Letters to the Congregation

A Letter from Your Session

What happened at General Assembly?

This past June the General Assembly of the PC(USA) gathered in Detroit and made two significant decisions on the teaching and practice of marriage according to the Book of Order. First, the GA approved an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) that now permits PC(USA) pastors to conduct same-sex weddings, and allows sessions to approve the use of church property for such ceremonies. Secondly, the GA approved a proposed amendment to the Book of Order that would replace current language with a description of marriage as a relationship between “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

While the AI goes into effect immediately, the proposed amendment re-defining marriage requires ratification by a majority of the presbyteries, a process that takes about one year. Both measures are designed to allow pastors and congregations to participate in same-sex weddings, in states where gay marriage is legal.

It is extremely important to understand that while the AI and the constitutional amendment alter the denomination’s interpretation of marriage, they do not require any pastor to officiate or any session to authorize the use of church property for a marriage service with which they disagree. It remains up to pastors and each respective session to determine what is and is not appropriate for their congregation.

What is Session’s response?

As the Session of UPPC, we are distressed with this action of the General Assembly, which effectively relegates sexuality and marriage to the subjective judgment of each individual pastor and each respective Session. The lack of a unifying theology within the PC(USA) is fracturing not only our connectional relationships with other PC(USA) congregations but the very crucial relationship between that of an individual pastor and Session should they disagree on this matter.

In our July Session meeting all three of our pastors expressed grief at the Assembly’s action to permit same-sex marriages by pastors of the PC(USA) and to redefine marriage as a covenantal relationship between ‘two people’ rather than between a man and a woman. This action places the PC(USA) in irreconcilable conflict with both Scripture and its confessional tradition.

The UPPC Session elders are in agreement with the Pastoral team in the determination to not conduct same-sex marriages and not permit the use of UPPC property for same-sex marriages. We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision. We pray that those who disagree will continue to be engaged in the ministry and fellowship of our church. UPPC Session elders firmly believe that all people are valued and beloved creations of God, made in His image. Moreover, our Lord exhorts us to love and welcome all of His children into His church, if we are

to live into that image: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NRSV)

Moreover, we are especially dismayed at how the actions of the General Assembly require us to make determinations that may feed into very divisive culture wars in our broader society. As opposed to taking stances on those things we are against, we at UPPC take stances on what we are for; namely the proclamation of the gospel and the radical love and grace of Jesus Christ.

The relationship between UPPC and our denomination is multifaceted. It dates back more than half a century, and reflects God’s blessing on the denomination and on our church in particular. Sadly, our denomination has been plagued in recent years by conflicts over theology, mission and other issues. In response some congregations both nationally and within our presbytery have left the PC(USA) for other reformed bodies.

UPPC’s elders and leaders have discussed these realities for several years and in 2012 we appointed teams for information gathering and reflection. At that time we decided to remain within the PC(USA) and join the ‘Fellowship of Presbyterians.’ Joining the Fellowship has kept us engaged with like-minded congregations and leaders who can help provide vision and resources to carry out the kind of ministry to which UPPC has been called. It has also provided a theological identity for UPPC during a time of Senior Pastor transition so that we could focus our energies on the future mission and vision of our church. (For more on the Fellowship, please see this link: www.fellowship-pres.org.)

Where do we go from here?

While we have made a clear decision on the issue of same-sex marriage at UPPC we feel it important to stay in conversation together as a church. In the meantime, Paul directs us in Ephesians 4:3 to “make every effort to keep the unity of Spirit through the bond of peace.” These are anxious times for our church and our priority is to honor our core code values and retain our focus on the ministries and mission that Jesus has placed before us. In that spirit we ask you to:

Pray for those in leadership at UPPC. Pray for truth and the Lord’s leading to be recognized at the General Assembly.
Remain focused on your worship relationship with Jesus and the community that God has formed here at UPPC.
Be patient and trust your elders to prayerfully consider how they will respond to the changes that are at hand.

Our encouragement as we move forward into what God has in store for us is to dwell with the words of Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Please feel free to contact us with your questions or comments by sending a letter to the church with the notation “Attn: UPPC Session” or email directly to session@uppc.org. We welcome comments and will either respond directly to a question or prepare a response document that will be available at the church office.

In His Service,

The Session of University Place Presbyterian Church

From Pastor Aaron 12-12-14

What happened at General Assembly?

This past June the General Assembly of the PC(USA) gathered in Detroit and made two significant decisions on the teaching and practice of marriage according to the Book of Order. First, the GA approved an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) that now permits PC(USA) pastors to conduct same-sex weddings, and allows sessions to approve the use of church property for such ceremonies. Secondly, the GA approved a proposed amendment to the Book of Order that would replace current language with a description of marriage as a relationship between “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

While the AI goes into effect immediately, the proposed amendment re-defining marriage requires ratification by a majority of the presbyteries, a process that takes about one year. Both measures are designed to allow pastors and congregations to participate in same-sex weddings, in states where gay marriage is legal.

It is extremely important to understand that while the AI and the constitutional amendment alter the denomination’s interpretation of marriage, they do not require any pastor to officiate or any session to authorize the use of church property for a marriage service with which they disagree. It remains up to pastors and each respective session to determine what is and is not appropriate for their congregation.

What is Session’s response?

As the Session of UPPC, we are distressed with this action of the General Assembly, which effectively relegates sexuality and marriage to the subjective judgment of each individual pastor and each respective Session. The lack of a unifying theology within the PC(USA) is fracturing not only our connectional relationships with other PC(USA) congregations but the very crucial relationship between that of an individual pastor and Session should they disagree on this matter.

In our July Session meeting all three of our pastors expressed grief at the Assembly’s action to permit same-sex marriages by pastors of the PC(USA) and to redefine marriage as a covenantal relationship between ‘two people’ rather than between a man and a woman. This action places the PC(USA) in irreconcilable conflict with both Scripture and its confessional tradition.

The UPPC Session elders are in agreement with the Pastoral team in the determination to not conduct same-sex marriages and not permit the use of UPPC property for same-sex marriages. We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision. We pray that those who disagree will continue to be engaged in the ministry and fellowship of our church. UPPC Session elders firmly believe that all people are valued and beloved creations of God, made in His image. Moreover, our Lord exhorts us to love and welcome all of His children into His church, if we are

to live into that image: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NRSV)

Moreover, we are especially dismayed at how the actions of the General Assembly require us to make determinations that may feed into very divisive culture wars in our broader society. As opposed to taking stances on those things we are against, we at UPPC take stances on what we are for; namely the proclamation of the gospel and the radical love and grace of Jesus Christ.

The relationship between UPPC and our denomination is multifaceted. It dates back more than half a century, and reflects God’s blessing on the denomination and on our church in particular. Sadly, our denomination has been plagued in recent years by conflicts over theology, mission and other issues. In response some congregations both nationally and within our presbytery have left the PC(USA) for other reformed bodies.

UPPC’s elders and leaders have discussed these realities for several years and in 2012 we appointed teams for information gathering and reflection. At that time we decided to remain within the PC(USA) and join the ‘Fellowship of Presbyterians.’ Joining the Fellowship has kept us engaged with like-minded congregations and leaders who can help provide vision and resources to carry out the kind of ministry to which UPPC has been called. It has also provided a theological identity for UPPC during a time of Senior Pastor transition so that we could focus our energies on the future mission and vision of our church. (For more on the Fellowship, please see this link: www.fellowship-pres.org.)

Where do we go from here?

While we have made a clear decision on the issue of same-sex marriage at UPPC we feel it important to stay in conversation together as a church. In the meantime, Paul directs us in Ephesians 4:3 to “make every effort to keep the unity of Spirit through the bond of peace.” These are anxious times for our church and our priority is to honor our core code values and retain our focus on the ministries and mission that Jesus has placed before us. In that spirit we ask you to:

Pray for those in leadership at UPPC. Pray for truth and the Lord’s leading to be recognized at the General Assembly.
Remain focused on your worship relationship with Jesus and the community that God has formed here at UPPC.
Be patient and trust your elders to prayerfully consider how they will respond to the changes that are at hand.

Our encouragement as we move forward into what God has in store for us is to dwell with the words of Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Please feel free to contact us with your questions or comments by sending a letter to the church with the notation “Attn: UPPC Session” or email directly to session@uppc.org. We welcome comments and will either respond directly to a question or prepare a response document that will be available at the church office.

In His Service,

The Session of University Place Presbyterian Church

From Pastor Aaron 7-24-15

July 24, 2015

Dear UPPC Family,

From time to time I like to share important activities happening in our church through the form of a pastoral letter. As I write this summer letter I’m particularly grateful for another powerful UPPCKids Day Camp experience (formerly VBS). You would have been so proud of the way our members loved and ministered to children and families. What a gift it is for me to be part of a dynamic and creative staff who, in a matter of days, turned our facility into a winter wonderland! If you missed out, go to UPPC.org “Connect- UPPCKids” or our Facebook page and watch a few videos that captured the energy of the week.

SUMMER BREAK
Many of us are enjoying the summer break; as the Stewart family prepares for a few weeks of vacation, I’m reflecting on the need for rest as an essential part of my spiritual rhythm. I pray you, too, are getting re-creation time alone or with your family. I was recently challenged by a friend in ministry about the three things your vacation can tell you about your soul:

How stressed you actually are: If it takes you a week to unwind, you know you’ve been running too hard for too long. If it only takes a day or two to relax you are in a much better place. Emphasize those things that release burden!
Where your relationship with God really is: A hurried life is almost always a sign of a restless soul and God wants you to find rest and peace in him. Take time to examine where your priorities are and how God wants to strengthen your relationship.
What’s happening in your soul: When you get away from the routine and seek quiet, notice what you’re feeling. Peaceful? Anxious? Angry? Grateful? The quiet reveals something: either a disquiet within, or peace. Either way, it gives you something to work on.
I hope your time off is a time to reflect, recharge and prepare for the coming months. Part of my time away will be spent preparing for our next season in ministry here at UPPC. If you were part of our Celebration Sunday service on June 28, I spoke to my conviction and emphasis on the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the anchor of our life together. Our series on the Gospel of Mark, and subsequently on the continuum strategy that we will be employing in our ministry priorities, communicate that each of us must grow in our discipleship, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to follow Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. All the potential conflict that seeks to divide us is powerless to do so when we keep our eyes on Jesus.

PREACHING THEME
In light of this conviction, I’m excited to announce our preaching theme and emphasis for the next year: Faithful to our Calling. We’ll be focusing on what it means to be the Church of Jesus Christ. In September we’ll begin a new series entitled, “Gathered and Sent: The Book of Acts.” Theologians are in agreement that Christians in our culture today have more in common with the First Century Church than at any other time in history. Much of my desire in this theme is to help our church move into a post-Christendom culture with a strong and effective witness for Christ. Christendom simply defines the time when the Church takes a central place in culture; when a nation sees itself as primarily influenced by Christianity in its traditions and social structures. Post-Christendom, then, is the time when the Church no longer occupies a place of influence in a society, but lives on the margins in a culture that no longer considers itself primarily Christian. In studying Acts we will examine what God intended the marks of the Church to be and how the witness of the first Christians changed the world, despite its place on the margin. I want to invite every small group to engage in our study with the resource of N.T. Wright’s work on the book of Acts. This will be a challenging and rewarding time for our church.

FALL CLASS
Speaking of moving into post-Christendom, as we all know the world is rapidly changing as evidenced in last month’s Supreme Court vote to redefine marriage; a sure sign that we are in a new day. For many in our society it was welcome news while for others it brought pain and disorientation. Even within our own congregation there are very different perspectives on this ruling. It is not something any of us should take lightly, but our conversations around these issues need to be seasoned with humility, compassion and a sincere desire to listen and seek understanding as we strive to remain faithful to Jesus Christ. Earlier this year I shared the posture I want us to take when we discuss difficult issues such as gay marriage. I then shared the question of deeper importance. Rather than asking, “What is our stance?” (which has divided churches throughout the centuries), the greater question is, “What does mature discipleship look like in the face of a contentious issue?” Are we able to withstand culture’s pressure to make it “my way or the highway” and work hard to cherish and protect the unity of the Church for which Jesus prayed, and which Paul championed?

I will be facilitating a four-week roundtable class in September entitled, “Gay Marriage, the Bible, Culture and the Church.” It is a limited-enrollment class with first thirty-five seats available. If we have enough engagement, I’m hoping we can offer it again. There is required reading in order to participate, primarily because these contentious issues seem to be compounded by a lack of study. I am certain you will find it challenging and engaging. If you are interested in participating, information sheets are available at the Connect Center and you can grab one after worship or READ MORE HERE. You may be wondering why we are using a roundtable format. My guiding philosophy as your pastor is that I take a strong position from the pulpit on Jesus and the authority of scripture. On all other issues I prefer to have conversations (hence the roundtable emphasis) because how the Lordship of Jesus and the authority of scripture gets worked out in the complexity of our lives requires relationship. Registration is available at UPPC.org “Events.” I pray you will join me.

VISIONING WORK
I am so thankful that as a church we have discerned our focus statement: Be the Love of Jesus, (with the Core-Four Distinctive, Local. Intentional. Spontaneous. Tangible. If you weren’t able to be a part of the Re:New sermon series on our new mission and vision, I strongly urge you to download the sermon audio or watch the sermon videos online or through our church app. This is an encouraging time in our church and we want everyone on board with how we live into this vision. Our next task as a Session is to discern with you, as the congregation, what three to four strategic initiatives we will engage in to reach the 80,000 people in our radius. Be prepared for that work this coming year and be ready to participate in it!


Aaron 2014 copyIn the journey together,
Pastor Aaron Stewart

From Pastor Aaron 1-27-15

Second, I am thankful for the response to our sermon series on the Gospel of Mark. It is so fun to give people their first Bible, and to see you bringing your Bible to worship and growing in your love of God’s word. Stay faithful to reading scripture, and allow God to speak to you - not only in worship but every day.

Third, as I shared this last Sunday, we had a historic month of congregational giving receiving $165,000 over our anticipated budget for the month. We have such an amazing congregation and I am thankful for you. We are still hoping that every family will get their pledge in soon so that our elders can begin to plan for the next ministry year. Let’s continue to follow Jesus through our collective stewardship!

This past Sunday was a historic day for our church as we voted to extend Pastor Emeritus status to Pastor Harlan Shoop. Please mark your calendar for a congregational celebration and pie party to honor the Shoop family on Sunday, February 15 at 6:30PM in Fellowship Hall. I’d love to provide them with an overwhelming honorarium gift on behalf of our church so make sure to mark your checks to “Shoop Love Offering” and put them in the plate or mail to the church office.

This next Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday and along with cheering on the Seattle Seahawks we are going to have our own “Soup-er” Bowl Sunday Party and food drive that morning. We’ll have some fun things planned between services, but regardless of the game’s outcome we all win when the needy of our community are served. Feel free to wear your Seattle swag or your favorite team’s colors and let’s break last year’s total for items donated!

My installation service is set for Sunday, February 8 at 2PM. I’m overjoyed that my dear friend Pastor Jackson Clelland, a former associate pastor here at UPPC, will be preaching at my installation as well as morning services that day. He is excited to join in teaching on the Gospel of Mark and I know you’ll love seeing Jackson and Malaika, too!

Please read the brief summation of Session meetings printed in the bulletin after every monthly Session meeting. Our Session has been hard at work preparing for our final retreat that took place this past weekend with Kevin Ford as we continue in our work toward mission clarity as a church. I have so much to share with you but will save that for my next letter. Know that the aim is to begin to communicate what we are learning through congregational Q&A’s with elders between services as well as the information I will be sharing from the pulpit.

I am excited for this time in our church and I know many of you feel the same.

Aaron 2014 copyIn the journey together,
Aaron Stewart

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