The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) suffered, too.
Ordination standards battles heated up again as our top court ruled that ordaining bodies cannot allow behavioral scrupling of the fidelity-chastity requirement; then the General Assembly edited that ruling, canceled other existing constitutional interpretations and sent to the presbyteries another amendment for debate and vote.
A GA paper written to help heal rifts between our faith and those of the other monotheistic religions sent out confusing signals, stirring conflict among us. And the trickle of churches heading to other denominations continued, though each departure felt more like a tsunami to those near at hand, as accusations and recriminations shot back and forth.
The Stated Clerk announced that membership had slipped 2.64 percent to 2.2 million.
We’ve enjoyed some exciting times, too.
Our own Davidson College made it all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA basketball’s Road to the Final Four. Its star guard, Stephen Curry, shares his faith openly.
The GA tapped the energy and vision of an under-40 new church pastor, Bruce Reyes-Chow, to serve as moderator for a two-year term.
The assembly elected as Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, a man with a passion for empowering elders and for promoting openness to all. Retiring stated clerk, Clifton Kirkpatrick continues his service as president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and announced plans to join the faculty of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
The denomination’s commitment to mission took a giant leap forward as headquarters joined in covenant with dozens of organizations to partner in advancing a vision to be the missional church. The GA also approved a proposal to increase PC(USA) mission co-workers worldwide, the first uptick in long-term workers in a generation.
The New Form of Government Task Force was remobilized to rework their restructuring plan for the renewal of our governing bodies. Their revised recommendations will be redirected to the 2010 General Assembly.
We at the Outlook enjoyed a banner year. We introduced the Benedictory column, a new favorite for many of you. Note: it continues in 2009 minus the writing of Craig Barnes and Agnes Norfleet — both of whom needed to focus in other areas. We welcome in their places Cynthia Campbell and Amos Disasa.
We increased the number of articles written for elders and deacons and published our first-ever officer training edition.
We launched a new Web site that includes more than just news, resources, reviews and commentaries. It also provides a connect-point for building networks of fellowship and ministry partnership.
That new Web site provided the platform for our reporting minute-by-minute coverage of the General Assembly, and for bloggers to tell you directly what they thought of the GA.
We held our first-ever national conference, Church Unbound, in partnership with the Cross-Cultural Alliance of Ministries and Montreat Conference Center, who hosted it.
And, most importantly, we continued to provide accurate news reporting, thoughtful essays, multi-vocal analyses, reviews, letters to the editor, classifieds, columns, poems, hymns, and lots more.
What’s ahead? A challenging year, with many possibilities. No doubt we Presbyterians will be tested and tempted, tried and challenged. We’ll hear the word of the Lord, we’ll rally together, and we’ll rediscover that we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us. It will be worth it all, when at the end we can look back and give thanks to the Christ whose grace saves us, to the God whose love affirms us, and to the Spirit whose presence strengthens us.