New parachurch associations within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) may provide alternative models of mainline church governance in the near future, writes Joseph D. Small in the Christian Century (May 5).
The rapid growth and maturity of two new bodies, The Presbyterian Coalition and The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, are clear signals that special interest groups are coalescing and taking on many of the functions of the wider denomination. Both groups emerged during the l990s over the acrimonious battles within PCUSA over teachings and practices relating to sexual expression; homosexuality and the ordination of gays and lesbians being the most prominent. Small adds that both have since broadened their outreach to include other denominational issues, such as missions, finance and education.
For instance, the Covenant Network has a budget of $175,000 and is expanding its influence via a web site, newsletter, and regional and national conferences. Both are finding ways to attract new supporters and new funding and are affiliated with smaller specialized groups that have their own funding, staff and programs. Their appearance, he suggests, points clearly to the decline of loyalty in the older, establishment governance of mainline Presbyterianism.
Both are riding the crest of “the triumph of market consumerism throughout the culture.” Small suggests these groups, the “right” and the “left” blocs, show that denominationalism will continue to be polarized, and they will continue to draw support away from loyalty to the decades-old centralized system of governance.
(Christian Century, 407 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60605)
— By Erling Jorstad, RW contributing editor