Monday, May 15, 2006

Presbyterian Handbook

The other day, I bought a little book called The Presbyterian Handbook (2006). Produced by the Christian education wing of the PC(USA), Geneva Press, the little book is patterned after those Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks. Behind its tongue-in-cheek humor, though, is quite a bit of useful information and thoughtful reflection.

Even the very first section, "How to Get to Know Your Pastor," was thoughtful: 1) connect with your pastor after worship; 2) pray daily for your pastor; 3) as your pastor while he/she entered ordained ministry; 4) make an appointment to spend time with your pastor. Perhaps some wouldn't like or "get" this, but I thought there was some good wisdom here; for example, if people did those four things, they would certainly have a better understanding of their ministers.

To be sure, this book reflects the theological perspective of the PC(USA). For example, since the PC(USA) opened communion to all baptized individuals, including children, in the early 1970s, the sections on baptism and Lord's Supper reflect their "paedocommunion" position. In a similar fashion, since the church holds a "Book of Confessions," these documents are seen less as "standards" against which beliefs are measured and more as theological wisdom that may (or may not) carry weight today.

Still, I thought this little handbook was a useful and winsome introduction to Presbyterianism. I couldn't help but wish that conservative Presbyterians had similar materials to explain to their members and to non-Presbyterians who they were and what they believed.

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