Reflections on General Assembly
By GA Young Adult Advisory Delegate Will Owens
I stepped off the plane in Detroit and made my way to the baggage claim. The first person to greet me was a COLA (Committee on Local Arrangements) volunteer. I immediately recognized the man in the teal apron as Raeshawn, a member of my small group at the 2010 Presbyterian Youth Triennium. The Presbyterian community truly is a small one. After Raeshawn and I did a little catching up, he showed me to the shuttle and I was on my way. The important part of this story is community, but I’ll come back to that later.
On Saturday, with the assembly beginning, I made my way to my seat, K58. The average age of the people on my row was approximately 60. Naturally, when the technology began to fail right away, the other younger people and I jumped into roles as tech assistants. We connected our peers to the internet, got them onto PC-Biz, and showed them how to vote using a clicker. I was happy to prove my worth to the commissioners and earn their respect in the opening stages of the week.
In my committee, I found that the 80/20 rule was in full effect. That is, 20% of the people did 80% of the talking. Instead of speaking my mind, I would just wait for one of them to get up and say exactly what was on my brain. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to participate, they just beat me to the mic every time and I didn’t want to be that guy that repeats what’s already been said. The toughest part of committee was building a close relationship with my tablemates and then voting opposite of them right to their face. Something about that just made me feel awkward inside, as if I was betraying them.
I hit the fatigue wall after committees ended, just in time to start plenary.
Three things stick out in my mind from this year’s plenary sessions: 1) AI and the definition of marriage, 2) divestment, and 3) the red ball fight set to Pharrell’s Happy.
Marriage and divestment were polarizing issues. Even if one agreed with what the body decided, it was extremely painful to hear the hurt in people’s voices as they acknowledged that their church would likely be leaving.
Lastly, there was the strongest sense of community that I felt all week. As we wrapped up the evenings’ work, hundreds of red balls were released onto the floor and the 900 commissioners and advisory delegates became engulfed into a frenzy of stress relief. As Pharrell sang his once catchy, now annoying hit, calmness came over me. No matter what decisions we made in Detroit, we will always be community. Whether we are worshiping together, arguing together, eating together, or throwing big red balls at each other, we will always find peace in our love for God.
221st GA YAAD Will Owens, Ruling Elder from Highland Presbyterian Church
Reflections on General Assembly
By GA Commissioners Rob Morse and Brenson Bishop,
with an introduction by Peggy Hinds
The Presbytery elected four very capable persons to be commissioners to the 221st General Assembly in Detroit. We also elected a Young Adult Advisory Delegate, who worked alongside the commissioners in an advisory capacity. We are very grateful for the dedication of these Ruling and Teaching Elders. Two of them share their reflections below. We will hear from the others in a future edition of Presbynews.
Rob, Ruling Elder from Springdale
The General Assembly was an experience I cannot forget. It was for me an insight into the most vital parts of our church and faith in action. This is an experience unlike any previous such experience.
As part of the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery delegation, I learned about and took part in deciding the most current issues before the assembly. It was not an easy or straightforward task for me. It took a lot of reading and listening and praying and discerning to make each press of the button count. Five days of eight to ten hours each, with breaks for music and worship and meals, made it intense and fulfilling. Meeting fellow Presbyterians, sharing their wisdom and listening for the spirit working among us all were additional benefits of the week’s work. Gifted new leaders and anchored experienced ones held the assembly together and moved us ever forward in our work.
What was perhaps the most memorable occurrence for me were the times in the midst of floor comments and amendments and motions when there was a call to stop and to pray; and then feel the absolute, utter, dead silence in a hall full of seven or eight hundred persons. It makes my heart quake at the power of prayer.
Bren, Teaching Elder
I was assigned to the Acronym Committee, which reviewed the activities of the Presbyterian Foundation, The Board of Pensions, The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, and more.While I had no expertise or background in the workings of these arms of the Church, what I did see gave me confidence they are well run and have a vision for the future. Members of the Presbyterian Church PCUSA can be very proud of the work of these organizations.
I was very impressed by the work of the Presbyterian Foundation in what they are doing in the Middle East. Micro Loans coupled with investments in energy and education, the Foundation is empowering Palestinians to find a life outside of the cycle of violence we see today.
I am very proud of the work of the Presbyterian Foundation – it is work we can all get behind.
Latin American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches Meet to Celebrate and Contextualize the Accra Confession
By The Rev. Dr. Antonio (Tony) Aja
This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the Accra Confession. Representatives of the member churches of the Alliance of Latin American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, AIPRAL by the Spanish language acronym, met in Barranquilla, Colombia, June 2 – 6, 2014.
The Accra Confession of 2004 was drafted and adopted by the former World Alliance of Reformed Churches, now the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), at their 24th General Council, which met in the Ghanaian capital. “The Confession is based on the theological conviction that the economic and environmental injustices of today’s global economy require the Reformed family to respond as a matter of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Accra Confession calls upon Reformed Christians around the world to engage injustices in the world as an integral part of their churches’ witness and mission.”
As a result of this consultation, the participants drafted a document which will be presented to the November WCRC Global Consultation meeting in Hannover, Germany. The AIPRAL churches covenant to:
- recuperate a proper spirituality that will challenge a culture of consumerism and individualism;
- develop pedagogical processes to educate and encourage all member churches to include the Accra Confession in their books of Confessions or catechism;
- place the principles of the Accra Confession in public forums such as world banks, governments and other international organizations;
- participate and support community efforts that build economic, cultural and political alternatives that place human dignity and care of the environment at the forefront and;
- make stronger alliances with our sister “northern churches” to develop new economic systems that give God honor and glory for the welfare of all of God’s people.”
The Accra Confession continues to be a watershed document for the church. Its principles and challenges, however, are yet to be adopted fully by Christ’s church. The gap between the rich and the poor grows uncontrollably, especially in Latin America and other “Global South’’ areas. The Confession, and AIPRAL’s document challenges the global church to live into its witness and mission to be an active voice for all of God’s people, particularly those most vulnerable.
Editor’s Notes: Tony Aja, Mid-KY coordinator for Hispanic/Latino and Immigrant Ministries, represented the Hispanic/Latino National Presbyterian Caucus. PCUSA has not yet adopted the Accra Confession.