One hundred Presbyterians who will provide leadership for the upcoming 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh gathered here this week for three days of intensive training and to build the agendas for the record 20 Assembly Committees that will process the approximately 800 items of business before the biennial gathering of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“You are very special leadership at a very special time in the life of the church,” General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons told the group.
The leaders included committee moderators and vice-moderators, chosen by outgoing GA Moderator Cynthia Bolbach from among the commissioners elected by their presbyteries for this year’s Assembly.
Others present included committee assistants, parliamentarians and resource coordinators for each of the committees, plus Office of the General Assembly and General Assembly Mission Council staffers, who will provide support to the 688 voting commissioners and more than 200 advisory delegates who comprise the General Assembly.
The theme of this year’s Assembly ― “Walking, Running, Soaring in Hope” ― is based on Isaiah 40:31, which reads: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)
Rather than outlining major issues coming to the Assembly, Parsons shared his “seven gratitudes” for the June 30-July 7 gathering. “At the conclusion of the General Assembly, we want to be able to thank God,” Parsons said, that:
1. These hundreds of commissioners, advisory delegates and staff gave up a week of their summer to serve in the ministry of discernment for the whole PC(USA).
2. A climate of prayer brought the light and wind of the holy Spirit into the GA ― plans have been made to include small prayer groups throughout the Assembly.
3. Those present will have been transformed by new relationships with each other and with God ― “for a week go to your extrovert side,” Parsons urged.
4. The Assembly heard the concerns of congregations and the cries of people suffering injustice in this country and the world.
5. The good news of Jesus Christ was proclaimed and our discipleship was deepened ― Parsons noted that “at every Assembly, we’ve persuaded people not previously Presbyterian that they want to be involved with us.”
6. Parliamentary authority was manifested in the giving and receiving of respect and reconciliation ― "Robert’s Rules was literally created to keep people from shooting each other,” Parsons said. “The purpose [of them] is orderly conversation, a tool to help us get where we want to go.”
7. The Assembly committed itself to foster creative life in the emerging new PC(USA).
“A new church is coming out there, and the change is vast, not incremental,” Parsons said. “How can we part of what God’s doing out there ― to flow with the spirit and see where God’s taking us. That’s what the General Assembly is all about.”