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Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

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219th General Assembly

Minneapolis, July 3 - 10, 2010.

Click here for our PVJ summary report on the Assembly

Click here for our earlier posts before and during the Assembly.

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!

Still looking for news from the General Assembly?

We’re 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 at  With about 10 stories per page, you’ll find the archive takes up 15 pages!

Click here for links to some of the most important reports >>

A Post General Assembly pastoral letter from Moderator and Stated Clerk

To Presbyterian 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 the 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 information.

Civil Union and Marriage FAQPDF Icon
Form of Government FAQPDF Icon
Middle East Peacemaking FAQPDF Icon
Middle Governing Body Commission FAQPDF Icon
Ordination Standards FAQPDF Icon

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 “miraculous.”

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 blog entry:

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 Assembly
The Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
The Rev. Landon Whitsitt
Vice Moderator, 219th General Assembly
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!
Just 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 information.
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 Assembly:
bulletan new analysis of some of the overtures and reports coming to the Assembly.
bulleta "letter to commissioners and advisory delegates" with practical advice about how to function effectively in the Assembly process.
bulleta comment on the proposals from the Form of Government study committee.
bulleta comment on the reasons to include the Belhar Confession in our Book of Confessions.
bulleta comment on the proposals for a non-geographical synod or presbyteries to accommodate conservatives.
bulleta preliminary survey of overtures, prepared in February.
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 analysis of 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 PC-BIZ site.

Here are the committee pages:

bullet3: General Assembly Procedures
bullet4. Middle Governing Body Issues
bullet6. Church Orders and Ministry
bullet7. Form of Government Revision
bullet8. Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
bullet9. Mission Coordination
bullet10. Social Justice Issues A: The Promotion of Social Righteousness
bullet11. Social Justice Issues B: The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World
bullet12. Civil Union and Marriage Issues
bullet13. Peacemaking and International Issues
bullet14. Middle East Peacemaking Issues
bullet16. Theological Issues and Institutions
bullet18. Board of Pensions, Foundation, and Presbyterian Publishing
bullet19. Health Issues

And here are some particular recent items ...

Mission Network praises Presbyterian call to withdraw military aid to Israel

Supports Palestinian solidarity      [7-20-10]

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 Palestine.

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 deliberation.”

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 territories.   More >>

Soulforce protesters arrested in Assembly session     [7-15-10]

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 Church.  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 regarding HIV/AIDS.   The full report >>

Friday evening plenary:  Big steps forward on peacemaking issues

Jan 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.  More >>

PVJ/Voices of Sophia speaker Chris Smith reflects on de-centering privilege

a woman speaks at a podium
The Rev. Christine Smith

Photo by 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.”

More >>


Ordination standards -- questions and answers    [7-12-10]

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 two-thirds majority.

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 the law.”

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 justice.  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 congregation >>

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 blessing, so 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

PVJ's Facebook page

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.


John Shuck’s new "Religion 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 lightening up.

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 Shore blogspot

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 Flushing, NY.


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 thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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