One year later

Louisville, Ky. (Office of the General Assembly) I am now a little more than halfway through my term as Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). What have I learned over this past year?

First, I had no idea what being Moderator meant once the assembly adjourned. But the mechanics and the process kicked in. I accepted invitations and started traveling around the denomination. Here’s what I’ve seen:

    * Wonderful ministries – like the House of Manna in Pittsburgh and the Hands of Christ in Charleston, S.C. – that show what it is to proclaim the gospel authentically.

    * Commissioners to presbytery meetings who discuss together, struggle together and pray together as they seek to discern what God’s will is for their presbytery and for our denomination.

    * Congregations across the country that come together to worship God, each in its individual style, but also uniquely Presbyterian.

    * Joy and grief over the adoption of a new ordination standard and a new Form of Government.

    * Excitement and anxiety about what the future holds for the PC(USA).

And here’s the most important thing I’ve seen: Presbyterians across all spectrums – theological, geographical, age, ethnicity – Presbyterians confronting difficult, emotional issues with respect and trust for one another.

Given the past month in Washington, D.C., I think we’re way ahead of the federal government on how to deal with difficult problems. And that gives me hope – if not for Washington, at least for the PC(USA).

I know we are not of one mind on ordination standards or whether the new Form of Government is a good thing.

But what I’ve learned over the past year is this: Even if we are not of one mind on particular issues, we value what it means to be the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We cherish our Reformed heritage and the way it compels us to preach truth to power. More than anything, we want to bring the good news of the gospel to a world that is sorely in need of it.

Much about our institutional structure will change over the next few years. But what I’ve learned is that despite change, the core of who – and whose – we are abides: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).