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Retiring Moderator: Church not in decline, just changing

Retiring Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman

In his final report to the Synod retiring Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman strongly rejected what he termed the language of decline in the church.

“The language of decline is invariably linked to collections of statistics that offer only a limited perspective on reality.

“It is theologically bankrupt because it seeks to interpret the life of the church without reference to God [and] ignores the lessons and insights of 2000 years of Christian history.

Dr Pitman said the language of decline focuses on church attendance and entirely ignores the many ways in which the gospel is shared and the mission of the church is fulfilled.

He called for the Synod to embrace the future not with accusation or recrimination, but with faith, courage and imagination

He pointed to the bigness of God, the limitless nature of God’s grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit to energise, encourage and equip the church for its task.

Dr Pitman said in the post-modern world the congregation is no longer the only embodiment of the church that matters and talked about many different ways of being God’s people on mission in the name of Christ.

“When Jesus commissioned his disciples, he sent them out to make more disciples, not establish congregations.

“In the first century congregations or faith communities developed in response to the particular circumstances that prevailed at that time.

“We live in circumstances that are completely different.

“In our own time and place, when we make more disciples, they may well identify and develop new and different ways of being together, of supporting each other, and sharing the journey.”

Dr Pitman said the church had no option but to work out what its task was in the current secular and materialistic society.

“I’m quite sure myself that it doesn’t mean retreating into maintenance mode and watching the world go by.”

He claimed that the most important struggles are spiritual. “The arena in which those battles are first fought lies within us.

“Given the particular challenges we face as a church at the present time I want to the say I have come to understand, after 50 years of active involvement in the life of the church, that the demon voices are really loud and insistent whenever we engage in reflection about our money and how we use it.

“Jesus was so aware of the existence and influence of these demon voices that he devoted a significant proportion of his teaching ministry to issues about money.”

Dr Pitman said if we are to live within the will and purpose of God, we have no option but to deal with the demons within as Jesus did in the wilderness.

“The demon voices are silenced by the word of God! When God speaks the demons have no answer!

“They no longer have any power or influence over us. As always, and in everything, the choice is ours.

“We can never blame anything or anyone else for the choices and decisions we make.

Dr Pitman said this is as true about decisions regarding money as it is in all the other important areas of our lives.

“The stewardship of our money is first and foremost a matter of the heart.

“It’s not about budgets and paying bills and maintaining our buildings, important as those things may be.

“Stewardship is about our relationship with God and our response in faith to our experience of the generosity of God.

On a personal level Dr Pitman said recent months have been fraught with deep sadness.

“In the context of responding to the current financial crisis, it has been a painful experience to share the distress of my friends and colleagues whose lives and ministries have been turned upside down and inside out.

“For most of that time I have woken up each morning feeling sick inside.

Dr Pitman said the awful experience did not diminish his hope and confidence for the future.

The full text of Rev Dr David Pitman’s final report is available as a PDF file HERE.

An MP3 audio download of Rev Dr David Pitman’s final report is available HERE (4MB).

Photo : Retiring Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman