From our President: The opportunity of Advent

December 08, 2022
… and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Rom 5:5

Advent reminds us to be thoughtful about how we want to live. It presents us with the opportunity for communal discernment and personal examination, and helps restore us as disciples of Christ. Our hope is renewed — both as individuals and as a community of faith.

Even as the Church changes and some are fearful, the Holy Spirit breaks into every one of our lives so that we might glimpse the kingdom of God. The denomination’s annual statistics report, released in April, showed membership continuing a steady decline. Yet, it also showed growth in youth professions of faith and more than twice the number of new worshiping communities as in 2016. Hope amid change.

“Great challenges lie ahead for the PC(USA), but I believe God is working amongst us, forming and encouraging us to continue to be creative and innovative in all we do,” said the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly. We are challenged, he said, to develop new leaders for the future of the Church.

Energetic, outstanding pastoral leadership is essential if we are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” We need to encourage more people to hear God’s call and respond with a life of ministry. And we need more congregations to call full-time ministers and provide them with support through the church Benefits Plan.

The church plan gives ministers access to the Board’s assistance and education programs, which promote wholeness. We designed Living by the Gospel to outline for church employers how these programs, together with plan benefits, support the well-being of ministers so they might devote their best gifts and energies to their call.

The Board found that PC(USA)-ordained ministers who never receive plan benefits are 50 percent more likely to leave ministry in the first 10 years. Today, 1,170 ministers serving the Church have never been enrolled in the PC(USA) plan. Our goal is for all ministers ordained in the PC(USA) to be plan members. Hope amid change.

Congregations, presbyteries, and new worshiping communities are called to support ministers. The Board is called to create the tools to help them do that. Collaboration is the way of our faith, as together, we build up the body of Christ.

We offer Pathways to Renewal so churches could call young ministers and enroll them in the plan’s comprehensive benefits package, Pastor’s Participation, at greatly reduced dues. Benefits Grants for Organizing Pastors and Evangelists is a dues-incentive tool for presbyteries that are planting churches and cultivating new ministries.

And with hundreds of ministers going without the support of our assistance and education programs because their congregations simply could not afford Pastor’s Participation, we introduced Minister’s Choice for those not serving in installed positions. Employers pay just 10 percent for this financial protection package — and ministers gain access to every single one of our assistance and education programs.

Let us, as a community of faith, discern hope amid change in this holy season. Together, we may equip our faith leaders for the work of ministry and build up the body of Christ.

Grace and peace, 

The Reverend Dr. Frank Clark Spencer