LOUISVILLE – The 2014 Moderators’ Conference – which brings together presbytery and synod moderators from around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for a weekend of leadership training – is taking place Nov. 7-9 in Louisville, convened by Heath Rada, moderator of the 221st General Assembly, around the theme of the “Ministry of Reconciliation.”
Here are five takeaways from the Nov. 8 morning session.
- As of this week, the PC(USA) has created 277 new worshipping communities through its 1001 New Worshipping Communities initiative, said Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency – prompting a burst of applause. Through those innovative, creative approaches to ministry, “we are seeing amazing signs of God’s work in and through the Presbyterian Church,” Valentine said.
- Presbyteries are being asked to consider whether the PC(USA) should add the Belhar Confession from South Africa to the denomination’s Book of Confessions. Don’t wait to discuss Belhar, advised Joyce Lieberman, director of constitutional interpretation for the Office of the General Assembly. The last time Belhar was up for consideration (the 2010 assembly approved adding it, but it failed to win the required two-thirds majority vote in the presbyteries), the mid councils reported they lacked sufficient time to study it. Belhar deals with issues of reconciliation and justice – and with people taking to the streets in places like Ferguson, Missouri, over concerns regarding racial justice. Presbyterians need to make time to talk about Belhar, Lieberman said.
- Reconciliation in presbyteries and synods needs to take into account local context – such as whether there are tensions about strained finances, churches leaving for other denominations, or anxiety about the PC(USA)’s decisions regarding same-gender marriage, said Sue Krummel, the denomination’s director of mid council relations. Talk about the national issues facing the church in the context of local realities.
- Think ecumenically about disaster response, said Beth Snyder with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. “Grab those Baptists, grab those Episcopalians. They’ll want to help too… We are Christ’s hands and feet.”
Rada, formerly an executive with the American Red Cross, stressed that mid councils, congregations and families need to create disaster plans before there’s trouble – collecting information about how they would communicate with one another, where they would go and what they would do in the event of an emergency. Waiting to do that until a flood, tornado, fire or other disaster slams in means you’ve waited too late, Rada said.