General Assembly – Portland 2016 – Wednesday

23 06 2016

Thus far, the ‘windows’ of GA have revealed an abundance of hope and love, and a focus on polity and science. If I had to summarize my Wednesday experiences with one word, that word would be “community”; for as we leave committees and come together as an assembly, that is what we are about. Community!

Community is at the heart of the Church; and the polity of the Presbyterian Church is rooted in the idea that when two or three are gathered together, God is present, and God’s Spirit is at work. So when an assembly such as this convenes to discuss, wrestle, explore, dream, plan, process, and yes . . . vote, we believe that God is moving in us . . . not just in me, but in US! And the implications of such a belief are profound.

What is so important about our church’s polity, and I would contend our theology as well, is that when it comes to discerning the will of God, ‘us’ is always better than ‘me.’ Each of us is indeed created in the image of God, and we all bear the holy mark of the Divine. However we are NOT, the Divine. We are broken, sinful, and all too often, a people falling short of all that we’ve been created to be.

‘Us,’ helps us see this. ‘Us’ help us accept this reality. And ‘us’ helps us to correct the brokenness that abounds in ‘me.’ We are better, together. For when we are together, we are more able to discern what God is doing in the world, as well as what God would have us do in the world. Because . . . “it is not good for us to be alone”, God has gifted us with one another – with a ‘beloved community,’ so that our faithfulness might be deepened, and our obedience might be strengthened!

All this is to say that the mere act of voting at GA deeply moves me. It’s not all that different from the voting in any of the other governing bodies of the church, except that the General Assembly is much larger, and far more diverse. Here, the only thing many of us have in common is that we love Jesus, and are passionate about the portion of his Church known as the PC(USA). But that is enough. We are still, ‘us.’ And so when we act, our actions, while they remain flawed, are better! Because we are making the decisions together, they are closer to what God desires for God’s Church, and they allow our community to function in a manner that moves us, our church, and our world, closer to the ‘kin-dom’ of God.

So . . . as a community seeking to be faithful to God this day, several actions occurred. The revised Directory for Worship was approved, as well as the other overtures recommended by the Committee on Theological Issues and Institutions referenced in yesterday’s blog. We spent time praying for the persecuted portion of the church around the world, as well as the persecuted of every faith. And then finally, in what can be described as nothing short of historic, we amended our Book of Confessions by adding the Confession of Belhar!

Dr. Allen Boesak, Moderator of the Uniting Reformed Church of South Africa in 1986 when the confession was first adopted, spoke about the journey, and gave thanks for “the things we did not know, but are now blessed to see.” Thirty years ago he never would have imagined that he would see churches literally, around the world, embrace a confession grounded in a theology that rejects racism in any form or function.

Tonight, this reality has become part of the DNA of our church. We are affirming what science began telling us years ago: that is that there is only one race in this world – the human race. And anything that seeks to divide people, that threatens our oneness or prevents us from actually living into our unity, or that in any way fosters alienation, hatred, or enmity, is not acceptable in the Body of Christ. Privilege for some means injustice for all, and the Church must fight this reality wherever it exists.

And friends, as a community, we can do this! We can do this, because of Jesus. In the words of Boesak, we SHALL overcome. Whatever we face, whatever the race, whatever befalls us, and whatever confronts us . . . we CAN overcome. We SHALL overcome.

Thanks be to God!


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