General Assembly – Portland 2016 – Sunday

20 06 2016

The Sunday of GA is like the calm before a storm! Orientation and elections have all occurred, and now things are settling down for the work- week that lies ahead.

This morning, commissioners scattered throughout the Portland area for Sunday worship in local congregations, where the hospitality of our denomination was on grand display, and visitors were fed both spiritually, and often physically!

My new friend J.C. Cadwallander preached at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church and powerfully and eloquently encouraged us to find strength in our common humanity, and to then take the message of God’s love to a world that is in desperate need of it. Her message was followed by Tara Wilkins proclaiming that “Sunday morning is incidental” – her way of reminding worshippers that faithful living is about so much more than what we do between 11 and 12 on Sunday! Both women were bold to say that we are not alone in this world, and that nothing can discourage us from action. Prayer is not enough. Sympathy is not enough. Compassion is not enough. None of those things are going to change the broken structures of society or stop the violence that plagues our world. Only love in action will do that; and that is the call of the church today!

The challenges were particularly meaningful because they came from two clergy who 60 years ago would have not been permitted to be in a position of leadership in the Presbyterian Church because they were women. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the ordination of women, and their gifts to the church can no longer be minimized or underestimated.

This weekend is also significant because of two more sobering anniversaries. One week has passed since the massacre of 49 of our Brown and Black LGBTQ sisters and brothers in Orlando. And one year has passed since the attack on a Black Bible Study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Both events serve are reminders that while the ‘Kin-dom’ of God is indeed at hand, much work remains to be done.

The afternoon plenary saw the names of J. Herbert Nelson – former Director of the Washington Office of Public Witness and a member of National Capital Presbytery – and David Baker – Stated Clerk for the Presbytery of Tampa Bay, placed in nomination to be the next Stated Clerk of our church. Voting will occur on Friday.

Following a variety of dinner options, Assembly Committees had their first meeting. I will be serving on the “Theological Issues and Institutions” Committee, and we will be dealing with several important recommendations over the next two days. Revising our Directory for Worship by adding language regarding who can access the Lord’s Supper, and approving a “Pastoral Guidebook” that deals with end of life issues, are just two of the more difficult items on our agenda, and I look forward to working with the 70 plus members of my committee.

Where ‘hope’ was the word of the day on Saturday, my word for Sunday is ‘love.’ Again and again I heard “Love is love is love is love!” And love was everywhere today. I saw it in worship at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church. I heard it in the messages from leaders of Portland’s Muslim and Jewish communities who brought greetings to our assembly. And I felt it from the commissioners of National Capital Presbytery, and the other commissioners I am working with from presbyteries around this great country. If God really is love, then God was all over Portland today. And I remain honored to be here, and excited about the work that lies ahead.

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