A Note from PJ
I’m looking forward to worshiping together tomorrow! We’ll celebrate the salvation provided by Jesus as we take communion, and we’re grateful that Pastor Joel Bubna will be speaking again. In addition, anyone newer to Grace is invited to Taste of Grace, a 30-minute overview, Q & A, and fellowship time immediately after each service.
I’d like to give you an update on the recent gathering of the broader Alliance family, our association of 2,000 churches in the States (there are 20,000 more globally!). My letter is a little longer today as my heart is to give the big picture of what’s happening and answer questions that may arise. Our Council gathering gave a clear sense of being on mission together; there were compelling and inspiring reports from around the globe. You can watch a six minute summary here and download Alliance Council resources here. Through U.S. churches and 700 workers in 70 countries, we pay forward the love of Jesus to unreached, overlooked, and displaced people in our U.S. communities and throughout the world through a variety of church planting, community development, and compassionate care ministries and initiatives that advance our All of Jesus for All the World vision.
In a nutshell, the 2,000+ delegates from around the country discussed and voted on these issues:
- The Alliance reaffirmed the role of the elder in the local church as a role for men and clarified who may serve as an elder in the local church: the lead pastor, elected lay elders, and other licensed male staff if the church so chooses (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9).
- The Alliance clarified consecration and ordination as a means of vetting workers for vocational ministry in the Alliance. Everyone who completes the Alliance process of Consecration/Ordination, both men and women, will now receive both titles as a result – Consecrated and Ordained. Recognizing that historically ordination is accompanied by the title of Reverend, that title will now be given to all who go through the process. Local churches like Grace can decide if that title will be used in their own context. Because the New Testament does not mention the title “Reverend,” we haven’t used that title at Grace except on official documents as needed. The process of Consecration/Ordination is not developed from New Testament practice or teaching, but is a means developed over the years as a process of vetting, development and affirmation. It is also helpful (and expected) for chaplains who are providing care in the military, hospital, prison, etc.
- In The Alliance, a senior pastor is automatically considered an elder (and therefore is a role limited to men, as noted in #1 above). Others carrying the title of pastor are not automatically considered elders, so it was decided that the title of pastor (other than senior/lead pastor) can be given to men and women if a local church so chooses. This recognizes pastors as those who shepherd others on the journey of following Jesus, as mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-13. The Elder Board at Grace Church has been discussing these issues and will prayerfully consider how to proceed these coming months. Part of that process will include a town hall meeting that provides an opportunity for anyone in our church family to be part of a Q & A session. We will wait until that happens before we would implement any potential changes at Grace (including any expansion of the use of “pastor”).
There are other Bible-teaching denominations who have similar views about using the title “pastor” for both men and women: the Assemblies of God, the Nazarenes, the Evangelical Free Church, the Wesleyans, and others. For some, like the Alliance, that decision is left to the leadership of a local church rather than national uniformity. This allows for flexibility on non-essential issues, especially in our denomination that has churches worshipping in 38 different languages in the States (and well over 70 languages globally)–and lots of differing views on how to see these matters!
Would you pray for our Elder team as they prayerfully discuss these important matters? Again, you will have an opportunity to speak into these things. And to clarify, these are not changes in doctrine, but in polity (how a local church is structured). We want to carefully shepherd our church family through this season as we realize we have brothers and sisters with a variety of opinions and convictions.
Here’s what we know for sure: We are a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8, family. All that we do, we do for the glory of the Lord and the advancement of his mission, and we do it together. This is the main pursuit of our lives, our leadership, and our churches. May it continue! We can pursue unity even if there is not complete uniformity. The body of Christ has never fully agreed on all matters with everyone around us. We have always had variance in understanding of how to do church, and yet for decades have teamed together. May Jesus be honored in the way we move forward, increasing our local and global impact!
To see what Jesus is doing among us even in recent weeks, you’ll be encouraged by this video clip of baptisms and testimonies at Grace on May 21. What a joy to see life transformation!
Grateful for you all,