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Observing General Assembly

Guest commentary by Wanda B. Olive 

As a teaching elder of a small church in Madison County, Kentucky, it was my great pleasure to attend the 222nd General Assembly as an observer for Transylvania Presbytery. I attended the 220th GA in Pittsburgh to participate in the face-to-face event sponsored by Church Leadership Connection. I was fascinated by all of the committee meetings. I was enthralled and elated by opening worship. I could not believe how many Presbyterians were participating in the process. It was my first General Assembly experience, and I was hooked.

Unable to attend the last GA in Detroit, GA222 was in my sight. I knew that the distance from Kentucky to Portland, Oregon, was going to be an issue, but I also knew that I had to be among the participants of this General Assembly. I wondered how commissioners were chosen to attend GA from our presbytery. So I researched the application process that other presbyteries used for choosing their commissioners. I searched online and discovered that some presbyteries have an application process.

Our presbytery soon came up with an application process and asked interested participants to apply. As a result of the application process, I was chosen as one of two alternate teaching elders to attend this GA in Portland. As alternates, we will be commissioners to the 223rd General Assembly. The two of us were not given specific instructions for our participation in GA. However, we conferred and chose different committees to report on for the presbytery.

I have a heart for social justice, so I wanted to report back to Transylvania Presbytery all the actions taken by committee 11: Social Justice. I wondered why there were not action items on systemic racism. I wondered why our church was still in the talking, not action mode. I wondered what would happen in the committee that I would attend.

In Committee 11, I witnessed thoughtful people expressing their understanding of the issues brought before them. I witnessed those who would like to tweak the hard work that these committees have done over the past two years. I witnessed frustration and deliberation, hard work and long days. I witnessed prayerful beginnings to the day (8:30 a.m. Bible study), and a hymn and a prayer at the end of the meeting during which I was holding the hand of a Chinese American woman on my left and a Native American woman on my right.

I am ever so grateful to participate as an observer to this General Assembly. Thanks be to God for the work and witness of this assembly!

IMG_0973Wanda B. Olive is an ordained teaching elder in Transylvania Presbytery. She serves as stated supply pastor at White’s Memorial Presbyterian Church in Berea, Kentucky.