Holy Moly! The Holy Spirit was moving through the Assembly Hall on Wednesday! We began the day with Ecumenical Worship. The preacher was The Rev. Najla Kassab, President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. She challenged all of us to seek unity “beyond the flesh”–looking beyond the human condition, beyond wealth or marginality, beyond a person’s physical appearance. She challenged us to seek reconciliation even to the point of pain. It seemed later in the day, the Assembly took her words to heart.
The afternoon plenary began with the Consent Agenda. Items on the Consent Agenda are deemed non-controversial and can be grouped together and voted on all at once. One overture in the consent agenda was 11-12 “On Affirming and Celebrating the Full Dignity and Humanity of People of All Gender Identities”. The opening paragraph is:
Standing in the conviction that all people are created in the image of God and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all people, the 223rd General Assembly (2018) affirms its commitment to the full welcome, acceptance, and inclusion of transgender people, people who identify as gender non-binary, and people of all gender identities within the full life of the church and the world. The assembly affirms the full dignity and the full humanity of transgender people, their full inclusion in all human rights, and their giftedness for service. The assembly affirms the church’s obligation to stand for the right of people of all gender identities to live free from discrimination, violence, and every form of injustice.
IN THE CONSENT AGENDA!!!!!!! IN THE CONSENT AGENDA!!!!!!! IN THE CONSENT AGENDA!!!!!!!
But wait! There’s more!!!! Later in the evening, Committee 10 Mission Coordination presented overture 10-03 A Resolution on Determining the Need for an LGBTQ+ Advocacy Committee in the PC(USA). As a part of the debate, the amendment was offered to amend LGBTQ+ to LGBTQIA+. Three things happened: one the amendment passed by a vote of 442/78 and then the overture passed by a vote of 412/106. And while that is amazing enough in itself, what happened in the course of the debate was the most heartfelt–a Young Adult Advisory Delegate (YAAD) came out on the floor of the Assembly as bi. Immediately he was surrounded by YAADs and Commissioners and the hall erupted with applause. It’s a good thing we gave our commissioners and YAAD Kleenex.
But wait! There’s more!!!!! The next “thanks be to God for the Spirit” moment was during the report by Committee 5–Mid Councils. Overture 05-09 Commissioners’ Resolution: On the Challenge of Being Black in the PC (USA) was presented for debate and approval. I learned that there are 441 African American congregations in the PCUSA; 71% of them are vacant. This overture asks the church to:
1. Reaffirm the Committee on Representation requirements for inclusiveness as stated in the constitution (G-3.0103), paying careful attention to issues of inclusiveness and fair practices by the pastor nominating committees and committees on preparation for ministry.
2. Advise mid councils to follow the lead of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus in raising awareness of the declining nature of black congregations throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the lack of pastoral leadership, both current and future, for those congregations.
3. Direct the Office of the Stated Clerk to respond to the presbyteries that the National Black Presbyterian Caucus has identified as not abiding by Committee on Representation Guidelines.
4. The Office of the General Assembly is to report within one year to presbyteries and synods concerning the progress on this resolution and a full report to the 224th General Assembly (2020).
5. Advise the Board of Pensions to analyze and report on the viability of African American Presbyterian Churches and the challenges of supporting installed pastoral leadership.
The overture was approved on a voice vote.
We are turning a corner in the PCUSA. Thanks be to God!