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

Monday, June 23, 2014

PCUSA General Assembly 221 + Day Eight (Saturday)

            The Saturday session is usually somewhat perfunctory.  There are a lot of thank yous to the hosting city and the Committee on Local Arrangements, and other groups and individuals that worked hard on putting the GA on.  And usually they approve the budget that has been mandated by the Assembly’s actions all week.  And a final worship service.  That’s it.  They deliberately avoid putting anything controversial on Saturday morning.  They only have the building until noon.  And, due to the vicissitudes of airline schedules, a large number of commissioners will have already departed.
            Hence, it is raucously unfair for someone to make a motion on Saturday morning to reconsider an action taken earlier in the week, especially one that passed very narrowly.  This is what was attempted by opponents of divestment from those companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine. 
            Fortunately, the Assembly has some level-headed members and this travesty was not allowed to happen.  But for the future I believe the rules of the Assembly should include a prohibition of motions to reconsider on Saturday morning.  Sigh.
            All-in-all, I think this was a good Assembly.  There was that parliamentary passing off of the fossil-fuel divestment initiative, which meant that this assembly declined to make a clear statement on the most important issue on the planet.  But other than that, the Assembly did not show reticence to take stands and make decisions.  They even made some that will offend some neighbors and friends, and some sisters and brothers.  
            Thus, while being offensive is not the point, it is often the case that taking courageous stands rubs some folks the wrong way.  GA221 is an advance over the timid and reticent GA220.
            We in the presbyteries will have some things to deal with.  The most important of these is the second attempt to add the Belhar Confession to our Constitution.  This is overdue, and will provide an essential non-European, post-colonial perspective to our standards. 
            Obviously, there will be the requisite wrangling over the same-sex marriage AI and amendment.  Or not.  Churches upset with this may choose to direct their energy into securing gracious dismissal.
            The fallout from the divestment decision is unclear.  I expect much hyperbole and a good deal of hysterical, paranoid criticism.  But there is a chance that, in conjunction with other aspects of the BDS movement, the Israelis may actually enter into serious negotiations for peace and justice in Palestine.  At the very least, I hope the Assembly’s decision gave some comfort to the Palestinians we met in our trip last February to help them plant olive trees.
            For those of us who work in Mid-Councils, we have this consuming mess of synod and presbytery realignment to get through.  I expect it to take up a lot of my time… but most people-in-the-pews will barely notice.



Anonymous said...

From your POV the recent GA was a success...I wonder what your evaluation will be in 2016 when another quarter million members have left the PC (USA) - most to denominations that base their decisions on the source of our faith instead of factoring in political sentiment, pop culture, secular sources, et al. Currently, the PC (USA) represents the following: people who are doctrinaire liberals or even more leftist than that; people who don't believe the Bible is THE source document for our faith and THE Word of God; people who equate spiritual bravery with taking positions on social issues instead of taking positions that do not compromise both the author and source of our faith. To invoke the Holy Spirit as an ally per some policy that is clearly proscribed by the Bible is folly or worse. Our Triune God is neither inconsistent nor changeable per the culture or ethos of the moment.

Paul F. Rack said...

I usually don't publish anything from Anonymous because I consider not lending one's name to a comment to be cowardly. I include this one to demonstrate the willful ignorance of some regarding what is going on in our denomination. 1) Most of the membership losses have been not to conservative denominations but to nothing. 2) Conservatives are at least as beholden to "political sentiment, pop culture, secular sources, et al." They just get these from different demographics and generations. 3) Progressives are actually MORE responsible to the wider witness of the Bible, and choose not to reduce its message to a few passages that have always been misused to prop up the ruling class. 4) Anyone who is NOT "taking positions on social issues" as did, oh, Moses, Elijah, Amos, Isaiah, John the Baptizer, Jesus, Paul, John, etc., is the one compromising the Author and Source of our faith. 5) The Holy Spirit interprets the Scriptures, not the other way around, and the Spirit occasionally moves us beyond the letter of the Law. 6) The Triune God is a perichoresis of overflowing love in relationship, not an inanimate cipher to be used to prop up the culture and ethos of an unjust system. Mr. Anonymous should READ his Bible instead of using it to bash people over the head in defense of his own ignorance. He should read for instance the 3000 passages about social justice, not just the 4 passages that are misinterpreted to support his bigotry. And so on. And he should find the courage to use his own name.