GA elects new moderator
|Fahed Abu-Akel elected as Moderator
by Doug King
About 9:00 on Friday evening, the 214th
General Assembly elected its
new moderator. On the second ballot, the Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, born in
Palestine and now ministering with international students in Atlanta,
was elected by 296 votes (57%), with 153 votes (29%) going to the Rev.
Laird Stuart, former Co-Moderator of the Covenant Network, and 71 votes
(14%) to the Rev. Jerry Tankersley, whose stated positions have been
generally conservative, although his congregation, Laguna Presbyterian
Church in Laguna Beach, California, has not joined the Confessing Church
Dr. Abu-Akel, who is the Founder and Executive
Director of the Atlanta Ministry with International Students, Inc., and
is also Director of the National Christmas International House Program,
which operates in 32 cities, was born in Palestine and came to the U.S.
to attend college in 1966.
What does this choice mean for progressives who are
committed to an inclusive church, and the continuing engagement of the
Presbyterian Church in working for justice?
Certainly many people were disappointed that the
candidate identified with the Covenant Network did not win, and people
have been talking this evening about what this might mean.
A few thoughts that your WebWeaver has gleaned from
Jake Young, a pastor in Springfield, Illinois, saw in
the vote a "clear message of our church's commitment to justice for
the Palestinian people." Others saw the vote as reflecting
commitment to a Palestinian state, as well.
On the other hand, I've talked with a number of people
who see the vote as showing commissioners' desire to "vote the
middle," supporting the one candidate who is not clearly identified
with the "right" or the "left" in today's
One conservative saw the vote as a refusal by the
majority of commissioners "to keep elected the Covenant Network's
About the Middle East
During his press conference after his election, Abu-Akel
was asked a number of questions about the significance of his election
for people in Palestine. He responded by saying that this evenings
action was "a miracle," and something that people in Palestine
and Israel must hear about.
Asked by your WebWeaver how he would hope our church
might bear prophetic witness to the President of the United States, he
said he would want to remind the President that we are the most powerful
nation in the world. "I want our nation to win," he said.
"I want our nation to win the respect of the nations of the world
by its political actions, its social actions, its economic actions, and
not by military action, which will do no good."
Jack Adams of The Presbyterian Layman then
asked what he would want to say to Yassir Arafat. Abu-Akel replied that
he would urge Chairman Arafat to speak to the Palestinian people,
calling on them to stop the suicide bombings, and to seek their freedom
through non-violent actions.
About sexuality and ordination
Adams also asked about acts on "defiance of the
Constitution," and whether there is a point at which we must say
"the Constitution says this," and "we stop looking the
other way." Abu-Akel's response was quick: "In our white
culture we want a 'quick fix' for every problem. But we need to learn
from the black community to be patient with one another, and to keep up
the struggle." [Your WebWeaver has heard almost the same line twice
before in the past two days, as people who feel defeated with the defeat
of Amendment A are reminding themselves of the wisdom of the black
tradition, and of Martin Luther King, Jr. Whether Abu-Akel's response
should be taken as a message to glbt people to "be patient,"
or as a call to all sides of the church to be patient with one another,
we'll have to wait and see.]
Hospitality as a theme
Asked how he would like his moderatorial year to be
remembered, Abu-Akel said "I want to introduce the theme of
hospitality. Hospitality is a gift of God, signified in Holy Communion,
which is the most powerful act of the worship in our faith." He
went on to say that in the early church, the followers of Jesus were
first called "the hospitable people," and we need to recover
that as the basic form of our mission in the world.
For another report on the election, check out Presbyterian
And for a good report on the new Moderator, look
at the Outlook report as well.
You can also see Abu-Akel's
responses to Witherspoon's questions a few weeks ago.
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their
action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
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