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Kirkpatrick, Valentine praise renewal, collaboration PC(USA) poised for growth and greater unity, leaders tell Assembly

SAN JOSE, June 21, 2008 — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is in “deep need of renewal” and is on the verge of just such a renewal, outgoing General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick told 752 commissioners and 274 advisory delegates and corresponding members to the 218th General Assembly of the denomination during Saturday’s orientation.

“We are a church of incredible strength, with a constitution borne of the New Testament’s imperatives, gifted leaders and ecumenical commitment,” Kirkpatrick said. “God is not through with us and is renewing us for the 21st century — for mission, for evangelism, for diversity.”

Sharing the platform with Kirkpatrick was General Assembly Council Executive Director Linda Valentine, who praised him as a leader who “embodies the ecumenical call of the church in the world. I have never had a better colleague than Cliff,” said Valentine in homage to Kirkpatrick, who is concluding 12 years as stated clerk. His successor will be elected later in the Assembly.

“This is my last occasion to be with you in this role,”

Kirkpatrick said, “and it is also a time of significant anniversaries.” The PC(USA) is marking the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, the 50th anniversary of the union of the United Presbyterian Church and the United Presbyterian Church of North America and the 25th anniversary of the reunion of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and the Presbyterian Church in the United States to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“Atlanta (the site of the Presbyterian reunion in 1983) is a high point of my life as an ecumenical Presbyterian from the South,” Kirkpatrick said, “with its promise of greater Christian unity and a renewed commitment to overcome racism. I will forever remember pouring from two separate gatherings together into the streets of Atlanta as one in Christ for the sake of the world.”

Since then, Kirkpatrick said, “I’ve been blessed with a front-row seat — first as Worldwide Mission director and then as stated clerk — in places such as Congo and Guatemala and many others where the church meets suffering with Christ’s love.”

Valentine, who’s halfway through her first four-year term as executive director, called the opportunity to travel the church with Kirkpatrick and now carry on the work of the denomination with a new stated clerk “a tremendous privilege.”

She told of witnessing “a tremendous yearning in the church for good news, for stories that tell how churches are growing and responding as a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit.”

These growing churches “focus on others rather than themselves,” Valentine said, “and as lives are transformed, congregations are transformed.”

And that transformation is occurring in a number of new and exciting ways, Valentine said. She cited two events, last fall’s “Mission Challenge ‘07” and the more recent Dallas Mission Consultation.

At the Mission Challenge ’07, nearly 50 mission workers visited more than two-thirds of the denomination’s presbyteries and spoke to more than 56,000 Presbyterians about their service around the world. At the Dallas event, a host of mission initiator groups committed themselves to cooperative mission. These “are powerful and inspiring examples of new collaborative mission” throughout the church, she said.

“We have good news to tell,” Valentine said, “and we are all called to tell it.”