Woodland Park Press
Publication of Woodland Park Presbyterian Church
From the Pastor…..
I write this from the observation gallery on the floor of the plenary session of the 222nd General Assembly in Portland. For the last week, ruling elder and teaching elder commissioners have met in committees reviewing, amending, and making recommendations on overtures that were submitted by presbyteries and now, at the end of the week, those same commissioners have been meeting for 9-12 hours per day to debate and vote on each item. If that sounds grueling, that would be correct. These commissioners work hard (as do the many volunteers and staff who make their work possible).
Several WPPC members traveled to Portland to observe the proceedings, and I hope you’ll take some time to ask them about their experiences. For me, some highlights include the election of the first co-moderators of the PCUSA (instead of the traditional moderator and vice moderator model). This is also the first time that an all-female slate was elected (in the past women have served only as the vice moderator to a male moderator). The newly elected moderators went directly to work at moderating the deliberations of the 222nd General Assembly’s plenary sessions. I’ve enjoyed watching them adeptly manage their work with a fair hand and fair amount of humor! I look forward having these two powerful women representing our denomination in the public square for the next two years.
Co-moderators of the 222nd General Assembly. Denise
Anderson (L) and Jan Edmisdon (R).
Perhaps just as significantly, the Assembly elected a new stated clerk for the PCUSA. This position is more than a figure head; the stated clerk can have significant influence both during the proceedings of an assembly and during the years between assemblies. In an exciting move, the 222nd GA elected J. Herbert Nelson II. Just after his election by a wide majority, Presbyterian Outlook reported, “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has elected a new stated clerk: J. Herbert Nelson II – a third-generation Presbyterian pastor, a prophetic voice for justice. Nelson issued a call to Presbyterians stop focusing on internal church disputes, numerical survival, and labeling each other as progressives or conservatives, and to focus on ‘the impact God can make through us’ in a broken world. ‘I believe we are not dying,’ Nelson told the 2016 General Assembly. ‘I believe we are reforming.’”
Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson II
I think it’s also important to name that, in a country and a denomination that continues to struggle with structural racism and unacknowledged white privilege, the PCUSA elected two African Americans for two of the three most visible elected positions in the PCUSA.
A number of important social justice overtures were debated. After a difficult debate, the GA passed an amended version of the report on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories called, “For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace”. Divestment from the fossil fuel industry did not pass; however, it was helpful to notice that the tenor of the debate was considerably friendlier to the idea than two years ago. The assembly passed a statement of regret regarding the Church’s past treatment of people who identify as LGBTQ; the statement that passed was not as strongly worded as the one for which some had hoped for and lobbied and, from my view, it does show some progress in our overall culture of welcome and inclusion. A statement on the support of refugees was passed and the Belhar Confession was added to our Book of Confessions—this is a powerful document that emerged from the church in South Africa during apartheid and focuses on themes of unity, reconciliation, and justice in a context of racial separation and injustice. For news stories about all of these issues and others I haven’t mentioned, you can go to https://pres-outlook.org/category/current-affairs/outlook-reporting/
In gratitude a Church that is reformed and always reforming,