Some people see it as a huge family reunion. And for many people, it is an occasion to gather with friends unseen for a long time, or meet new kin in Christ. Really, it’s closer to Congress—it’s our national government. This coming weekend, the 223rd General Assembly of our Presbyterian Church (USA) will begin meeting in St. Louis.
Commissioners and delegates will represent presbyteries, seminaries and other church partners from all around our nation and world. There is worship. There are special dinners and speakers. There are recognitions and celebrations. There are social gatherings and special events. And of course, there are many meetings to discuss overtures.
Here’s how business works, in brief. Congregations, like ours, bring overtures for approval by presbytery. When passed, those overtures get sent to General Assembly (GA) for consideration. GA leaders assign all overtures to various committees related to the topic area. Those committees meet for the first few days, and either recommend action to the GA plenary or not. GA then discusses and votes on all matters brought before the body, as a whole. It is representative democracy, rooted in people and perspectives of local churches.
It is a clear example of how God calls us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It seems a bit countercultural; at least it’s challenging in a time when society seems far more inclined toward individuation, niche audiences, polarization in so many ways. Of course, no one will agree with all perspectives expressed and actions passed. I believe it is a prime opportunity for witness to God’s grace in our world.
Let me be clear. There will be valuable reflection on issues of our day. But few lawmakers wait breathlessly to hear statements the PC(USA) will make. We face many changes in organizational operation of our denomination. But clearly, internal decisions matter little unless they lead to external action in real service to others. Still, we have a prime opportunity for witness.
When niche marketing and polarizing positions seem to reduce people and relationships to an isolated narrow definition of life, we can demonstrate more holistic human relations and divine purpose. Real people like you and me are far more nuanced, complicated, and blessed with goodness beyond any particular vote, perspective, job, or perspective.
Beautiful humans will gather in St. Louis, with all their foibles and faults, as well as their many passions, insights, imaginative possibilities … all in the creative and loving image of God. And the Spirit will move. And beyond any one person’s ideas or group’s agenda, in life together, grace will arise, holy purposes will inspire. And it will be a witness of unity in the power of holy love for our fractured and hurting world.
You can follow updates from the GA 223 at this link: https://ga-pcusa.org/
And a report on our church’s Vision 2020 can be found here: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/final-day-pcusa-2020-vision-team-meeting-address-reports-final-form/
Thanks be to God.