PRE-ASSEMBLY and PRAYER and REFLECTIONS
FROM A GENERAL ASSEMBLY JUNKY
Most gracious and glorious God: Guide me in prayer for the 221st meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meeting in Detroit June 14-21st. I ask for you to surround elected commissioners with your spirit of discernment. Empower committee leadership and staff as this assembly seeks to do Your will in doing Your work.
Hear the prayers of your church for sacred worship. May worship and fellowship fuel this assembly through Word and Sacrament. Fill our congregations with faith and hope and love as we live out our baptism.
Hear my prayers. AMEN
My first meeting of General Assembly in the former United Presbyterian Church was over forty years ago. I believe the first Assembly I attended was in Denver in the mid-1970’s. I have been able to attend about one-third of these Assemblies throughout my career. [I would have gone to all of them but for the work I was called to do as a pastor.]
I didn’t really become a true “junky” until elected to the General Assembly Council twenty years ago. It was while serving on the GAC and the COGA (Committee on the Office of General Assembly) that I grew to appreciate all the efforts of staff and elected leadership in creating a balanced national conversation on issues we face in church and world. It is these conversations we hold officially as an assembly among elected representatives that lead to decisions that help build this part of the church we call ‘Presbyterian’.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) now meets biennially in even-numbered years. It saves money to meet every other year. This also gives the church to deliberate and implement as congregations and mid-councils the work that has been done nationally. The General Assembly consists of commissioners elected by each of its 173 presbyteries. The GA consists of ten long days, worship, business sessions, committee meetings, an exhibit hall, and tours sponosred by the Presbytery of Detroit—the host for this 221st Assembly. These assemblies create life-long memories for ruling and teaching elders as well as those who visit these national meetings.
The first day of this Assembly on Saturday, June 21, will consist of worship and the election of a new moderator. I am biased. A friend and colleague, John Wilkerson, is running for moderator. (see http://www.johnwilkinsonpcusa.com/a-shared-vision/) In my mind and heart, I cannot think of a more qualified person to lead our church with “energy, intelligence, imagination and love”. I wish I were a commissioner so I could give him my vote. My voice of support is what I can offer through this blog.
From the official web page of the General Assembly:
The General Assembly has several specific responsibilities outlined in Chapter 3 of the Book of Order. The assembly seeks to protect our church from errors in faith and practice, is responsible for assuring that the expression of our theology remains true to the biblical standards in our historic confessions. The General Assembly presents a witness for truth and justice in our community and in the world community. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies. http://oga.pcusa.org/section/ga/ga/
There are literally hundreds of issues that go before various committees as commissioners meet. This is always an intense, joy-filled meeting in giving glory to God for the gift of Jesus God’s beloved Son. At the same time as in all family gatherings, this national meeting of Presbyterians also has a fair share of controversy and healthy debate.
There will be those issues that threaten to divide us as Presbyterians. For me two issues top the list – the issue of same-gender marriage and Middle East Peacemaking top the list of controversial issues where the Assembly is unlikely to find full consensus. The challenge, as I see it, is lodged in the HOPE that those who don’t always agree on complex issues will not forget we all are called to be “One in the Spirit, and One in our Lord”. At the same time we pray for our polity that allows us to move forward even if it means agreeing to disagree. We are called to seek God’s will committed to pray for God’s love and peace to build us up and bind us together.
Finally, may we join in regular prayer for this Assembly. Let’s take time to follow the work that national leaders are doing on behalf of us all.
May God continue to bless Christ’s Church and the denominational family named ‘Presbyterian’.