With this post, I commit to posting some kind of weekly letter to the church as is appropriate in my role as Moderator. In many ways, it is still hard to fathom that I – and so many like me – are in a place where we have a part to play in the future of the church and denomination. Truly humbling my friends, truly humbling.
One of my first duties, post-GA, was to be part of the writing team to send out a church-wide letter after the close of General Assembly. So late afternoon on Saturday, Linda Valentine, ED of the General Assembly Mission Council, Gradye Parsons, New Stated Clerk and I sat down and hammered this one out.
This letter has gone out to middle governing folks to get out to congregations, so please feel free to share with as many folks as possible. And while we all know that a great many things happened at this GA that will not receive the level of visibility as issues of ordination, we have tried to lift up the breadth of issues covered as well as possible reactions regarding some decisions made. You can read the letter in its entirety here, but here are a few highlights.
On the buzz and conversations already begun
Beginning today and continuing over the next two years, elected
commissioners will be about the task of interpreting the actions they
took at this assembly. Already, their decisions have been broadcast
across the church and, in this Internet world — with information
received in real time, live blogs, and more — many people have already
weighed in on the assembly’s actions, sharing their thoughts and
feelings about the implications of those decisions on our life together
in the PC(USA).
On our hopes for the next steps . . .
We know the assembly actions may do little to ease the anxiety that
seems to permeate our life together as a denomination. The debate isn’t
new and the future holds difficult challenges. As the Rev. Dan
Holloway, moderator of the committee that took up the items on
ordination standards, said, “As we move forward, it is essential that
we have conversations that are gracious and loving and welcoming, since
we are not all of one mind.” Our hope is that none of us will act or
react immediately to the decisions, choosing instead to pray and talk
with one another about these issues.
On being in the boat . . .
Like the disciples, we, the PC(USA), are in the
boat together, sometimes not altogether sure where we are headed. We
see the storm approaching and our fears rise with the waves. Yet, as he
was with the disciples, so, too, is Christ in our midst — calming the
wind, settling the waves — being present and guiding us as we proceed
Gradye offered the following mantra as a summary of the Luke story: Get into the boat. Go across the lake. There will be a storm. You will not die.
we move forward from this assembly, we know that storms may come, but
we put our confidence and trust in the one who both calms the storms
and leads us into God’s future with hope.
Please take some time to read the full letter and post reflections on it or your own experience of General Assembly. The more voices that are part of our discernment the better.
I leave you with the prayer that was shared on Friday PM by Rev. Robert Austell. Robert and I have been getting to know each other over the past year or so via mad Scrabulous games – which he ALWAYS wins -, many mutual friends and the sharing of some common life stories. He and I may come out on different sides of some issues, but once again, I have been shown some hope as words of encouragement, humor about life and hopes for a growing friendship have been shared back and forth. Tending to these relationships will be key for the future of the church, knowing not what that may be.
Prayer offered by Rev. Robert Austell, Closing Prayer, Friday pm
Would you please stand and hold the hand of those on either side of you, stretching across the aisles as well?
Let us pray . . . Heavenly Father, we are divided on much. Chances are that the person beside us voted differently on significant issues, passionately held. It is so easy to see one another as “the enemy” and yet you declare those who hope in the Lord Jesus Christ to be family.
You declare it – in Christ, we are one family! Yet, we struggle so to experience it! Some of us believe truth is at stake; some of us believe justice is at stake; some of us distrust each other, and we struggle with other issues that would drive us apart. Some leave rejoicing; some leave in sorrow; some are not sure what they feel. What hope do we have apart from your grace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? What hope? Grace seems a fragile flower in a room full of trampling elephants.
Give us a vision for your grace – unconditional, true, winsome, and strong. Help us see the person on our left and on our right, not as the enemy, but like us, a broken son or daughter for whom Christ has died. Help us cling to your Word and live in your Spirit.
We ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen!
Until the next post. Be well!