Cynthia Bolbach, a lawyer, ruling elder and moderator of the 2010 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), died Dec. 12 of cancer, less than a year after being diagnosed.
Tributes bubbled up immediately from across the PC(USA) – praising Bolbach for her integrity and graciousness, her fair-mindedness, her hard labor at all levels of the church (including as a member of the task force which drafted the new Form of Government) and her oh-so-quick wit.
Mark Koenig, director of Presbyterian ministry at the United Nations, wrote in his blog that when Bolbach was asked during the question-and-answer session before her election in 2010 what would happen if she were not chosen, responded essentially: “There will be utter chaos,” and the whole assembly guffawed.
This was the moderator who, during the opening worship of the 2012 assembly, showed up to preach wearing a fedora – surrounded by an entourage of friends wearing green wigs. She spoke of courage and faith, saying: “I do not believe the PC(USA) is paralyzed.”
She preached from the gospel of Mark, about the men who lifted up the paralyzed man to see Jesus. Bolbach said that “while struggling with cancer, I have been uplifted and supported by those disciples. Many disagree with me, but they have reached out to help me to the roof, and carried me to see Jesus…. None of [our disagreements] matter without disciples who are willing to take risks for the sake of the gospel. Let’s not worry about process and structure; instead, let’s pray that we will be given the faith that Jesus saw in those disciples. Let’s commit ourselves to be those disciples who will take risks, who will carry others up to the roof…. If we commit ourselves to lift someone we don’t know, someone we don’t like, we will soar on wings like eagles, we will run and not grow weary, we will walk and not grow faint because we will be helping people see Jesus. What more could we ask for?”
In an interview with the Outlook last summer, Bolbach spoke of her gratitude for those who continued praying for her. “I want to say` thank you’ for those prayers,” Bolbach said in June. “They have really uplifted me over these past few months and have made such a difference to me. It brought home to me that the denomination is a community of faith just as much as a congregation”
Landon Whitsitt, now the executive and stated clerk of the Synod of Mid-America , served as vice-moderator of the 219th General Assembly – nominated by Bolbach to serve with her. He posted this prayer on Facebook after learning of her death.
by your creative power you gave us life,
and in your redeeming love you have given us new life in Christ.
We commend our sister, Cynthia Bolbach, to your merciful care
in the faith of Christ our Lord
who died and rose again to save us,
and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
Goodbye, Madame Moderator.
Cynthia Bolbach Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) —Danny Bolin