Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ponderings from the General Assembly 14

The most beautiful things at the General Assembly:

From my experience of the General Assembly this year, I want to list three events which are very different from the Actions Items upon which we typically focus. Because I am not a Commissioner, I have the opportunity to take advantage of many other events and programs that happen around the edges of this meeting.

ONE: This morning I attended the breakfast of the Committee on Theological Education. My conviction was affirmed again at this breakfast. Our Presbyterian Church has the finest group of theological institutions in the world. Our ten Presbyterian seminaries are a very important aspect of our church which need our appreciation and support. Indeed, Christians from around the world come to our seminaries to study and prepare for ministry. Our seminaries have a significant global impact in the global Church today.

At this breakfast, Professor Barbara Wheeler received a special recognition. Her address on “Excellence in Leadership” was stirring and very motivating. Indeed, despite all our conflict, stress, strain and decline, God continues to raise up gifted pastors and leaders to service in the Presbyterian Church.

TWO: I attended the Presbyterian Writers Guild luncheon today which is one of the tiny advocacy groups of the church with which few people are involved. But today the room was filled to overflowing because Eugene Peterson was received a special recognition from the Guild. In a very quiet, almost meek voice which created a deep quiet in the room, Eugene Peterson offered some of the most eloquent, deep, and beautiful words I have ever heard on the gift of being a pastor. It was one of the most affirming and inspiring presentations I have ever heard. I felt that everyone in the room was touched by his words which moved me to a deep gratitude for the calling I have received to serve the church.

THREE: At the General Assembly worship service this morning, a huge, new class of full-time, professional missionaries were commissioned. The whole gathered congregation burst out in joyous praise and applause several times as these new missionaries were introduced and commissioned. This work is, indeed, the passion of my heart. Despite everything else we must do now as a church, this work of calling, equipping, sending out and financially supporting new, full time, professional missionaries to work with church partners all around the world may be the most important. Indeed, while we continue to be in decline in many ways, we have turned the corner and we are now increasing the number of missionaries we have in the field. Our church will be abundantly blessed as we deepen and nurture close relationships with church partners around the world.

In addition, during worship, the General Assembly Mission Council announced that this week, during the meeting of the General Assembly, two large gifts were pledged to our work in World Mission. Gifts from individuals in the amounts of $400,000 and $250,000 have been pledged specifically to support new missionaries.

Beautiful things are happening in our Church!

Report from the General Assembly 13


After long, sometimes passionate, and sometimes bewildering debate, and after a motion to Call the Question was defeated thus allowing even more debate, yet another proposal to change the language of the Book of Order G-6.0106b was approved. This approval was on a very narrow margin of 373 YES to 323 NO votes. This action is very similar to action approved by the last General Assembly which was defeated by the Presbyteries. The great debate continues. The actual language of the new proposal is copied here:

G-6.0106b. "Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”

Report from the General Assembly 12


The substitute motion which would have killed the Form of Government proposal was overwhelmingly defeated, and after extensive debate the Form of Government proposal itself passed with a very strong vote of 468 YES votes and 204 NO votes. It is very important that our church leaders become familiar with this proposal in preparation for our Presbytery vote on this proposal.