Monday, June 27, 2016
And One Non- Action:
The General Assembly approved doing nothing about the place and role of Synods in our denomination. This is mind-boggling and very discouraging. After several, different mid-Council commissions and years of talk, study and debate, the strong forces of institutional inertia have taken control to make sure nothing changes.
Tod Bolsinger was the moderator of the first and the best mid-council commission years ago now. Their report was imaginative, creative, forward-thinking and bold; and was utterly dismissed and tossed into the trash by the General Assembly that year. Tod has written a good new book on church leadership titled, Canoeing the Mountains. Please read Tod's book. Let's talk about leadership in this new era.
The Top Five Action Items:
The 2016 General Assembly is now adjourned. What was accomplished?
The easy election of a new Stated Clerk: The clear, first ballot election of our new Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson is an important leadership change. J. Herbert has served as the director of our denomination’s Washington office. Thus he brings a wealth of experience working with the national offices of our church to his new position as our Stated Clerk.
The Way Forward: Those of us carefully following the conversation leading up to the General Assembly were impressed by the list of overtures being brought by Foothills Presbytery all concerned with the internal structure and decision-making process of the General Assembly. I thank the leaders at Foothills Presbytery for pushing this important conversation although their overtures were not approved. Nonetheless, in true Presbyterian fashion, the General Assembly created a Way Forward Commission to study the structure and function our General Assembly. Please pay attention to the work of this team over the next two years.
Support for Palestine: Although profoundly complex and deeply divisive, the General Assembly spoke again into the Israel Palestine issue. The report that was adopted is important. Please see my blog article on it. Our Church needs, in my mind, to focus on supporting, encouraging and creating partnerships with Christians in Palestine.
The almost apology: The carefully worded statement from the General Assembly expressing sorrow, but not apologizing, for the way our Church has treated LBGT persons is important. See my blog article which includes that actual statement.
Directory for Worship: The easy approval of the proposed new Directory for Worship is vital. This is a constitutional issue on which our Presbytery will have the opportunity to vote. Please study the proposed new Directory for Worship.
A pastoral letter to our Church . . .
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3
Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a new season in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as witnessed by the actions of the 222nd General Assembly (2016). The body of 594 commissioners who gathered June 18-25 in Portland, Oregon, elected Co-Moderators Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, and J. Herbert Nelson as the Stated Clerk. Both were historic, and both signal a new way forward for our church.
The business decisions made by the body also were transformative for the 1,572,660 members and 9,642 churches of the PC(USA). The work wasn’t easy, and involved careful deliberations. Collectively, the body acted on nearly 100 overtures by discerning the will of Christ.
Among other things, we now have a new addition to our Book of Confessions – the Confession of Belhar. It is the first of our confessions that comes from the global south. And, the PC(USA) has a new Directory for Worship; and Child/Youth/Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy and Procedures. God is truly guiding us to be more faithful and just to all of God’s creations.
Much discussion has been taking place around the identity and purpose of the denomination, and this week the assembly voted to create a 12-member Way Forward Commission “to study and identify a vision for the structure and function of the General Assembly agencies of the PC(USA),” and a 15-member 2020 Vision Team to “develop a guiding statement for the denomination and make a plan for its implementation.”
To quote Stated Clerk-elect J. Herbert Nelson, “We are not dead ... we are alive, we are reforming and we are transforming this world, one person at a time.”
Looking outward, the assembly voted to engage in selective, phased divestment from fossil-fuel companies through the PC(USA)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee, and re-affirmed a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine.
Please know this is only a snapshot of the actions taken, and just a glimpse at where God is leading this denomination. Complete business actions can be viewed at www.pc-biz.org.
We are, brothers and sisters, in a new season. It’s exciting, but also a little scary. Yet in the midst of it all, take comfort that God is still guiding and controlling all – and we need not fear. God is calling us to hope, and to God be the glory!
The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
The Reverend Denise Anderson and the Reverend Jan Edmiston
Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly (2016)
Ruling Elder Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency