A Day in the Life of General Assembly
I am serving as a commissioner to the 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., our denomination. It is a huge responsibility and certainly an honor. Here's my report from today's work and business:
I don't know if you tuned in today, but it was a big day for the General Assembly, and we just finished, at 9:20 pm. I anticipate tomorrow being a big day too!
Today we started with worship, and it was a lovely service partially put together by our own Presbytery. I offer my deep gratitude to the Worship Team on COLA that planned for so long, and am glad that some of what they planned could be carried out.
We covered a lot of ground in business today, meeting 1-3 pm, 4-6:30 pm, and 7:30-9:20 pm. We appointed several leaders for our denomination, and representatives to other bodies/gatherings. We approved the consent agenda, again with many appointments of people to positions, accepting the minutes of our Synods, etc.
Most of our time today was spent on crafting a response to racism and issuing a call to each and every congregation and mid-council (Presbytery or Synod) to take note of so many of the important social justice issues which we cannot handle in the context of this year's Assembly as we do not have committees to review overtures and prepare them for the Assembly floor. Parliamentary procedure was in full force, and I must admire the grace and presence of our lead Parliamentarian, Tricia Dykers-Koenig, as she kept on top of every single motion, amendment, and where we were in the process of a substitute motion. Whew!
This seems like a lot to go through just for us to make a statement, but I really felt like this was very important for the Assembly, in raising up current events on which the church needs to be relevant, and to commit these items to the care of all of our congregations until the General Assembly can meet together again. Our own church Bible study last night raised the question of racism and how important it is for us to understand the perspective of our black brothers and sisters, as well as many other marginalized groups. The church, at least in some places, has lost its voice on bringing people together in reconciling ways, on showing how Jesus went out of His way to welcome those who were poor and marginalized, on listening well and acting with love and grace for all and special care for those in the deepest need.
The beginning of what we approved: “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” -Isaiah 58:12 (NRSV)
This 224th General Assembly of the PC(USA) declares that Black lives matter; that our country’s most important institutions have been built to sustain white privilege, to protect white lives and white property at the expense of our siblings of color; and that the church, through ignorance, denial, and in some cases deliberate action, has participated in this injustice. We have been slow to face the reality of systemic racism. We have been slow to acknowledge the pain of our fellow Presbyterians, of our fellow Christians, of our fellow citizens, and of those who have come to America for a better life, whose value has been judged by the color of their skin. We pledge to join hands and hearts with our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) siblings to actively confront and dismantle systemic racism in our church and in society at large, and to work for a more just, merciful, and peaceful country that allows all of God’s children to flourish."
We also approved an amended statement on the church in the middle of the pandemic, paying special attention to so many groups who are especially affected by it, whether physically, economically, or otherwise. Part of it reads: "In this time of global catastrophe, the church must rise to answer the call, offering its life as witness in word and work, heart and hand, in prayer and practice for the healing of the world God so loves."
We handled and approved with overwhelming majority two items on Native American concerns, one a report on the work of the Native American Coordinating Council, with recommendations for how we should move away from our past support of the Doctrine of Discovery and toward awareness, education, and action around understanding our past sin in harming Native Americans and changing our future relationships with indigenous people. We also approved a report on the status of the buildings of our Native American congregations, with a focus on fundraising and action to help repair and improve those buildings. Porcupine Presbyterian Church, with which Highland and Fallston PCs work, is on that list. A fund has been established at the Presbyterian Foundation to help support that effort. https://www.presbyterianfoundation.org/nativeamericanchurches/
It's been a long day, and we have even more business tomorrow. I encourage you to tune in and watch the business of the church for a little while - www.ga-pcusa.org. I remain glad and honored to serve as one of the Teaching Elder Commissioners from Baltimore Presbytery.
In Christ's service,