January 3, 2018 — by Nate Dreesmann

Cleaning up, Shaping up, and Clearing up our Polity and Theology

2018 marks ECO’s sixth year of existence, now made up of more than 370 churches and church plants. ECO’s mission “to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ” continues to inform every decision and choice that the Synod Executive Council and Synod Staff are making to support and resource ECO churches. As Dana Allin said last year, the Synod sees its role as helping catalyze flourishing in every ECO church and in every ECO leader. To that end, how ECO governs itself and what theological statements guide its leaders matters. If I could sum up this year’s Synod Business Meeting with one phrase, I would call it “Cleaning up, Shaping up, and Clearing up our Polity and Theology.”

I have not missed Presbyterian business meetings that last for a week or longer. ECO has been known to have Synod business meetings that could be better measured in minutes rather than hours or days. We came together to form a movement; a new way for a denomination to exist in the 21st century. When we met for business, there was excitement and anticipation for the new thing that was being created. Over the last six years we created a consensus-building culture for this next season. ECO churches continue to focus on what is most important: to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I praise God for the growth that we have seen in ECO, and by His grace, will continue to see in ECO.

As I live into my role in the Synod office, I am beyond excited about the development of each ECO church and presbytery. As I walk alongside presbyteries and churches I have learned that ECO’s lack of clarity in its polity and governing documents distracts churches, presbyteries, and leaders from our common mission. We really do have some “cleaning up, shaping up, and clearing up” to do. While I have great hope that the future job of our churches and presbyteries will not be focused on rewriting polity, I’m very thankful for the work that has been done by teams and presbyteries to make the needed corrections in the polity, which will help ECO churches and presbyteries function more effectively and with greater flexibility in order to flourish and make disciples in their contexts.  

I have also noticed that churches and presbyteries who engaged in the process ECO’s Theological Taskforce set before them at last January’s National Gathering based their work on their understanding of Reformed Theology, the history of reformed people, and clarity on the confessions that should guide ECO as a new reformed movement. I am thankful that the Theological Taskforce’s challenge has led to several presbyteries placing before the Synod their prayerful discernment of what confessions should guide ECO pastors, officers, and churches going forward. I praise God that sessions across this country have been studying the Scriptures and the confessions, seeking God’s will for what theological statements will continue to guide, train, and equip ECO for its future. This is vitally important to the theological foundation of ECO’s mission, vision, and values.

When I think about the many commissioners, both young and mature, who have never attended this type of meeting before, I can only imagine the wide range of perspectives and feelings. My hope and prayer is for each commissioner to realize that this year, the Synod Business meeting will not be measured in minutes, but measured in the historic and significant work that will define what ECO is today and what it will continue to be in the next season of its existence. Please join me in prayer over the next month for the commissioners from each of our churches and presbyteries who will discern and vote on these important issues.

Nate Dreesmann

Nate Dreesmann

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