a whole. The church exists that God be glorified through its shared witness, and that God’s people live joyously together, taking deep delight in God’s world, God’s works, and God’s very self.

We might ask, “Why the presbytery?” The answer can only be the same as the answer to the question, “Why the church?” After all, “presbytery” is but one way of naming the church. By “presbytery” we mean not only the offices where presbytery staff work, nor just the meetings of presbytery. In fact, we refer to all of our congregations and their members in their common labors in Jesus’ name. Presbytery is “us” – not “them.” So to ask “Why the presbytery?” is but another way of asking “Why the church?”

The Book of Order lists six “great ends of the church,” which are also the great ends of presbytery. In the coming weeks we shall unpack these great ends of the church, because they need to govern the way we conduct our budget process, both at congregational and presbytery levels. We must be clear-eyed about the mission to which we are called when we set our budgets. We cannot afford to ignore the income side of the ledger, but we dare never forget that the budget ought to be determined first of all by our sense of mission, rather than by the amount of money with which we think we can play. More than anything other single thing, our budget reflects what we really believe our mission to be.

Using language that has been with us for over a century, our Book of Order G-1.0200 names as the “great ends of the church”:

Pittsburgh Presbytery has hammered out a strong mission statement, and we need to make sure our budget aligns with its fulfillment. Beneath that mission lies the general mission of the church articulated in the “Great Ends” statement. How does our budget reflect our commitment to those ends?

At its next meeting on October 14, presbytery will undertake its first reading of the 2011 budget. I hope that as we consider how God would have us shape the budget, we will always be mindful of the great ends that it serves. These priorities have certainly been on our minds as our staff has been preparing budget requests for 2011, and they will be very much on Council’s mind as it meets next week to consider the budget recommendations it will bring to presbytery on October 14.

Over the coming weeks we will probe each of these six “great ends” in turn. I trust they will help us determine where to cut as well as where to increase investments in our 2011 congregational and presbytery budgets.

For the sake of God’s purposes,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Presbytery

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