As my denomination, the PC(USA), heads into it’s 220th General Assembly, when ruling elders and teaching elders (a.k.a., elders and pastors) meet to hash through the issues that divide us…I mean…discern the will of God, many presbyterians (sadly, a minority) are reading up on all the overtures (read: proposed legislation) being proffered by liberals, conservatives, and the generally confused.
Ok, yes, that may sound a bit harsh to some, I’m sure it is mild to many others. But the running commentary I’m hearing in the twitterverse and other areas of the online community seems to be pretty negative in the running up to our G.A. Rarely have I heard a kind and encouraging word about denominations coming together from the wide spectrum of geographical, political, theological, and social divides through which we are somehow drawn together. It is truly a sight to behold! And anyone who has not gone at least once, I encourage you to do so.
I, as a proud member of the sparse group who quietly call themselves “G.A. Junkies,” am always hopeful for the forthcoming now bi-annual gathering of the faithful. This year we will be gathering in Pittsburgh, PA—a once thriving industrial city which has found a way to clean up its environmental act and transform its economy as so much of the northern-midwest continues to deteriorate into what amounts to the “rust belt” (formerly, the “steel belt”). I have not been to Pittsburgh in a few years, so I am anxious to see what has changed and what has remained.
Pittsburgh is a fine example of “it’s never too late to change.” While those who have watched the transformation may lament on how long it has taken and will take, those of us on the outside are astounded at what has changed (or, at least I am). There are those who are spreading the news of the end of denominations, with some adding the phrase, “as we know them.” I like the hopefulness with which “as we know them” can be read—though it will not look like it has, there is hope that the change, though painful, will give birth to something new and exciting. Come this June/July, we will be engaging in our 220th gathering of minds, hearts and souls as we struggle to discern what God is up to in our communities (both secular and religious), regions, and nation, let alone the world! Imagine that! We have been gathering for more than 220 years (the last several G.A. gatherings being bi-annual, rather than annual…I’m sure GA Junkie can offer more info on that history than I am able) to discern together the mind and call of God in Christ as we try to live out whatever nuggets of truth and guidance we are able to uncover.
The issues are real, at least to someone somewhere and to the presbyteries who approved their being forwarded to the General Assembly. And that, at least for me, is good enough. Though some issues may not be on my radar or in my sphere of concern, they are real to at least some of my sister and brothers in the faith, and I look forward to being a part of the listening experiment to see where God’s Holy Spirit will nudge, push, pull, or blow.
To all the commissioners, advisory delegates, staff, volunteers, observers, and advocates who will be attending this gathering come June:
May God’s blessings and grace surround you, uplift you, and encourage you on your journey! And…see you there!