General Assembly – Portland 2016 – Friday, part 2 and Saturday

26 06 2016


For the past week, my windows into GA have focused on all kinds of blessings – grace, love, polity, science, community, and connectionalism. Today, as I try to pull together my last 36 hours in Portland, I think the word to summarize my Friday and Saturday is gratitude! Like so many of the assemblies I’ve attended, I’m returning home to the everyday tasks ministry with a heart that is full, and a mind that continues to expand – grateful for the church that I’m proud and privileged to call my ‘home’!

On Friday morning, J. Herbert Nelson was elected Stated Clerk. Grayde Parsons had been faithfully and effectively serving in that position for the past 8 years and is now retired; and while sad to say good bye, the church remains extremely hopeful about the next chapter in our life together.

We then had what have almost become routine discussions on divestment, both from companies producing weapons used in the Middle East, as well as from the Fossil Fuel industry. Moderate stances were taken in both instances.

We made apologies to those we’ve hurt, offered thanks to mission workers around the world, took bold stances on issues related to justice and peace, and sought to continually side with those on the margins of society. In so many ways, the assembly lived up to its theme, providing at least this commissioner with great . . . hope in my calling! As always, what we have given to the church in our service can’t begin to compare to all that we have received from one another, and from God. Such gatherings push, challenge, inspire, and grow me, and for that, I am grateful to Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church for the gift of time to be here, and to National Capital Presbytery for the privilege of serving as a commissioner.

Of all that I am grateful for, at the top of the list is the growth I continue to experience in settings such as this. And for the past week, this growth has involved a deepening understanding of what it means for me to be as privileged as I know I am! But more than just knowing I am privileged . . . as a white, heterosexual, Christian man . . . I’m learning that my walk with Christ involves allowing that knowledge to truly shape and inform the person that I am becoming. And slowly, very slowly, I see this beginning to happen.

I am learning that I need to do more listening, than speaking. Anyone who knows me knows that I have opinion on everything, and I’m rarely timid about sharing those opinions. But the world has heard a lot of white, heterosexual, Christian male voices over the years, and perhaps it’s time for us to start hearing from others. That doesn’t mean that my voice isn’t important, or that it doesn’t count, or matter; rather, it simply means that chances are pretty that what I have to say, has already been said, and heard. There are no doubt, other voices that need to be heard . . . different voices, with different perspectives, and it’s time that they were honored.

I’m also learning that when I DO speak up, I need to do so in a less authoritarian manner. I need to be a little kinder, and softer, and gentler, displaying a modicum of humility, born in the realization that I don’t know everything, and that the world will continue spinning without having heard my words of wisdom.

I’m learning too that perhaps sometimes my voice needs to be added to the voices of people long silenced. When people unlike me offer perspectives, opinions, and ideas, I need to only support them, and encourage them, but I actually need to side with them . . . perhaps, even at times when I may be inclined to disagree.

And finally, I’m learning that I need to be more intentional about engaging and interacting with people who are not like me – such a basic tool of evangelism and community-building, but one that too often still escapes me.

General Assembly 2016 in Portland has ended, and one last time I will say that we Presbyterians should be proud and grateful. God is at work in a mighty way, and if we would stop focusing on numbers, we might be able to see that! In the words of a hymn that was sung over and over again, ‘the world is about to turn’. So let’s boldly proclaim that love is love is love is love; and then let’s share that love – God, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ – to all creation!


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