PORTLAND, Ore. – About 400 Presbyterians gathered around small tables for Riverside Conversations the morning of June 18 – taking an opportunity just before the 2016 General Assembly convened to share their ideas about common values in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and what opportunities those shared understandings may provide.
They discussed findings from a listening effort the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly conducted last fall. Those findings, compiled from responses by more than 3,400 Presbyterians to an online questionnaire, are summarized in the report “When We Gather at the Table,” which the assembly’s The Way Forward committee is discussing.
In small groups, the participants discussed shared values revealed by the listening effort, as well as areas of disagreement. Concerns expressed by some respondents included: that denominational identity is becoming less important (and not just for Presbyterians); that there’s more focus on local congregations and less on regional or national church structures; and that Presbyterians value Presbyterian polity and Reformed theology.
That does not mean, however, that all Presbyterians think alike. There are subsets within the denomination whose views do not align (including progressives, and evangelicals who are disappointed in the denomination but who have chosen not to leave).
The Riverside Conversations were optional for commissioners and advisory delegates at the assembly. Those who came discussed these questions:
- In what ways do, and could, the common values reflected in “When We Gather at the Table” serve as shared/common ground for the PC(USA)?
- To what extent do disagreements expressed in “When We Gather at the Table” reflect a healthy, robust, and inclusive organizational structure and culture?
The 2016 General Assembly convened June 18 with opening worship in which Presbyterians from around the country were invited to participate by livestream. Here’s more of what to expect and when to expect it at this assembly.