If there is one thing about the General Assembly of the PC(USA), a denomination I love dearly and am committed to though often frustrated by, it reminds me that we are a big Church who follows and partners with a very big God.
Yesterday I attended a lunch for the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) where Rabbi Brant Rosen spoke, co-president of Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council and, in full disclosure, an advocate for the PC(USA) divesting from companies who’s products and services are being used to enforce the Israeli settlements in palestine. Whether one is for or against divestment as a statement against the illegal settlements, I was inspired by the biblical vision Rabbi Rosen shared for the world. He was clear that those who support divestment and want to see Israel stop its isolation and oppression of the Palestinian people are not anti-Israel.
He spoke of “a God of plentitude, not scarcity.” He spoke of being part of a religion that speaks truth to power (the truth that what is happening is an atrocity that is causing harm to all sides, but more devastating for the Palestinians). What drives us so often in our actions is unfortunately fear, the Rabbi suggested. If we truly believe in a God who can and does all things, isn’t it possible that when we cower in fear, or seek to subjugate others for our own safety, the God we envision in our minds is too small. Our God is a God of creation and hope, creatively present in the world and even working within our fear, but imagine if we acted out of abundance and hope how much more could be done in the world!
I have been spending a fair amount of time in Committee 15 (Immigration and Environment Committee) in the General Assembly. The bulk of their work has been issues around diminishing the use of and export of fossil fuels, as well as withdrawing the denomination’s financial investments from fossil fuel corporations (i.e., coal). The one immigration issue raised (business item 15-04) was the formation of the Presbyterian Immigrant Defense Initiative “as a campaign to mobilize congregations, mid councils, and Presbyterian-related organizations to affirm and promote the civil and human rights of immigrants in our committees.”
The overture from the Presbytery of Central Florida was amended to include a charge from the 221st General Assembly to fill the currently vacant coordinator of immigration issues position in the Office of Immigration Issues. As I see it, this is an example of the Presbytery of Central Florida and these commissioners (at least 49 out of 57 serving on this committee) trying to live into the truth of a God of abundance and inclusiveness, showing grace and compassion for immigrant persons, especially as it pertains to currently unjust U.S. immigration policies, following in the example of God’s revelation in and through Jesus.
Often the work of the General Assembly, especially in committees, is tedious and exhausting. But somehow the Holy Spirit continues to work, even with our human limits. I am working at the good work of so many committees this year. I do not necessarily agree with the decisions of all the committees, but I believe they are being faithful in their work and God would deem it “good”—not perfect, but good. Please continue to hold in prayer these faithful sisters and brothers in your thoughts and prayers as all this committee work is presented to the larger assembly later this week and allow the entire plenary discuss and vote on their actions. During debates, moderator of committee 15, Don Choi, ruling elder commissioner from San Jose Presbytery, has reminded his committee, “The Holy Spirit is speaking through each of us.”