To the saints in Lake Michigan Presbytery, grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you! The 218th General Assembly has made some hard decisions today. We will all need to take a deep breathe of those gifts of God, grace and peace. Indeed, these are God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ to be claimed with gratitude. After a long day many of us Executives and General Presbyters met for prayer before the evening meeting.
In an attempt to bring our spiritual selves and faith to the Assembly's decisions, when voting, the moderator was instructed to call for every vote with the invitation, “Sisters and Brothers in Christ sharing our common faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, walking humbly with God, commissioners vote now.”
You may have already heard the headlines news. The Assembly struck (G-6.0106b) “fidelity and chastity” clause from the Book of Order and inserted the text: “Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003.), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instructions of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate’s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.” This is now in the presbyteries hands to concur and ratify this change to the constitution or not to concur. The sense of the Assembly is to lead the presbyteries into a time of engagement and discernment, encouraging us to use a discernment process practiced by the PUP Task Force and by the committees of this Assembly. This action will go into effect only if and when two thirds of the presbyteries concur.
In the same overture and vote, the Assembly also set aside the authoritative interpretations concerning ordained service of homosexual church members by the 190th General Assembly (1978) of the United Presbyterian Church in the
Some persons will rejoice at these actions, others will loathe them bitterly. It will be up to all of us to sit with one another in love and respect and discern God’s will together for the Church. I have my opinions on these matters, but I committed to Jesus Christ in loving one another and bringing every voice to the table with the respect, decorum and zeal to understand one another, in that love. If I didn't get it before, I do know, Jesus certainly didn't mean agreeing with one anther to love each other and living in covenant together. Nor did he say that would be easy, yet the church calls us to that faithful dialog.
The Assembly disapproved an overture to redefine marriage as a covenant between two people by a 77% to 23% vote. However, it approved another overture to renew and strengthen the PC(USA)’s longstanding commitment to equal protection under the law for lesbian and gay persons and the 216th GA’s affirmation of the right of same-gender persons to civil union, and to appoint a special committee to study the history of the marriage, laws concerning it, how the theology and practice of marriage have developed in the Reformed and broader Christian traditions, the relationship between civil union and Christian marriage, the effects of current laws on same-gender partners and their children, and the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community. This study will be forthcoming at the 219th General Assembly in Minneopolis in 2010. No doubt it will seem superfluous to even study the matter. But we Presbyterians like to study and think on important matters.
No doubt it will seem superfluous to even study the matter. But we Presbyterians like to study and think on important matters.
The Assembly did a lot of other work today that may not make the headline news, but are of great concern to the church:
- Gradye Parsons, the deputy Stated Clark, was elected the new Stated Clerk on the first vote.
- Passed Overture concerning Peace and Justice in Palestine and Israel: Affirming the obligation of the church to speak to the governments, ours and others where it sees those governments violating the commandments of God. Endorses the “Amman Call” regarding Arab-Israeli peace, issued by the World Council of Churches conference, in June 18-20, 2007, including its affirmation of the UN resolutions that are the basis of a projected “two-state” solution, a shared Jerusalem, and the human rights of refuges and occupied peoples, its call to resist extremism and push for reconciliation. Directed the General Assembly Council to provide resources to interpret the church’s historic concern for justice and peace in
Israeland . Commends the nonviolent witness of the Christians in Palestine Palestineand with whom we share membership in the one Body of Christ, joining them in prayer and mutual remembrance, advocating for fair treatment for them and their neighbors. Encourage Presbyterian individuals, congregations, and councils to take pilgrimages and trips to Israel Israeland . Continue the process of corporate engagement with companies supporting or profiting from the occupation of Palestine and/or other violence in the regions. Palestine
- Called for Emergency Food Aid to North Korea in the face of mass starvation. A DVD segment on this call was shown and made available to us to take home.
- Directed the General Assembly Council, in consultation with the Office of the General Assembly, to continue to monitor and address human rights violations in the Unite States, and in other nations brought to their attention by the members of this denomination and/or the partner churches. Secondly, the Assembly directed the Stated Clerk to write the members of the Congress of the
U.S.A.urging them not to ratify the Free Trade Agreement with , which would have grave consequences for works, indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations, and the environment.” 77/21 Colombia
- Concerning Building Peace in Iraq, among other things, the assembly hammered out a compromise statement, “Call upon the US government to develop and implement a lasting peaceful solution, responsibly bring the troops home, and reaffirm the call of the 216th General Assembly for the US government to engage with the international community through the United Nations and other international agencies to cooperate with the government of Iraq in providing security, peacekeeping forces, and funding the rebuilding of the country.
- Other Social Justice issues addressed involve:
· Public Education for the 21st Century
· Homelessness to Hope
· Economic justice for women
· Social Creed for the 21st Century
· Prepare and provide church balanced materials on abortion
God has our back for God is behind us,
God is in front of us, above us and beneath us.
We are encircled in the love of God.
Thanks be to God.