I just returned from a conference called "The Fellowship", in Orlando, Florida, where 2,000+ Evangelical Presbyterians gathered for the purpose of determining the next steps for our wing of our struggling denomination - the PC (USA). Honestly, since I attended the previous meeting of this group in Minnesota, and found that conference a slight bit more pugnacious (Think Ali and Frazier...) than I would have liked, I was not looking forward to my trip. However, I can say that I found this conference very refreshing, and have come home replenished and dare I say renewed.
The main purpose of the meeting was to lay out the ground work for a new denominational structure, to be linked in some ways to the PC (USA), called ECO. ECO is short for the Evangelical Covenantal Order. Stop, I know what you're thinking. ECO sounds like the name of a marsupial from an Amazonian rain forest. So, let's leave the name aside for a moment, since the full acronym you will surely find even more distasteful - ECOOP; The Evangelical Covanental Order of Presbyterians. Can anyone say, dot com? But, I can honestly say that at first glance, at least for me;
ECO is Exciting!
ECO is exciting for a lot of reasons. First, I have always wanted to be a part of something new in the world of religion. The search for newness is why I went into New Church Devleopment and started Highlands Church. Of course, not everything that is new is positive. As the Middle Eastern Scholar Ken Bailey once said, "If it's new it's not true, if it's true it's not new." However, newness can often be a sign of God's replenishing, refreshing power. The book of Jeremiah says, "See, I am doing a NEW thing. Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert, and streams in the wasteland." (Is. 43:19). If there was ever a time for a way in the current desert of denominational quagmire, that time was now.
Second, I really respect the leadership of ECO. John Ortberg gave the launching sermon of this new denomination in Orlando, and, in my opinion, struck the perfect balance of intelligent vision and doctrinal depth, "I want to be a part of a denomination that likes to read great books...and also believes in a place called hell." He said it better than the way I just did, and a viewing of John's sermon is worth the time (here is the weblink to the sermon; http://www.fellowship-pres.org/). One of the perceived problems I have found with PC (USA) is it's consistent aversion to any sort of concrete doctrinal theology. And on the flip side, one of the perceived problems I have found with the EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church), is it's sometime lack of thoughtfulness and engagement about the world in which we live. ECO seems to be a middle of the road option, a via media, between these two polar extremes.
It of course remains to be seen what the full manifestation of ECO might look like. It also is uncertain how things will begin to pan out for the PC (USA). However, for the time being, I can honestly say that;
ECO is Exciting!
All For Now,