Energy, intelligence, imagination, and love: Co-moderators’ report opens GA224 by calling the church to confession

Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly

On June 19 at the opening plenary of the 224th General Assembly, the co-moderators of the 223rd General Assembly, Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and Cindy Kohlmann, offered their report on their term of service over the last two years.

Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly

Cintrón-Olivieri started the report by welcoming everyone to the 224th General Assembly, acknowledging that it is a historic General Assembly, gathered for the first time digitally, which “created the opportunity for all of us to be gathered in one place virtually even as we are disbursed around the world.” She stated, “It can be overwhelming but we are grateful to God for being able to use technology in this way.” She went on to acknowledge that the day they assembly opened, June 19, is Junteenth, the day set aside to commemorate the announcement of the emancipation of enslaved people. She reminded all gathered, “It is not how far we’ve come, but how much work we have yet to do.”

The next part of their report was via a pre-recorded video (available here and below) that summarized their written report. It was framed around the ordination question (W-4.0404h) from the Book of Order: “Will you pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?”

Kohlmann reflected first on prayer stating: “The prayers of the church through this time of service have been tangible and without ceasing. We have known that you have been praying for us; we have literally felt the spirit of prayer lift us up when we were too tired to stand, give us words when our hearts and minds were numb, and shelter us when we were ill or in need of rest. Thank you.”

Cintrón-Olivieri then reflected on service stating: “For us, it was important to be accessible and approachable, to be present as much as possible with the larger church, and to continue the work of calling the body of Christ to be as diverse as the world around us, and as welcoming as God is, who created that world.”

Kohlmann moved to the energy reference in the ordination question reflecting on the need for energy and enthusiasm that lead to unity of spirit and bonds of peace stating, “From the moment that we were elected on June 16, 2018, it was clear that energy would be in high demand during this time of service.”

Cintrón-Olivieri offered a reflection on intelligence saying, “As a denomination, we value intelligence and learning, deep thinking and robust debating. These qualities have been on display everywhere we have gone, from conferences that invite attendees to go more deeply into their faith and understanding, to presbyteries where important issues are discussed with both passion and acuity.”

Cindy Kohlmann, co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly

Kohlmann then spoke about imagination stating, “Including ‘imagination’ in our ordination vows is such a gift to us in the PC(USA). We are reminded in this vow that we are created in the image of a God who is first known to us as the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth. Talk about imagination! We are challenged in this vow to dream and to seek visions that may seem beyond what is possible or even practical, but the Spirit can make even dry bones live. We are encouraged in this vow to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, who taught by telling stories, who fed thousands with a handful, and who walked on water.”

Cintrón-Olivieri and Kohlmann closed the reflection on the ordination question by focusing on love in English and Spanish. In each language they said, “The PC(USA) has loved us into our ministry as CoMods. We have been embraced, respected, cared for, loved. And we have loved you right back, church, with every ounce of our being. We have walked and accompanied you these two years, and even as COVID-19 hit, we have looked for ways to keep showing that love, encouraging us all as the PC(USA) to love God and neighbor in concrete, tangible ways.”

They closed their report by reflecting on the current context in the United States and issuing a call to confession stating, “For love is only complete when it is accompanied by confession, by recognizing hurt and trauma that have been caused, and by continuing to be committed to engage in the daily task of being changed, transformed, re-formed, so that love can flow more freely and deeply. Therefore …

Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly

out of our deep love for the church, we call on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to confess our continued complicity in the structures that perpetuate racial injustice, an economic system that requires a large percentage of the population to live in poverty so that a few may prosper, and the timidity of faith that prefers to measure by numbers of members instead of depth of impact.

“Out of our deep love for the people we have met along the way, and for the people we didn’t have the opportunity to meet but we are bound to in this body of Christ, we call on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to confess that we have not had the stamina to back up all our words, reports, surveys and studies with the action that all those words were meant to lead us to.

“Out of our deep love for Jesus, who showed us the true meaning of love in word and deed, we call the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to cast a wider net, to listen to the ‘voices of peoples long silenced’ in the context of our denomination and the world, and to make space at the communion table for those who are still watching from afar the deliberations of a denomination that is supposed to be their own.

Out of our deep love for this world and all who live in it, we call on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to work for the transformation of this country as a part of this world, so that the kin-dom of God may be fully established here on earth… Dream on, hope on, rise up. Amen.”