The 221st General Assembly will be remembered as a defining gathering of Presbyterians. Whereas most General Assemblies — especially the GA of 2012 — reject many pieces of proposed legislation, the 900+ commissioners and delegates in Detroit mustered majority votes to support many recommendations. Accordingly, Jerry Van Marter, editor of the Presbyterian News Service, has dubbed it “The assembly of yes … mostly.”
For those who sat up nights on end formulating and writing overtures or commissioners resolutions, and for those who met repeatedly in special committee meetings, and for those who sent countless emails and posted Facebook and Twitter promptings and even spent many dollars purchasing advertising to help others of us to see what to them is self-evidently the thing that God would have us believe and do — for them, this GA has brought renewed hope for the church’s mission in the world.
Then again, for others, this GA was the underwater earthquake that has swamped their congregation’s morale like a tsunami. The granting of discretion for pastors to perform same-sex marriages in states that license them, the proposal to broaden the actual definition of marriage and the call to divest funds from three corporations providing material support for the Israeli government’s military support of the occupation of Palestinian territories have sent shockwaves among folks who normally pay little attention to denominational actions.
Folks across the American church are asking hard questions.
- Is my congregation’s identity being reformulated in ways I’d never imagined? (Answer: only if the congregation so chooses.)
- While it’s true that the denomination now gives permission for performing some same-gender marriages, are all required to do so? (Answer: NO.)
- Have we abandoned biblical Israel in favor of terroristic Palestinians? (Answer: wrong on every point.)
With the help of blog pages, Twitter feeds and reader feedback windows, many voices around the church have been sharing their perceptions of what has happened, what’s now going on and what’s ahead for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its sister denominations, especially the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church — the two denominations to which a few hundred PC(USA) congregations have migrated in recent years.
We have pulled together some of the best, most insightful and helpful responses to help you and your congregation better assess for yourselves just where we are and what’s next. No simple, pat answers, not dismissive repudiations of others’ views here. Just thoughtful analyses and heartfelt appeals. For a much broader sampling of responses to the GA, click here.