I have learned neither to assume nor presume! So I will not suppose that you know much about the Presbyterian Vision for Society Statement.
Standing at 146 words, many of us believe the Vision for Society statement is a word for today. Not an inspired word, but an important and timely word.
Important and timely in that it demonstrates that the Church of Jesus Christ has a vision for society and a good vision at that. The world of politics will at different times and in varying ways encourage, enthral, discourage and deflate. But here is a Statement that is a force for God and for good!
Copies of this Statement* are available for Presbyterian congregations across Ireland – and for anyone else who is interested in our commitment to discipleship and peacebuilding; I hope and pray that many will engage with it. Not as a paper exercise however, but as a stimulus to real on the ground action in the midst of a hurting society.
Over the coming weeks, four different bloggers will write about paragraphs two to five of the Statement. To introduce the Vision, I am writing about the first:
WE, MEMBERS OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN IRELAND,
saved by grace
and called by God to grace-filled relationships,
in the power of the Holy Spirit
as ambassadors of Christ’s Kingdom
in a broken and divided world;
I hope that you will be struck by a simple declaration of belief, confession, affirmation and aspiration. We are saved by grace to relate with grace. We have struggled to relate with the “other”. We have struggled to promote the counter culture of Jesus. We have too often left peacebuilding – whatever this may look like on the ground in your community – out of our discipleship.
Here’s the point – if you are a member of a Presbyterian Church and you profess to be saved by the grace of God, then you are strongly encouraged neither to disregard, nor ignore this Statement.
As members of the Reformed Church we believe the gospel impinges on every aspect of life. We do not subscribe to a sacred-secular divide, or a false dichotomy between sound gospel-centred ministry and peacebuilding.
All who are saved by God’s grace are called to touch the lives of others with that same grace, irrespective of status, colour or creed. That’s what it is to be an ambassador of Christ’s Kingdom and regardless of what our national passports say, the highest allegiance of a believer is to the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Zechariah 4:6 we read, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord”. It is only by the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit that you and I can as Christian disciples, make a difference for Christ’s Kingdom, wherever God has placed us to build His Kingdom on this island.
Words can be used to build or destroy. This Presbyterian Vision for Society Statement is 146-gospel-centred, theologically sound and currently relevant words. As far as the Kingdom is concerned, it is a constructive word for today!
* A free download of a special poster of the Statement, prayer card and other resources are available here.
Having ministered in Counties Carlow, Tipperary and Cork for 11 years, Rev. Stephen Johnston has been minister of Kilkeel Presbyterian Church since 2004. He is convener of the Good Relations Panel of the Council for Congregational Life and Witness; part of their remit is to examine at congregational level what it means to follow Jesus in a divided and broken world.
The Statement was welcomed and adopted by the General Assembly in June 2016. Its five paragraphs are a declaration of belief, confession, affirmation and aspiration for our members across Ireland as disciples of Jesus Christ and as peacebuilders.
You can read all the blogs in this series here. For free resources, including short promotional films, a specially written hymn - based on the words of the statement - downloadable poster and prayer card visit the resources section here.