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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

Our Share in Christ’s Mission
November 21, 2013

Today we conclude our series on how Reformed worship reveals church authenticity, since Reformed confessions declare that wherever God is rightly worshiped the church is truly present. How does the way we are sent from worship into the world mark us as a “true church”?

We are not sent into the world alone. When Jesus sent his followers to share the gospel, he sent them in groups of two or more. When the early apostles itinerated as missionaries, they were likewise sent in groups. There are many reasons why church mission is essentially a communal enterprise, but I will highlight just one – it earns credibility for our message. We proclaim a gospel of reconciliation, that people estranged from God are restored to right relationship to God through Jesus. The visible evidence that we have been reunited with God in Christ is that we are thereby united to each other. When we work together doing Christ’s mission, we are demonstrating that the message we proclaim actually does what we say it does – it binds together those who had been alienated.

One of the primary functions of the Pittsburgh Presbytery staff is to encourage and equip our congregations to do Christ’s mission together, not separately. Just as uniting individual believers in mission has a multiplier effect on the scope of a congregation’s missional engagement, uniting congregations in doing Christ’s mission renders their impact for the kingdom of God exponentially greater.

Your presbytery staff’s core mission is to motivate our congregations and their leaders for world-transforming proclamation of the Good News of reconciliation revealed in Jesus Christ. In order to be able to fulfill this mission effectively, the presbytery staff needs sufficient space and time for this work, which means their work needs the financial support of the congregations they serve.

Presbyterians in Allegheny County are generous funders of Christian mission, when measured in terms of global outreach or emergency assistance. But we have flagged in maintaining the contributions necessary to keep our presbytery offices open and staff employed. Financial statements (included in the presbytery packet on our website) show us deeply in the red for 2013. The Executive Committee has been considering how best to address this, and as a result this week I have written each pastor and clerk of session a letter detailing the urgency of our need for increased giving to presbytery through per capita and undesignated mission offerings. Please know that we have prayerfully considered this challenge, and are well aware that many congregations are struggling to pay their own bills. Still, we are bold to ask you to pray about how you might help contribute to this essential work that binds us together for the sake of reaching the world more effectively and faithfully with the good news of the Gospel.

Please, pastors and clerks of session: Read that letter and the bulletin entitled “Giving to Presbytery.” Invite your sessions to consider prayerfully how the Lord may be leading you to respond. We know many congregations are themselves under financial pressure, and we do not wish to add a further burden – but neither do we hesitate in sharing the need and asking you to consider your appropriate response.

The Executive Committee has also asked that we publicize in PNews a current statement of where all our churches stand in their per capita contributions. Earlier this year it voted to discontinue our practice of publishing those figures in each presbytery meeting packet, and we hear that some have erroneously concluded that we no longer need per capita contributions so urgently. In fact, years of spending down our endowment have left us this year needing per capita and mission gifts more urgently than ever.

As we are sent out in Jesus’ name into the world, let us strengthen our bonds for accomplishing the mission that we have adopted as God’s call upon us:

Pittsburgh Presbytery is a covenant community formed by the triune God,
called to share together in the ongoing life and ministry of Jesus Christ,
proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel publicly in word and deed
in the power of the Holy Spirit.

For the sake of Christ’s mission,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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