A Letter from the Resource Coordinator
Dear Followers of Jesus in ECO,
Greetings, 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, and so create 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 have been the Transitional Pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Cañon City, CO for nearly three years. If you were at our National Gathering in Newport Beach you may have gotten to hear that church's story of voting to do a church plant in the midst of 50 years of decline. UPC has now voted to work toward closure proactively, by preparing its historic facilities for new usage in the future, and to bequeath its assets to our nearly up-and-running church plant. Praise God for his timing, as I move to a part–time role in preparing the institution for its closure, I am freed for greater service to our wider movement.
I grew up in First Presbyterian of Colorado Springs where my mother worked for 20 years as the director of Recreational Ministries, and I have wanted to follow Jesus from an early age. I felt a call to ministry in high school, and sped through my education with that track in mind. I received by BA in Philosophy and in Ancient Languages from Wheaton College (2005), my MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary (2009), and realizing that 25 year olds usually get to do youth ministry, I decided to move to England to do my PhD in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol (2013). I lived and worked at Trinity College, Bristol, a Church of England seminary (or "vicar factory"), where I taught Intermediate Greek. More importantly, that's where I met my wife, Ainhoa Prieto Wagenfuhr. We were married in 2014 and she is a wonderful partner in ministry. She works at New Creations Inn, a Christian transitional housing program here in Cañon City. Thankfully, by the time I returned from England, ECO was up and running, and I was able to complete my ordination in ECO. Last year I published a book, Plundering Egypt: A Subversive Christian Ethic of Economy (Cascade, 2016). It has been wonderful serving on the Theological Task Force, and I've been very active in this group, contributing to and editing our "Considering the Confessions" booklet.