Every two years, the denomination of which Southern Heights Presbyterian Church is a member holds its national denominational gathering. This gathering, called General Assembly, is part family reunion (as Presbyterians from all over the nation gather in one place...it really is amazing to go and be a part of it and see people from around the country, some whom you haven’t seen for years, some whom you’ve never met, and feel an incredible connection to them), part intense worship (worship is held everyday, sometimes more than once, and the opening worship service (held on the first day of business) in particular is powerful and amazing), and part business meeting as the denomination comes together to discern the direction, mission, ministry, and stance of the larger church in numerous ways.
It is an amazing and wonderful experience, one which I hope that every Presbyterian has the opportunity to participate in either as commissioner (voting delegate), advisory delegate, staff, advocate, or observer.
As the General Assembly convenes, it is important to recognize and remember that this is not some distant body that is making pronouncements and decisions from afar and delivering them from on high, but it is the gathered body of the whole denomination discerning God’s will for the denomination together. We are a denomination that is both connectional and representative, and this is (hopefully) represented well in the way that things “go down” at General Assembly, from the way that overtures (items of business) are brought to the floor for discussion and the way that the business itself is conducted (I will defend to my dying day that the Holy Spirit can speak to us through our use of Parliamentary Procedure, if we allow it).
It is in that understanding of what happens at General Assembly that I offer my prayer for GA, which convenes its 221st session this weekend in Detroit.
- That the body will be led to choose the moderator and vice-moderator to lead and guide and moderate the work of the General Assembly during this next week and also to be a representative and ambassador of the larger church over the next two years. (For more information on the three candidates who are standing for Moderator, please see Bruce Reyes-Chow’s (moderator of the 218th General Assembly) 10 questions of the moderator candidates.
- That the commissioners and advisory delegates may all prayerfully discern all the decisions (difficult and easy...and there are plenty of both!!) that lay before them this week, and that they may seek God’s will above their own.
- That the discussions, deliberations, and debates may be civil and helpful in every way.
- That the members of the larger church remember that the General Assembly is not some distant body, but that we are all a part of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), and that the people who have gathered are our representatives in the voting of the business of the General Assembly. (And that we remember that no vote that changes the Book of Order is final until is passes a majority of the Presbyteries).
- That we may hold fast to the idea of the Peace, Purity, and Unity of the church, and seek ways to work and live together in community even when we disagree on decisions that are made.
- That the staff and volunteers of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Office of the General Assembly, Committee on Local Arrangements, and all the other various committees and organizations that I have not mentioned that are working throughout this week be given strength, energy and stamina...and that they have a chance to rest and renew when this is all over. (Trust me, this is huge! I worked as very junior staff at two General Assemblies (2001 and 2002), and the staff and volunteers that make this huge event run are the unsung heroes of GA. If you’re there this week, be sure to say “Thank you”. It means a whole lot!)
May these this all be my prayer.
May the God of Grace be with the gathered manifestation of the PC(USA) in Detroit this week.
PS. For anyone interested in the business facing General Assembly this week, you can check out PCBiz (or the iOS app with the same name!), the official clearinghouse for all information regarding the business of the assembly (including votes!) There’s also primers on many of the “big” issues (Divestment, Middle East, Synods, Marriage, etc) that can be found here. Please remember, though, that there are several other important items being discussed that don't have the "wow" factor that has drawn attention to the ones listed in the primers.
PPS. If you really want to geek out, you can check out the livestream of the worship services and plenary sessions.
PPPS. You can also talk to me about the business before the assembly. I’d love to chat about the various items of business with you!!!
**Thoughts published here are mine and mine alone, and may or may not represent the thoughts or opinions of Southern Heights Presbyterian Church, Homestead Presbytery, Synod of Lakes and Prairies, or the Presbyterian Church (USA)**
**Comments will be moderated for civility. Remember to discuss ideas, and not people...and never type anything here that you wouldn't say to your grandmother**