A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery
Pittsburgh Presbytery is a covenant community formed by the triune God....~ Pittsburgh Presbytery Mission Statement
What does it mean to be “called” by God? I grew up hearing about people having a “call” as code meaning they are destined for professional ministry. Such thinking reflected a tacit attitude that, like the medieval church, placed “religious professionals” in a category different from (read: higher than) ordinary church folk. That perspective is sometimes called “clericalism” – the assignment of higher value to clergy than to laity. The Protestant church today often betrays a residual clericalism that looks in some ways more like the medieval church with its spiritual hierarchies, than like the Reformation church that declared the priesthood of all believers.
Our mission as a presbytery is based on the assumption that God calls all members of the church to sacred service. A presbytery is the company of all in a region who have been claimed by God’s call – whether preacher or poet, musician or mason, lawyer or landscaper, teacher or timberjack. God’s call has nothing to do with how we earn our paycheck, and everything to do with understanding ourselves, in whatever we do, as people working “for the Lord, and not for your masters.” (Colossians 3:23)
Sometimes we assume that the most important people in the drama of Gospel proclamation are those with speaking parts – preachers and teachers, people who are bequeathed degrees and titles in religious discourse. But sometimes actions mean more than words in proclaiming the Gospel. St. Francis is said to have taught, “Always preach the Gospel. When necessary, use words.”
God’s call binds us all together. It is one call in many expressions, all of which work toward the same end. God’s call always gets worked out in terms of the “one among the many” – all of us are bound to God’s one call to be a holy people proclaiming the good news of redemption in Christ, yet each of us has a particular, unique place in telling that story.
The best picture anywhere of the symbiotic relationship between the many and the one is the Holy Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One God, in perfect unity – yet they are fully distinct in their own persons and expressions. What one does, all do. They don’t maintain separate spheres, such that the Father is Creator, the Son is Redeemer, and the Spirit is Sanctifier. Each of them participates in all of God’s wondrous acts – yet each has a singular role to play at each point along the way.
Just as with the Holy Trinity, each member of our community is equally honored, even as each makes a distinctive contribution to our shared mission. No matter your gifts, no matter your theological perspective, we welcome your devotion to our Lord and your service to God’s glory. In this community, we are free to speak our hearts and minds, and ready to welcome the correction and enlargement that come when we hear from folk whose answer to God’s call has led them to perspectives that differ from our own. What we are not free to do is to speak or act in defiance, disdain, or disregard for each other. Rather, our many differences kaleidoscopically reveal the manifold wisdom of God, working in concert to magnify one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
As those in covenant community called into shared ministry by the triune God, we honor God publicly by living as the triune God lives – each member unique, all members united. It is no more thinkable for me to speak ill of you because you are different from me than for the Father so to dismiss the Son. It is no more imaginable for me to be callous to your entreaties than it is for the Spirit to turn a deaf ear to the voice of the Son.
Our identity as “Pittsburgh Presbytery” is rooted not in what we determine but in what the triune God calls us to be and to do. Once we are clear on who we are, we are set free to do what God would have us do, in whatever place our Lord sets us. There we live ever more fully into our “chief end and purpose” of glorifying and fully enjoying God forever.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery
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