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Dear followers of Jesus in ECO, I have been asked to write to you on behalf of the National Theological Task Force about our important and ongoing project, “Considering the Confessions.”
After Jesus was baptized he was “led up into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). During this season of Lent we consider Jesus’ temptation, and we ought to be reminded of another temptation by the devil, of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. The mission of God, when we consider the whole of Scripture, is to prepare a people worthy of ruling with him with his character. Adam and Eve fail their trial. They want to be like God without being able or willing to bear divine responsibility. And we are the same way. But Jesus proved worthy by not only taking responsibility for himself, he bore the sins of the world in his body on the cross! Our task as the church is to grow into maturity which is the measure of the stature of Christ. That way we won’t be “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:13–14). Our job is to become like Christ, our King, who proved his character and led the way for us to rule with God by becoming like Christ. This is discipleship: not shrinking from challenges, but rising up to meet them in Christ. And discipleship, according to the Apostle Paul, involves theological maturity. ECO has set itself a test: what form of theological unity will we have to guide our mission and discipleship that is Ecumenical, Reformed, and Evangelical?
ECO was not a prefabricated house that churches have just needed to move into. We’ve all moved into a house that is still being built. In 2012, to make a start, ECO adopted the PC(USA)’s Book of Confessions in its 2012 form. But the desire was to eventually have congregations and presbyteries work out ECO’s confessional identity as it matured. The Theological Task Force has been commissioned to lead this task. Five years have passed since ECO began, and now we are right in the midst of this maturing process.
As you may know, this coming January (2018) during the Synod meeting of our National Gathering, we will be working toward important decisions about the theological grounding of our movement. You have been asked to consider our Book of Confessions and create Presbytery motions to address a vital question that has been postponed until now: how best to express the unique theological identity of our movement. Some such proposals are already underway.
Because this is no small undertaking, the Theological Task Force and the Synod Executive Council have agreed that employing a part–time temporary position to facilitate this task will be highly beneficial. I have been commissioned as the “Resource Coordinator” to facilitate this discussion and project as we work toward January’s meeting. Our hope is that this process will create unity, not through a tenuous silence on important theological matters, but by creating the relationships of trust that can only be built on mutual respect through honest conversation. We want this conversation to make good progress long before January comes around, therefore creating ongoing relationships of trust and theological accountability across geographic boundaries. Synod should be a place to confirm conversations, deliberate about well–researched motions, and bring strength through mutual encouragement. This is part of what denominational discipleship can look like. Major projects such as this can be intimidating. We may feel unequal to the task, or that we do not have time for it. But this is a learning and testing experience for us a movement. Our zeal for making important choices has already been proven. Now is not the time to rest upon “changing denominational uniforms” as Rev. Dr. Jim Singleton likes to put it. It is time to build our team up in its theological identity.
Who am I?
I am Rev. Dr. Gregory Wagenfuhr and have been a very active member of the national Theological Task Force since shortly after our National Gathering in Dallas a few years ago. I have helped create many of the resources we have produced.
I have been the Transitional Pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Cañon City, CO for nearly three years. You can find out more about me, my story, and my qualifications on our brand new website at www.theology-eco.org.
What is the Theological Task Force?
The Theological Task Force (TTF) is a group that has been commissioned by the Synod Executive Council for this task, for the ongoing provision of resources on theological matters, and to help clarify specific theological questions. We are an advisory and resourcing group, and we are eager to serve ECO in this way. On our website you will find bios for each member. This job of “Resource Coordinator” is an exciting opportunity for all of us in ECO. Up until now all members of the TTF have been in full–time ministry and teaching, volunteering their time, and often money, to serve ECO. But because this project is important we want to be sure you have a dedicated contact as you address this Confessions project. I am at your service to answer questions, provide resources, connect you with others in different presbyteries who may be having similar questions, and connect you with the national Theology Task Force.
Perhaps you still have questions about this major national project of considering ECO’s Book of Confessions. What is it about? Why are we doing this? Don’t the Essential Tenets suffice? We have a wealth of resources already available that will answer many of your questions initially, again on our website. There you will also find the motions and overtures that various presbyteries are already in the process of putting forth. You will find wonderful videos introducing our current confessions, presentations you can use to teach about the confessions, a booklet with introductions to the process and to each confession, and much more!
If you are involved in a theology task force in a congregation, session, or presbytery, be sure to sign up at the bottom of any page for our email distribution list so you become aware of what other presbyteries are doing, news and other events as they happen. You will also find a moderated forum on our website where you can discuss motions, ask common questions, etc. My aim is to facilitate communication throughout ECO.
If you find that our website just doesn’t have the answer to your questions, or you would like to speak with someone in person, or you would like someone to explain the task and progress to your congregation, session, or presbytery, I am at your service. Our hope is that on behalf of the TTF, I will be your resource to create a confident unity in our theological identity. We want to believe what we confess and confess what we believe. We want our theology to serve, refine, direct, and unify our mission of building flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ. And I am here to help theologically equip you to do just that.
You can contact me at:
Blessings in King Jesus,
Rev. Dr. Gregory Wagenfuhr
Resource Coordinator, ECO Theological Task Force