General Assembly – Portland 2016 – Thursday

24 06 2016

The window into Thursday’s focus at General Assembly is all about connectionalism! As Presbyterians, we throw around that word all the time; but today it was as evident as ever, and very much at work in our plenary sessions. Moving us beyond community, a connectional church is one that acknowledges we are all in this together. None of us succeeds unless all of us succeed; and what hurts or injures you, hurts and injures me! We are not just sisters and brothers in Christ who work hard to care for one another; we are one! We are connected!

As I reflect on all that has been accomplished today, signs of our connectedness were everywhere. One of the first items of business involved acknowledging our support of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s “We Choose Welcome.” This ministry is all about recognizing that there are 60 million displaced people in the world today, 20 million of whom are refugees, and they are the ‘strangers and aliens’ that Scripture calls us to love and care for! Rather than building walls to shut them out, or voting to separate ourselves from people who welcome them in, we in the PC(USA) desire to live in a land that welcomes and embraces these who are the margins of society. 60,000 children arrived in the United States from Central America in 2014, alone! And we are connected to them.

We also heard from a Native American representative from the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, who reminded us that we are connected to her, and her people. Her people, are our people; for we too are connected. We are one! She offered us a powerful reminder that contrary to all that we’ve been hearing the past 10 days, the worst mass-killing of Americans was NOT in Orlando, last weekend. Rather, it was in places like Wounded Knee, on December 29, 1890, where almost 200 native men, women, and children were massacred. And when we acknowledge that, and become aware of how incomplete America’s ‘doctrine of discovery’ really is, we have no choice but to heed the call to work to do a better job of seasoning the earth with justice.

Following our dinner break, we heard the report of the Committee on Social Justice, and several other important overtures were approved, all intimately related our understanding of what it means to be ‘connected.’ We approved an overture addressing the worsening plight of the African American male – targeting Baltimore, Charlotte, Cleveland, New York, and Pittsburgh! Not in any way wanting to pat ourselves on the back for the adoption of Belhar, we affirmed our desire to engage, study, and actively remain involved in the process of racial reconciliation. And repudiating the ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ the assembly also decided to apologize not only to Native Americans, but to Alaska natives and Hawaiians as well!

Finally, the overture that kept the assembly in session to well past 11:00 pm, was the Social Justice Committee’s recommendation that we apologize to all those who have been hurt as the church has struggled through issues related to LGBTQ/Q ordination and marriage. We expressed great regret that our attitudes and behavior led a certain group of people to feel as though they stood “outside the grace of God,” and that they found “cause to doubt being loved by God.” Further, we expressed sorrow over those who felt the need to leave our fellowship; and sincere appreciation for those who have maintained faithfulness to God’s call be one, by remaining inrelationship with our church despite profound disagreement on this issue.

The Mid Councils Committee’s report to NOT make any changes to the boundaries of our Synods was approved after a great deal of discussion and debate; and The Way Forward Committee’s report rejected most of the overtures from the Foothills Presbytery. While attempting to honor their concerns and recommendations, the committee recommended and the assembly approved the creation of “Way Forward Commission” to continue to explore how our church continues to adapt to the changing nature of our community of faith in the coming years.

On Friday, we will elect our new Stated Clerk, and receive a variety of additional committee reports, including those from the Committee on Middle East Issues and the Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues – all of which, I expect, will continue to reveal our sense of connectedness, particularly with those suffering from injustice at home, and abroad.



One response

25 06 2016

I’ve so appreciated reading these posts Bob.Bob! Good to hear them first hand from some I know and trust! Ann Sent from my iPhone


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: