BREAKING NEWS: PC(USA) Moderator leaving PC(USA)

April 1, 2009 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Religion 

SAN FRANCISCO,  April 1 (AFN) – The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), revealed today that he feels called to leave the denomination that has been his home for all of his 39 years.  Reyes-Chow stated that during his recent Moderatorial trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan, he felt the pull of his Buddhist ancestors and plans to leave the Presbyterian Church and take up the robes of a Buddhist monk.

Robin Pugh, his wife, and his three children are said to be staying with relatives recovering from the announcement.  Our reporter was able to hear a single question from his eldest daughter to her mother:  “Does that mean that I have to shave my head?”

The Rev. Byron Wade, Vice-Moderator of the General Assembly, spoke extensively on the subject of Reyes-Chow’s abandonment of his Presbyterian heritage.  “I’m not at all surprised”, said Wade, “Bruce has always been a bit unusual.  I’m just glad that I get the chance to step into his shoes.  The Moderator gets all of the glamour while the Vice-Moderator is relegated to being a traveling second banana.  Bruce got to go to the Phillipines and China; I had to settle for East Tennessee!”

There is no word on what will happen at Bruce’s church, Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco.  Abby Kaiser was last seen rubbing her hands together and cackling with glee.

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Prayers for our Moderator’s Family

November 15, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Please pray for the family of Bruce Reyes-Chow, PC(USA) General Assembly Moderator.

Bruce’s brother-in-law, Brian Pugh, was killed in a workplace shooting on Friday in Santa Clara, CA.  Bruce and his eldest daughter are in NYC on a Moderator trip as of the writing of this post.

Ham and Eggs – Breakfast with Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow

November 12, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

(I forgot to bring my camera, but Sara didn’t.  Pictures as soon as I get them from her.)

Today Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow – the Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA) – came to Lawrenceville, NJ.  The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville hosted him for the 2nd time for breakfast and conversation.

I’m not going to go into details on any issue in particular for several reasons.  One – I don’t remember the details so well.  Two – this post is about both national issues and my local congregation, and I’m reticent to be controversial locally.  Three – at one point Bruce said “Let me get my words right – you never know who is blogging about this” and a number of folks from my church reportedly looked at me.  Hmmm.

The group of about 50-60 that attended was made up primarily of ministers serving in a congregational capacity – mostly from the Presbytery of New Brunswick but also from quite far away in some cases.  There was a smaller contingent of seminarians, another group of non-congregational ministers, and some others who aren’t ministers from our congregation and other places (like me).

The food was excellent – egg strada, homebaked breads, and lots of fruit.  The tables were particularly well-decorated.

The conversation took the form of about 90 minutes of question and answer.  The topics varied broadly but included:

  • Multi-cultural churches – how they succeed and when they might fail
  • New Church Developments, including tips from Bruce based on his experiences at Mission Bay Community Church
  • The use of web 1.0 and web 2.0 technology in ministry, including the upcoming re-design of the PC(USA) website
  • Bringing even the smallest PC(USA) churches onto the Internet through the use of single-page websites for the church (at a cost that Bruce estimated to be about $100 per church)
  • Preserving mission in an era when church budgets may be shrinking
  • Shrinking congregations – when is it appropriate to talk about the end of a congregation’s life?  How do we talk about leaving a legacy through the church’s property and other assets?
  • Supporting small congregations that are not New Church Developments, do not believe they are at the end of their life, and want to redevelop.
  • Providing a living wage for pastors in small churches
  • Campus ministry and keeping young adults engaged with the church
  • Seminaries realizing that not all graduates will be able to go into full-time ministry, and potentially helping them get ready for 1/2-time ministry, 1/2-time something else
  • Information on how many appointments the Moderator makes after General Assembly (a very high 100+ this time around), and how little impact the Moderator has on the work of those task forces after making the appointments
  • Praise for New Brunswick presbytery for having enough interest to need a waiting list for the Social Witness Committee
  • an off-hand reference to “Friends Are Friends Forever” that went over the heads of anybody who wasn’t in the 30-45 age group
  • a reminder that Bruce and Vice-Moderator Byron Wade are willing to send video greetings to any group that requests such far enough in advance

I know that I’m missing some of the topics, but that’s most of them.

As always Bruce was engaging, funny, very authentic and willing to tackle the tough questions.  I’m impressed that while he is clearly more comfortable addressing groups of strangers now that he has 6 months of Moderator experience under his belt, he still speaks very openly and authentically and humbly.  His content and delivery are surprisingly consistent between his in-person appearances, his blog writings, and his blog videos (and his tweets on Twitter for that matter).

In short – a good time was had by all, and it was worth getting up early to be there.

Thanks, Bruce, for including Lawrenceville in your NYC/NJ trip.

Breakfast with Bruce – Wed, November 12, 2008, Lawrenceville, NJ

October 24, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA), is coming back to Lawrenceville, NJ!  And you can join him for breakfast.

Bruce will be meeting and speaking with all comers for breakfast from 8-10am on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, NJ.  If you haven’t gotten a chance to speak with Bruce about the present and future of the church before, this is your chance.  He is trying to get a chance to talk to as many people as possible during his travels.

All are invited, and you are encouraged to bring a friend.  Eggs strada, fruit, and baked goods from the Lawrenceville Bakery will be served.  If you have any other questions leave a comment or send me an e-mail and I’ll get an answer for you.

If you are on Facebook, you can find more information in this event.

Congratulations, Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow!

June 22, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Late last night (eastern time), the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow was elected Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Bruce was elected on only the 2nd ballot, after leading but narrowly missing 50% on the first ballot.

I hope that Bruce will fulfill the promise of a new way of speaking to each other that I saw in him when he visited Lawrenceville with the other candidates.

Congratulations, Bruce!

Bruce Reyes-Chow for Moderator

June 19, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Better late than never, I always say.

I am proud to endorse Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow for Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Let me start by saying that I think most of the candidates will do a good job in the moderator role.  The differences between them are primarily differences in style, not differences in substance (the perennial debate about homosexuality being the exception that proves the rule).  All love God.  All support Jesus as Lord.  As far as I can tell, all meet the essentials of our faith as I see them.  I enjoyed meeting all of them when they came to Lawrenceville, NJ.

Bruce stood out in one huge way – he has a plan for the future.  Well, maybe not a plan per se, but a direction.  Bruce is the one candidate who gets the problem of the aging of the church.  He sees both the problem (that young people are not remaining engaged after high school, and that they are NOT following the pattern of returning when they have children) and solutions.

Most importantly, Bruce sees the need for local solutions for local cultures.  He pastors a very successful congregation in San Francisco called Mission Bay Community Church.  This church is at the same time traditional and non-traditional.  Services there bear some resemblance to traditional Presbyterian services, but likely would also cause some members in our churches to blanch at the differences.  Bruce has found a way to reach out to a population not being fed by traditional practices and bring them into the faith.  Too often, we expect people to become like us (in behavior, dress, etc) before they join us (in our traditional service).  Bruce has turned that on its head, he and his church expect people to join us (come as you are) before you become like us (followers of Christ).

I also believe that Bruce challenges the assumptions about the essentials of our faith.  How many of us believe that it is essential to the Presbyterian faith to sit in rows of pews, sing 100+ year-old hymns with a pipe organ, and have a choir sing at us before the sermon?  I believe that we have confused practice with faith.  Bruce has undergone a process where he has broken down the essentials and his church sticks to those that are truly essential while ignoring those that are simply the product of our cultural inertia.

And it works.  His church has people of all ages present in reasonably well-spread numbers.

Another area where Bruce excels is in listening.  When the candidates met in Lawrenceville, the format had each candidate sitting in the center focus of a U-shaped set of tables.  In some cases, the discussions were straight question and answer sessions – even when the candidate chose to ask questions of his audience.  In the case of Bruce’s session with each table (and in one other case), there was more of a dialog.  Bruce was truly listening to what the questioner was saying, and thinking.  Silence was not the enemy – it was time to process.  And Bruce was remarkably consistent in his responses.  He did not shade his responses to meet the desires of the questioner – he answered them openly and honestly and authentically.  And it wasn’t “this is what I think – deal with it”, it was more like “this is what I think – what do you think?”  This is what our denomination needs now more than anything else – questions rather than answers.  Everybody (and PCUSA bloggers are particularly bad at this, including me) comes to the forum ready to present and defend their answer before they hear the question.  What we need now is more understanding of what the other person is saying and thinking – how they came to their answer – and less posturing.  Bruce is humble when working with others in discernment – he really tries to get your point of view.

If you are a commissioner to General Assembly, I hope that you will consider Bruce Reyes-Chow for the Moderator position.  I won’t say “hope that you will vote for Bruce”, because that’s not how it should work.  You should consider Bruce, (and Bill, Carl and Roger) and make your own choice.  I just hope that I have provided an opinion that is useful as you and the Spirit decide how to vote.