A tree stands by the strength of its core; trees can be alive, full of leaves and seemingly healthy when in fact they are structurally fragile and prone to collapse. The tree's core is its heartwood-- the hardest structure of the wood within it. Its growth is in the sapwood underneath the bark, but a growing tree that cannot support its weight or stand against the winds that blow around it will not be tall for long.
The PC(USA) is growing, on the fringes, but is there enough heartwood left so that it will continue to stand as it has for 200 years? I think we have all heard the loud cracks this year as the winds of this culture continue to batter us. The tree is falling because its heartwood is gone. But that does not mean it is dead, or that all who are part of its growing edge are lost.
I am not a Panglossian optimist. I see different congregations growing, but I also know that this tree is going to fall. Too many of my evangelical brothers and sisters insist that that means that all is lost-- it is not. As Isaiah sees (Isaiah 10:33-35)
This very day he will halt at Nob, he will shake his fist at the mount of daughter Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. Look, the Sovereign, the LORD of hosts, will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the tallest trees will be cut down, and the lofty will be brought low. He will hack down the thickets of the forest with an ax, and Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall.
But that same God has a purpose in His destruction, for in the next breath Isaiah says that
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
The tree may fall, but the shoot will live. God is not done with us yet.