Pastor Bob's GA Blog #5: June 24, 2016
The main thing I missed last evening was discussion and vote on a resolution about the life of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and LGBTQ persons. The original overture would have the Assembly issue an apology for our many years of keeping them on the margin; the resolution approved is more nuanced. You can read about it at www.pcusa.org/ganews; be sure to look at the edition for June 24.
This morning's first action was election of the new Stated Clerk of the General Assembly. It was an interesting procedure: each candidate made a five-minute speech, then there were thirty minutes of questions. The questions covered a lot of territory. Then they voted: the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson was elected 447-112 over David Baker: he will be the first African-American to serve in this position. Immediately afterward they held a service of installation, which was beautiful and moving. As a stated clerk, I appreciated something Dr. Nelson said in his remarks: "I know there is some concern, since I have never been a stated clerk, but I know how to read."
I got tapped to assist at a mike for the morning, which was an interesting experience. I've long wanted to volunteer to help with an Assembly, but have always had some conflict that made it impossible. This whet my appetite and I think I'll try harder in the future.
The Committee I monitored made its report this morning. Much of the business they struggled over was dealt with quickly in a "consent agenda," and some others that were dealt with individually went quickly as well. Interesting learning about process: someone may feel deeply about something, but once that question gets to a larger body, that body may not feel so deeply and deals with it quickly. One question that did generate some energy: the proposal to return to calling Sara and me (and those like us) ministers of the Word and Sacrament, instead of "teaching elder." And it wasn't only teaching elders (!) who spoke about it. The Assembly approved it, and so it will be among the things presbyteries will vote on in the coming year.
The other main business in the morning was what should be done with the three conflicting resolutions I wrote about the other day. Here's a problem with the presentation: the Committee didn't tell the Assembly about the three conflicting proposals and how they resolved them. So folks were not clear what they were being asked to decide. After a while, all that came out, more or less. There were still a lot of "questions for clarification," which means that people did not understand what they were being asked to decide. A more helpful presentation would have resolved much. When we needed to recess for worship, they still had not finished with this.
Well, folks, I have to head to the train station and will miss the rest of the Assembly. We'll read about it and will learn more from Sandie. The General Assembly is an experience of the whole church and the implications of the life of congregations and a marvelous worshiping community. Much of it exasperates me, some annoys me, some tires me, and much of it causes my heart to sing and my eyes to weep. When the retiring Stated Clerk, Gradye Parsons, charged his successor, he said to him, "Remember a million and a half people are praying for you." Please pray for J. Herbert Nelson, our Stated Clerk, and for Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, our Co-Moderators, and pray for our Church. We pray, we think, we act.
I'm grateful to be a Presbyterian.