222nd PC(USA) General Assembly
A letter from Pittsburgh Presbytery's General Minister.
A third unprecedented
action was the Assembly's election of the first African-American to serve as
our denomination's highest officer, Stated Clerk-elect J Herbert Nelson. I have been privileged to
count J Hebert as a friend for many years (yes, the "J" is always
part of his given name), and can testify unequivocally to his passionate love
for our Lord and commitment to his church.
Each of these historic
milestones signals a strong current of intent to widen our arms - to one
another in leadership and fellowship, and to the surrounding world in evangelism
and justice. One marker of these widening arms was the Assembly's resolve on
Middle East peace issues, that the church be equally attentive to the wellness
of Israelis and Palestinians. Another marker is the Presbyterian Foundation's
promotion of positive investment in business and education as a primary means
for helping Palestinians and Israelis alike, a story told on this video that Moderator Edmiston urged
those present to share around the church.
Yesterday saw debate and
decisions on some of the most controversial matters before the Assembly.
Outcomes of those deliberations are published in the Daily GA News. The thread that runs through
those resolutions is that each was a vote to keep dialogue open between those
who are at odds in difficult matters, from Israeli-Palestinian peace issues to
sexuality divides to fossil fuel industry divestment. GA's actions demonstrate
a confidence that reconciliation, not alienation, is the final word for those
who trust in Jesus.
In worship yesterday,
Rev. Jerry Andrews reminded the Assembly that our reconciliation with God has
been already accomplished in Christ, yet we are called to be reconciled with
God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) Similarly, reconciliation with one another is a
gift, yet it requires our intentional commitment. How is that going for us?
Yours in the hope of our
year's General Assembly is being held at the Oregon Convention Center, fairly
new and easily accessible. Completed in 1990 the building was designed by the architectural firm of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF).
It is the largest convention center in Oregon at nearly 1,000,000 square feet
(93,000 m). The complex includes 255,000
square feet (23,700 m ) of exhibit
space. It features the largest ballroom in the City of Portland at 35,000
square feet (3,300 m ).
On the light rail this morning,
I met two women who also are here for General Assembly- one an executive
presbyter here in Oregon and the other a pastor from Idaho. You see folks from
That brings me to the main
point I want to make while I am here--General Assembly is not primarily about
votes; it's primarily about people. So I'm sending a few videos of people I'm
running into and a couple of photos. There are amazing stories to be told of
the wonderful things happening all over the country and around the world in the
Presbyterian Church USA!
- CHANGES TO ELECTION OF MODERATOR OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY The 222nd General Assembly did not move the election of the General Assembly Moderator and Vice-Moderators to the end of the General Assembly meeting. The leaders will continue to be elected at the beginning.
- APPROVAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO CHANGE THE DIRECTORY FOR WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF ORDER
- OVERTURNED FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT
- FINAL VOTE ON THE CONFESSION OF BELHAR (CLICK HERE to read article from First Avenue Presbyterian Church)
The General Assembly made some headlines Thursday that may never appear in your
usual sources of news. The headlines have to do with how we do church, how we listen to the leading of the Spirit, how we relate to each other.
"The Way Forward" committee made some of those headlines by the Assembly's approval of two new ways of doing church. This would not be news in Sheppards & Lapsley Presbytery since we have been engaged in this way forward for several years. The GA approved a 2020 Vision Team to listen and develop an "identity statement" much as we have done this past year (remember it? "partner with and equip..."). Also approved by the Assembly is the creation of an administrative commission which will have the authority to make changes in the structure, practices, and culture of the administrative offices in Louisville. Long term vision, shorter term change. That is the way forward as we listen to Christ's will for the church.
The Social Justice committee made some headlines also. They and the Assembly as a whole turned from apologizing for harming the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community, and turned toward expressing deep regret for ways that those minorities of "God's beloved children" have been led to feel that they stand outside the grace of God and are unwelcome in the denomination. Deep sorrow is expressed for all in the PC(USA) who have left the fellowship of the church. Appreciation is expressed to those who have maintained relationships despite profound disagreement. In the spirit of the Belhar Confession, we are called to seek reconciliation and to reach out to those who have been marginalized.
Please keep Leanne and Robert and Eva and George and Noah and Rachel in your prayers. They did not complete their work until 11:20 PM last night.
Transitional Presbyter, Sheppards & Lapsley Presbytery
REVISED DIRECTORY FOR WORSHIP, APPROVAL OF BELHAR CONFESSION
Pittsburgh Presbytery General Minister explains what this means for you
Yesterday the General
Assembly began meeting as a plenary body, to act on recommendations from its
committees that had been meeting earlier in the week. Most committee decisions
were affirmed at the outset through an omnibus consent motion - one vote passed
them all. To be included on the consent agenda, a committee action needed more
than a 75% affirmative committee vote, and to have no constitutional or
financial implications for the national church. CLICK HERE to read more from General Minister Sheldon W. Sorge. Photo: Pittsburgh Presbytery
HISTORY MADE: PC (USA) ELECTS FIRST CO-MODERATORS, BOTH WOMEN
A third generation pastor, J. Herbert Nelson, elected as stated clerk. He's the first African-American to hold the position. READ more about him above.
PC(USA) will continue to invest in fossil-fuel companies despite a committee recommendation to immediately begin divestment.
Report re-evaluating a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine was approved by the General Assembly following a lengthy debate.