Towards a new confession and the role of Christian education in the 21st century

Louisville, Kentucky— The Book of Confessions forms part of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), along with the order book. Various confessions were added to the Book of Confessions throughout the history of the church – most recently the Belhar Confession, which was written in the context of apartheid South Africa and added to the 2016 General Assembly.

Recognizing the importance of Book of Confessions and the process by which a denomination is added, the Theology, Worship and Education Committee restarted its work on Tuesday morning taking three overtures that call for adding a new denomination, TWE-01, TWE-08 and TWE-13 . TWE-13 came up with a new fully-written confession titled “A Confession for a Time Like This” from the Northeast Synod. Both TWE-01 and TWE-08 provide a process for writing a new confession to add. The committee heard from many openness advocates and resource people and held a lively debate about the potential content of a new confession as well as the process for writing a new confession. Congresswoman Bronwen Boswell explained the process of writing and adopting a confession, including a personal story about her small church in rural Kansas, providing commentary on the “brief statement of faith” in the 1980s that was included in the final draft.

After conversation and breaks that allowed the committee leadership to organize the recommendations, the committee voted to amend and functionally combine the three resolutions into one using the correct language and processes for writing and adding a confession to the Book of Confessions. They also added three comments commending and commending the work the Northeast Synod had already done on the submitted confession and ensuring that the committee that will oversee the drafting of the new confession has sufficiently diverse representation.

Screenshot by Greg Allen-Pickett.

The committee then received a report from Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) TWE-INFO, “Presbyterian Publishing Corporation Agency Summary 2022.” Cynthia Campbell, the president of the PPC, presented the report saying in part: “There are people in this world who want to ban books. We believe books change lives. I imagine each of you has been changed by a book, a Sunday school lesson, a sermon, a hymn, a prayer. Our vocation is to be the guardians of these resources and to make them available.

The PPC showed a video and PPC President David Dobson shared follow-up remarks which included the PPC’s commitment to anti-racism work stating, “We are committed to being an anti-racism organization. We live this by providing training opportunities for our staff, including one-on-one coaching with trained experts; increase the diversity of our workforce; and redouble efforts to recruit authors of color and publish books related to race and anti-racism. And just recently, we made the decision to donate royalties from Glory to God hymn for every spiritual and indigenous African American song to causes involved in restorative justice. Following the report, the minutes of the CPP for the past four years were unanimously approved.

The final item to be considered on Tuesday was TWE-12: Report of the Special Committee to Study the Reformed Perspective of Christian Education in the 21st Century. The committee was formed following the 222n/a General Assembly in 2016. The committee was supposed to submit its report in 2020 but it was postponed to this assembly due to the pandemic, so they continued their work for another two years.

Elder Teacher Emily Chudy from Donegal Presbytery was co-moderator of the committee and shared the report and a set of recommendations including five guidelines: to create a new post within the Presbyterian Mission Agency to equip and connect practitioners of Christian formation through the denomination; direct research services to conduct a research study exploring the particularities and differences of Christian education and faith formation ministries and practices in racial and ethnic minority congregations; improve preparation for ministry to place greater emphasis on the role of the pastor as teacher and educator; strengthen Christian educator certification; and create a committee to assess the viability of the educator certification program.

Screenshot by Greg Allen-Pickett.

The discussion resulted in several proposed changes to the report’s recommendations and guidelines. The amended resolution was passed for consideration in plenary session of the assembly, concluding the committee’s work for the day.

The final meeting of the Theology, Worship and Education Committee of the 225e The PC (USA) General Assembly meets Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

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