Minneapolis, July 3 - 10, 2010.
for our PVJ summary report on the Assembly
for our earlier posts before and during the Assembly.
for the official PC(USA) web page for the Assembly.
And if you have information or comments
about this important event that you'd like to share with our visitors,
please send a note!
Still looking for news from the
sorry we have not been able to post as many of our own reports
as we’d like to about the Assembly that finished its business
last Saturday, July 10. There was just more going on than I
could keep up with. But I’ll try to gather here the links to a
couple general lists of reports, and then point the way to a few
of the specific stories that may be of most interest to you.
The Presbyterian News Service, along with the
Office of the General Assembly, has archived all their reports
With about 10 stories per page, you’ll find the archive takes up
here for links to some of
the most important reports >>
A Post General Assembly pastoral
letter from Moderator and Stated Clerk
Church (U.S.A.) congregations
To Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations:
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow
rivers of living water” (John 7:38)….
Just one week ago, the 219th General Assembly
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) convened with Scripture and
music and prayer. Commissioners and advisory delegates from
every presbytery across the church gathered around the baptismal
font with hopeful expectation of what God’s Spirit would do in
and through them as they sought to discern together the mind of
Christ for the PC(USA).
As the week progressed, prayer was a
foundational part of each day’s deliberations and decisions, and
the presence of the Spirit was palpable!
“Out of the believer’s heart…
While all assemblies are significant, this one
holds particular significance in the life of the PC(USA). Among
the assembly’s decisions – to be ratified by presbyteries – are
the addition of the Belhar Confession to The Book of
Confessions and a revised Form of Government. Both of these
items give a clear signal that we are a church that is not
afraid to change – an important perspective to have in these
days of great change in the church and the world.
The assembly celebrated and was greatly
encouraged by the commissioning of 122 young adult volunteers
and 17 new mission workers for service around the globe.
Commissioners voted unanimously to renew the call to “Grow
Christ’s Church Deep and Wide” and were inspired by
stories of congregations that are growing in evangelism,
discipleship, diversity, and servanthood. They celebrated the
generosity of Presbyterians who have contributed more than $10.5
million to relief and redevelopment work in Haiti in the wake of
January's devastating earthquake.
The assembly also engaged in discussion about
significant matters of faith and life – ordination standards,
justice and peace in the Middle East, and civil union and
marriage, to name just a few.
Information on the more than 300 assembly
actions is available. Answers
to frequently asked questions about the items that have already
garnered media attention are attached to this letter. We commend
these resources to you for their accurate and straightforward
Civil Union and Marriage FAQ
Form of Government FAQ
Middle East Peacemaking FAQ
Middle Governing Body Commission FAQ
Ordination Standards FAQ
While the content of the assembly’s decisions
is important, what may be of equal or greater importance is the
manner in which commissioners and advisory delegates
did their work. They debated, but did not fight. They tackled
tough issues while refraining from tackling each other. They
placed great value on finding common ground as they displayed
gracious, mutual forbearance toward one another. They sought the
will of God within their actions, rather than regarding their
decisions as the will of God. One commissioner called the
experience of seeking – and finding – common ground truly
In short, this assembly exhibited to the whole
church and, indeed, to our society and the world a way to engage
in difficult issues while maintaining respect for one another.
To put it another way, they exhibited well what it means for the
church to “a provisional demonstration of what God intends for
the world” (Book of Order, G-3.0200).
…shall flow rivers of living water.”
Just a few short hours ago, the 219th General
Assembly ended in the same worshipful manner with which it
began, as well as with a similar same sense of hopeful
expectation that the hard work done in Minneapolis will continue
forward across the church.
Michael East and Caroline Sherard, elected by
their peers as co-moderators of the young adult advisory
delegates to this assembly, shared their thoughts in a
If all our commissioners and advisory
delegates returned to their places of community and encouraged
others to continue similar stories, what great things could be
next for the PC(USA)? These narratives have the ability to
inspire discussions on new, creative, and innovative ways of
being the Church. At the heart of being Presbyterian is the
principle belief that our discernment is best done when we
gather together. Being able to gather in one place, as one
people, for the one Church is a powerful and transformative
experience--one which dramatically shapes future generations.
The assembly has commended to the church a
number of items for further study, out of which is hoped will
come, as Michael and Caroline write, “new, creative, and
innovative ways of being the Church.”
May the good and faithful work begun in
Minneapolis truly be just the beginning of a season of
respectful, earnest, and gracious engagement – both in our words
and in our deeds – all for the sake of the gospel.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,
|Elder Cynthia Bolbach
Moderator, 219th General
|The Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General
|The Rev. Landon Whitsitt
Vice Moderator, 219th General
|Elder Linda Bryant Valentine
Executive Director, General
Assembly Mission Council
A little invitation from your WebWeaver --
If you have particular interest in one or more of the issues
that were dealt with by the Assembly,
we would be grateful if you could look over the relevant "FAQ"
papers listed above.
And if you have comments to offer
or questions to raise,
we hope you'll share them with us!
send a note, and we'll try to post it here.
... and here are links to
some of our main pages posted before the convening of the
General Assembly -- which may provide some helpful background
Click here to scroll
down for more recent additions
For Presbyterian Voices
for Justice events at GA
For information and analysis about issues coming to the
Find separate pages for each GA
committee. Well, for most of them! [6-10-10]
You can use the links below to visit a separate
page for each of the GA committees, where you'll find
information on the items presented to that committee (at least
those of particular interest to us), along with our own
overtures and reports going to that committee -- and some
reports and commentary on the committee actions, and the
Assembly's actions on their recommendations. Each Item number on
these pages provides a link to the complete item on the GA's
Here are the committee pages:
And here are some particular recent items ...
Mission Network praises Presbyterian call to withdraw
military aid to Israel
Press release from the Israel/Palestine
Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
MINNEAPOLIS, July 9 – The 219th
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today
approved a comprehensive report on Israel/Palestine, and other
resolutions calling for the United States to withdraw military
aid to Israel until it follows U.S. foreign assistance law and
to embrace the United Nations Goldstone report.
The Middle East Study Committee Report is the
first official statement of the PC (USA) on conditions in
Carol Hylkema, Moderator of the
Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) from the Presbytery of
Detroit said, “This Assembly is the first time the voice of
Palestinian Presbyterians, as well as Middle Eastern Christians,
was given an intentional hearing within the process of
The GA also called upon the U.S. government to
withdraw military assistance from the nation of Israel until
such time that Israel complies with U.S. law in regard to using
military equipment for the occupation of the Palestinian
Soulforce protesters arrested in Assembly session
You may have heard about a
nonviolent protest by a number of supporters of same-sex
marriage, following the Assembly's refusal to take action to
permit same-sex couples to be married by the Presbyterian
Click here for a report by KARE 11 TV News, Minneapolis.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
The Presbyterian Church’s Journey Toward LGBT Equality
Here’s an “outside” view of the General
Assembly’s actions dealing with ordination and marriage, from
the Center for American Progress
The Presbyterian Church, one of the
mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, has
been struggling for decades—along with many other religious
institutions—over how inclusive it should be with its
congregations’ LGBT members. But the church’s recent
conference should give the gay rights movement cause for
hope that the arc of history may be bending toward justice
sooner than they might think.
... This year the church took important
steps toward becoming a truly inclusive and just place of
worship and community for its fellow LGBT brothers and
sisters in Christ. Representatives voted to allow ordination
of LGBT church leaders, extend benefits to same-sex partners
of church staff, and increase education and awareness
The full report >>
Friday evening plenary: Big steps forward on
Orr-Harter of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has provided an
in-depth report on this important area of Presbyterian concern
and action. She begins:
The long-awaited GA plenary session on
Peacemaking and International Issues came and went, with
excellent results, but not quite as we expected the process
to go. We'll take the results.
Sophia speaker Chris Smith reflects on de-centering privilege
|The Rev. Christine Smith
Danny Bolin, PNS
‘Perhaps it’s time we move
to the margins.’
More than 100 people gathered early Tuesday,
July 6, for the Presbyterian Voices for Justice (PVJ)/Voices
of Sophia breakfast as part of the 219th General Assembly.
The Rev. Christine Smith, professor of
preaching at United Theological Seminary, Twin Cities, spoke
to those gathered on “Reimagining Church: De-Centering
Privilege as an Act of Global Citizenship.”
Ordination standards -- questions and answers
The Office of
the General Assembly has issued an information sheet about the
action of the GA to propose to the presbyteries that the Book of
Order be amended to remove specific references to sexuality from
the ordination standards. It was a fairly close vote
(373-323-4), after Committee 6 recommended the change by about a
For more on this action, and
the other work of Committee 6 -- Church Orders and Ministry
The Church, Culture, and Justice: The
Not so Strange Case of Same-Sex Marriage
David True reflects on the GA’s decision to decide nothing
about same-sex marriage. [7-12-10]
Of the GA (in)action he says “it is sad and
frustrating to see the church refuse to even consider the
measure,” especially when the US District Court for the District
of Massachusetts at the same time was ruling that “the Defense
of [Straight] Marriage Act is unconstitutional.”
But all of this leads him to value “what it
means to be protestant” – maintaining a healthy skepticism about
the institutional church, and always open “to discern the will
of God being done beyond our wills and walls – recognizing that
the church is far bigger than any one denomination and that God
is far bigger still than all the denominations combined. Indeed,
God’s grace abounds, even in the law, sometimes especially in
True says of himself: “I'm a student of
theology and ethics, with a special interest in political
culture and debates. I teach at Wilson College and co-edit
the journal Political Theology.”
Read his full blog post >>
Voices for Justice Awards Luncheon offers moments for
meditation, celebration [7-7-10]
With over a hundred people present, the new
Presbyterian Voices for Justice gathered on Sunday, July Fourth,
just after the Assembly worship service.
The Rev. Bill Dummer, PVJ co-moderator,
welcomed everyone to the luncheon, and then introduced the Rev.
Landon Whitsitt, the newly elected Vice Moderator of the
Presbyterian Church (USA). Whitsitt greeted the group on behalf
of Moderator Cynthia Bolbach, and expressed appreciation for the
work of both the Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia in the
cause of justice.
The invocation was offered by the Rev.
Catherine Snyder, and after giving everyone a few minutes for
enjoying their breakfasts, PVJ Treasurer Darcy Hawk and
Secretary Mitch Trigger made a pitch (with the Treasurer in drag
of sorts, playing the role of “Sophie Witherspoon”) for support
for PVJ through memberships and gifts.
Sylvia Thorson-Smith, a member of the PVJ
board, then introduced the speaker, the Rev. Mary Elva Smith.
Smith served as Director of Women’s Ministries in the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from 2001-2006, and is now the
Acting General Presbyter for the Sierra Mission Partnership.
Smith invited us into a sort of
“mini-retreat,” to reflect quietly on our concerns for justice –
where they come from, what “justice” means for us, and how we
are drawn into action for justice. She has kindly shared with us
the full prepared text of her presentation, along with two sets
of questions that she placed before us – “questions for
conversation” to help you explore your understandings of
justice, and how an organization like PVJ might work to further
that kind of justice, and “questions for clarification,” to
sharpen your understanding about what you (and we!) might do for
Click here for the full text of her presentation >>
The recipient of this year’s Whole Gospel
Congregation Award, Kwanzaa Community Church (Presbyterian) in
Minneapolis, was introduced by the Rev. Bebe Baldwin. She
described vividly some of the many ways in which Kwanzaa’s
commitment to its community has changed lives and made a
difference in the quality of life in its community.
More about the
The award was presented “in grateful
recognition for ‘bringing saving freedom to body, mind & soul’
through the Good News of Jesus to all the people of the
community.” The Rev. Alika Galloway, who is co-pastor of the
congregation with her husband, the Rev. Ralph Galloway, accepted
the award on behalf of the congregation, which was represented
by some 20 of its members.
PVJ Acting Co-Moderator Colleen Bowers
presented the Andrew Murray Award to Ann and Manley Olson,
long-time active Presbyterian leaders at congregational,
presbytery, and national levels. The award was presented “in
grateful recognition of their commitment and passion to social
justice for all of God’s people in their service to the entire
Church.” More about
the Olsons >>
The Reverend Sylvia Carlson, another member of
the PVJ Coordinating Team, offered the benediction, using the
words of a blessing the comes out of the Franciscan tradition.
We’ve been asked by a number of people for the words of that
here it is ..
Click here for the official PC(USA) web
page for the Assembly.
And if you
have information or comments about this important event that you'd like to
share with our visitors,
please send a note!
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!