This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

PCUSA General Assembly - Day One

One of the Young Adult Advisory Delegates was giving a prayer opening the evening session of the assembly. I think she misspoke when she said "help us to learn from the future." Whether she meant to say it or not I think it was the Voice of the Holy Spirit breaking through. Learning from the future is what we need to do. There isn't much we can learn from our past, besides a lot of what not to do. Our situation today is breaking in ways that make a lot of the past irrelevant. And the present is confused and disintegrated. The future is where Jesus is calling us from, as always. I think we need to pay attention to what kind of a church we will be tomorrow.

The commissioners to this assembly are 96% white. This after two generations of trying intentionally to become more diverse and multi-cultural. One moderatorial candidate pointed this out, noting that whites will be a minority in America in about a decade. As long as we retain our Anglo-Saxon, middle-class, rationalist, Modern, institutional, Christendom framework, our denomination is fated to decline. It's almost a demographic necessity.

That candidate, Jin S. Kim, is the Pastor at the Church of All Nations here in Minneapolis. He also gave one of the most powerful and courageous sermons I ever heard, at General Assembly two years ago. It is interesting that he gave a complicated response to one of the few questions of any substance that were raised during the question-and-answer period, on same-sex-marriage. He tried to speak globally, out of his experience in a wildly multi-cultural congregation, noting that in Africa the controversy is over cultural polygamy. I think he was trying to say that if we don't uphold traditional (ie. one-man/one-woman) marriage here, we will have less integrity upholding it in places like Africa. Or something like that.

Actually, of all the Moderatorial candidates, Kim's presentation was by far the most acute and thoughtful analysis of the current situation in the church. He made a critique along the lines of others in terms of our need to get out of the Eurocentric mindset. I wonder if he includes the issue of full-inclusion of GLBT Christians as part of that. In the end, he may have come across as too challenging and even negative. The assembly also may simply not care how their decisions are going over with Africans.

This little exchange confirmed my view that the future of the church is probably not in the room at assemblies like this. Not even among the young adults. The future of the church is outside the building, outside the institution, outside the tradition, outside the comfort zone of our current demographic. If the denomination has a future it is probably not with white, middle-class people.

But GLBT inclusion is not just a hobby of white liberals; it is an implementation of the love we see in Jesus. Kim is too smart not to realize that polygamy is contrary to Christian values because it is an unequal dispensation of power.

Anyway, the new Moderator of our church is Cynthia Bolbach, from Arlington VA. She was probably the most liberal of the candidates. She was the only non-minister. And she made the best jokes. What this predicts about how the assembly will go is anyone's guess.

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