Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Apostle John's Top Ten List Of What To Look For At General Assembly

A lot of non-Presbyterians read this blog, so let me explain a little bit about our church. Every two years the national level of our church gathers together to do the work of the national and international ministries. We call the gathering General Assembly.

OK, that is an over simplification, but it's good enough for now.

I'm going to General Assembly -- not as a voting commissioner but to observe and report -- and hopefully interpret in a correct and understandable way. I've done this for five previous General Assemblies. This year's General Assembly meets in Birmingham Alabama in mid-June.

One of the leaders of our denomination, Cliff Kirkpatrick, gives an annual top ten list of important up-coming events of the General Assembly.

He does a good job, but I always pout my own together -- in part because my congregation and I are interested in special and unique interests.

Every Presbyterian pastor and elder should take a look at the business before the General Assembly and come up with their own top ten.

Here is mine...

1. The Election of a New Moderator for General Assembly
This happens every year, but I believe this year will be the most crucial. We have 4 who have been nominated and they are all excellent -- but my personal favorite is Joan Gray. Why Joan? First, I know her. Second, she is a peacemaker who works well amidst conflict. Our denomination is often in conflict.

2. Peace, unity, and purity of the church
Our denomination will either come through the General Assembly more divided or more united because of the report being presented by the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church. The report seeks to lead us into “peace, unity and purity” (as our ordination vows require of ministers, deacons and elders), but many on both the very liberal and very conservative sides of our church are rejecting this report.

3. The creation of the office of Minister of Education
There are extensive changes being proposed in the Book of Order that would call for a 4th ordained office – in addition to the Minister of the Word and Sacrament, Deacon and Elder, the new office would be the Minister of Education. There is also a proposal for an office of Educating Elder.

4. Divestment -- Are we working for peace? Do we hate Israel? Yikes - what a controversy.
The General Assembly of 2004 called for the church to "initiate the process of selective, phased divestment" from corporations the PC(USA) believes are impeding peace in the Middle East by profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and the construction of the security barrier in Israel/Palestine, which many likened to the Berlin Wall. Many Jewish leaders called the church’s action anti-semitic and there was a great deal of misinformation in the secular press about this divestment. Over 20 overtures follow up on this action, most calling for an end to this divestment.

5. Haiti
General Assembly is full of things that some are passionate about, while others could not care less about. This is one such issue. Many will pay little attention to an overture being presented by the Presbytery of Tropical Florida, but our congregation has a vibrant interest in Haiti. We have regular mission trips to Haiti and several of our members are Haitian. The overture calls on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to “express to the president and the Congress of the United States of America the church’s concern for the people of Haiti, to request the president and the Congress to address the political and social situation in Haiti with the resources available to our nation, to provide for welcome and relief for Haitian refugees, and to cease the current practice of immediate deportation of those who are attempting to escape the horror that exists in that troubled country.”

6. A New Provision for Immigrant Ministers.
Because of our congregation’s interest in immigrant ministry, we know from first hand experience some of the unique difficulties this ministry presents. Here in Tropical Florida we are always working with immigrant ministries, and a little bit of permissive elbow room would help. One of the overtures for a change in the Book of Order makes such transitions easier. The overture would amend G-11.0404 by adding a new section G-11.0404g: “In the case of immigrant ministries, presbyteries shall have broad latitude to recognize the ordination of ministers coming from developing countries with different practices of ordination and to recognize the ‘good standing’ of such ministers when it is attested to by members of their own communion or by members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The presbytery may, by three-fourths vote of those present, enroll such a minister as a member of the presbytery."

7. Financial and organizational concerns
The growing financial crisis at all levels of the church will be addressed with proposed budget reductions and new structures to carry out the work of the church at the General Assembly level.

8. What to do with G-6.0106b
What the heck is a G-whatever? It is a reference to a part of our church's rule book -- the Book of Order, which says deacons, elders and ministers have to be faithful in marriage or celebate in singleness. It is viewed as a restriction against ordaining active and self-proclaiming homosexuals. A substantial number of overtures are calling for the removal of this constitutional provision.

9. Building Relationships With Two Other Presbyterian Denominations
For the first time, the General Assembly of our Presbyterian Church (USA) will be meeting concurrently with assemblies of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America. There is no move toward organic union with these two smaller groups, but we often work well together in mission and publications or resources. While the business meetings will be held separately, there will be many worship and fellowship events held in common.

10. Anniversaries of Women in Ministry
This year is the 75th anniversary of the ordination of women as elders and the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women as ministers of the Word and Sacrament. This will be a significant focus at the assembly.

4 Comments:

Blogger annie said...

The last post of yours that showed up on my bloglines was the one on the Last Supper art, and now these 7 or 8 posts show up all at once and they are heavy with all sorts of emotion. I enjoyed each and every one of them (even the "lesson" on the workings of the Presbyterian General Assembly!).

My brother did that too, waited till we were all away to die. a friend who was in from out of town was there to see him one last time and was with him.

And your son -- what terrible struggles our children have to go through when growing up. I honestly do not believe it was that hard when we were younger. your prayer for him was beautiful.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Gannet Girl said...

Same comment here -- wonder what happened? I figured that fabulous DaVinci post had wiped you out. Anyway it's good to find you posting again, regardless of when the posts themselves actually showed up.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Purechristianithink said...

March 10 was the last time I saw a new post as well. Welcome back, sort of ??

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings from a midwestern Cumberland Presbyterian! This General Assembly trio could prove to be very eventful. I agree that there probably will be no attempt at merger although some are hoping it will happen.

In the conservative parts of the country, #8, the self avowed, practicing homosexual in the pulpit or being ordained at all is a divisive issue and people have extremely strong feelings. (The UMC and the Episcopals are considering similar rulings). Recognizing that a number of conservative members in the PCUSA and other denominations will leave their churches if it is passed, we are offering them an alternative to staying home and going nowhere. We have been advertising our little CP church as conservative. Don't know how much difference it will make (we have been doing it for about a year now) but this week we got a call from a lady who belongs to a PCUSA church, is distressed about what is going on and would like to check out our church. Those who leave are most likely to be middle aged or older, and we would love to have them. They tend to be the workers and be financially settled.

I'm not interesting in stealing anybody's good members. The thought is more like a rescue mission giving those who jump ship a place to go that may suit them better. (Of course some will stay in their churches and fight continually with everybody over these issues which is anything but peaceful.)

I'm surprised PCUSA has only been ordaining women to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament for 50 years. CP's have been doing that since 1889, 117 years. Since the churches CP/PCUSA split in 1906, all of the ordained female ministers of the word and sacrament must have gone with the CP's. Interesting. (I'm a female under care of presbytery working toward ordination. I'm unusual because I am a conservative theologically.)

Your #4, Israel issue is a hotpoint in the conservative midwest also. It's not as bad as #8 though. It could be a factor in dividing your denomination.

I'll be watching your blog to see what your observations are at GA.

God Bless You.

8:49 PM  

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