Did love prevail in Portland?

When I returned home from serving as a commissioner to the 222nd General Assembly, I went straight to church. My red-eye flight arrived in Orlando on Sunday morning at 6 a.m., and I fortified myself with a large black coffee from Starbucks and went back to work.

Although I wasn’t preaching, I participated in worship as the church received 13 new members in each of our services. As I stood at the door, shaking hands with my parishioners, with the steamy Florida heat forcing it’s way into the narthex, Portland and the General Assembly both seemed like a world away.

It was a normal week this week. We had a staff meeting. I officiated at a funeral. I had visits to make, as usual. The bulletins had to be completed. We got the carpets in the Fellowship Hall cleaned.

I’ve had occasion this week to reflect on how the realities of my day-to-day ministry seem so disconnected from the big ideas and connectional work that I was part of as a commissioner to the General Assembly.

Not to mention, it’s kind of surreal to read the reactions to that work by critics and pundits, who weren’t there, and who seem to have an axe to grind against the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for one reason or another.

Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to convey to everyone at home just how exciting and challenging it was to be at the General Assembly. I wanted to do it justice, to share the work we did, to talk about the historic elections of our co-moderators and of our stated clerk.

I’m not sure if I succeeded, but I hope I was able to give my church members a glimpse of what it means to know we are connected to thousands of other Presbyterians from all over the world.

My prayer before I left for the General Assembly was that love would prevail in Portland. I prayed that our denomination wouldn’t respond to the challenges before us by contracting and becoming more exclusive. I believe my prayer was answered, and then some.

We made history as an assembly – with historic elections, reconciling resolutions and some significant changes to our Book of Worship, particularly in the way we invite people to the Lord’s Table. I was proud to be a part of it and will remember my week in Portland well.

To all those whose reflections differ from mine, or to those who feel that the General Assembly went too far in it’s decision-making, or not far enough… To all those who believe the best days of the PC(USA) are behind us… I simply urge you to read the words of our new Stated Clerk, J. Herbert Nelson, who said:

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is not dead… it’s reforming.” I choose to believe those words. I will do my best to live into the hope contained within them. Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda.

Leon BloderLeon Bloder is a preacher, a poet, a would-be writer, a husband, a father, a son, a dreamer, a sinner, a pastor, a fellow-traveler and a failed artist. He is talentless, but well-connected.  He stumbles after Jesus, but hopes beyond hope that he is stumbling in the right direction.  Leon has been married to Merideth for 22 years, is the father of three awesome boys, and serves in ministry at the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis in Eustis, Florida.