General Assembly – Portland 2016

17 06 2016

It’s been four years since I last attended a General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and I am both honored and humbled to be a commissioner from National Capital Presbytery.  I am also excited to be in one of the most beautiful cities on the west coast.

My wife and I arrived five days ago (she will be leaving before all the excitement begins tomorrow – imagine that!?) and we’ve spent the week exploring.  Monday it was Powell’s Bookstore and the Rose garden, Wednesday it was Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls, and yesterday it was Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock.  Tuesday night we had dinner with friends from my first church who we hadn’t seen in almost 25 years.  They were Senior High Youth Group Leaders, and we sat for over five hours enjoying Rosemary shrimp and a nice Rose, talking about how our faith had grown and matured over the years.

Believe it or not, much of my spiritual growth has been nurtured by my attendance at our denomination’s national meetings.  I’ve been to over a dozen assemblies, most as an ‘observer’, and to me they are so much more than business meetings.  GA is a place where faithful women and men, from every corner and spectrum of our church come together to worship, to wrestle with important theological issues, to engage in one on one conversations about personal thoughts and ideas, and to make significant decisions about the future and direction of the denomination that we all love so much.

While all of our meetings are important, with critical issues being debated in committees and ultimately coming before the assembly, this year’s meeting strikes me as particularly significant because of all that is going on in the world.  We are gathering in Portland six days after a crazed gunman killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.  Once again the national conversation has shifted to talk about a ban on assault weapons, the on-going hatred and persecution of the LGBTQ community, the merits of Islam as a major world religion, and the larger war on terror being battled by the entire world.  This, while so many Americans continue to try and make sense of the possibility of Donald Trump presidency and what that might mean for our nation, and all the nations of the world.

So the question before us is “What will be our focus?”  What will become the overarching theme for this assembly, as our beloved denomination attempts to speak with a relevant and prophetic to the Presbyterian portion of the Church around the world?

On Tuesday my wife and I also visited Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Gardens, and upon entering we were given a booklet with a window cut into the cover.  On the inside, just under the square hole, were printed these words.  “In Chinese gardens, windows are designed to draw your focus toward something special.”  As we walked through the garden, we were instructed to hold up the little window in order to focus on certain sections of the garden that were particularly important or significant.

For the next week, my hope is that this blog can serve as a window into the Presbyterian Church (USA) . . . focusing on all that is special, and all that is particularly important and significant.  We will no doubt have disagreements on issues related to everything from who is invited to the Lord’s Table for communion, to divestment in the Fossil Fuel industry, to the Doctrine of Discovery, to the role of Synods in the coming years.  People will argue, and debate, and in the end some will no doubt feel defeated.  But as a result of all of it, our Church will win!  We will be stronger, more mindful of all that God is doing in the world, and more aware of how special our part of Christ’s body really is!

So keep us in your thoughts and prayers over the next week, and watch for all that comes out of this national meeting in the “Rose City.”  I anticipate great things to bloom all over, for the Spirit of God is always doing a new thing, in us, through us, to us, and in spite of us.







2 responses

17 06 2016
Gail Pittman

I will be praying for you and all assembled.

18 06 2016
Virginia Hager

Thank you, and I look forward to reading more posts from you about General Assembly!

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