The 175 years of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) world mission has been characterized by the planting of churches in other countries that eventually moved from dependence on Presbyterian missionaries to independence as full partners of the denomination.
On July 4, the 220th General Assembly celebrated milestones with three of those partners―the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG) is celebrating its 50th anniversary; the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba (PRCC) is celebrating its 45th anniversary; and the Presbyterian Church in Korea is celebrating 100 years of Presbyterian mission in that country.
“It has been 130 years since Presbyterian missionaries first came to Guatemala, the Rev. Miguel Estrada of the IENPG told the Assembly. “You have been a gracious and merciful partner to us.”
Earlier in the week, he told the Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations that the Guatemalan church “has some growing pains,” but the church continues to grow, “especially among (indigenous) Mayan groups.” The IENPG has added two new Mayan presbyteries in the last year. “More members means more work to do,” Estrada said, “but we’re very happy about doing it.”
The Rev. Francisco “Pancho” Marrero, general secretary of the PRCC, thanked the Assembly “on behalf of the Presbyterian family in Cuba for this recognition to our young church.”
Marrero had told the ecumenical and interfaith committee about some of the 122 years of Cuban Presbyterian history. “For much of our history we were part of the Synod of New Jersey, he noted, “until our independence in 1967.”
“We live in a particular situation in Cuba, one of strong secularism,” Marrero noted, referring to the post-revolutionary period under Fidel Castro and now his brother, Raul. “It has been a difficult period for us. We have faced discrimination but have remained faithful.”
Christians in Cuba have enjoyed far more religious freedom since a 1990 agreement with Fidel Castro, but the Cuban economy is still struggling to rebound from its collapse following the fall of the Soviet Union. “We are growing in spite of the difficulties,” Marrero said. “We want to be more inclusive, more ecumenical and more faithful to the gospel. We offer our gratitude, our support and our solidarity for the PC(USA).”
A delegation from the PC(USA) will travel to Seoul in September for the Presbyterian Church in Korea’s General Assembly and centennial celebration.
With no debate or dissent, the Assembly approved a comprehensive review of the World Council of Churches (WCC) conducted by the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. Though there was a time when any mention of the WCC would have prompted heated debate, at the end of the day these commissioners clearly seemed satisfied with the current state of the PC(USA)’s relationship with the 349 member-church organization.
In other business, the Assembly:
- Elected the Rev. Gradye Parsons, General Assembly stated clerk, and the Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz of Greater Atlanta Presbytery as PC(USA) delegates to the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea, in the fall of 2013.
- the election as PC(USA) delegates to the National Council of Churches General Assembly for the 2012-2015 term Parsons; the Rev. Robina Winbush, associate stated clerk for ecumenical relations;
- Elected as delegates to the National Council of Churches/Church World Service General Assembly for the 2012-2015 term Parsons; the Rev. Robina Winbush, associate stated clerk for ecumenical relations; an as-yet-unnamed representative from the General Assembly Mission Council; the Rev. Carmelo Mercado Jr.; Hikari Nakam; Tyler Orem; and the Rev. Paul Rader.
- Elected as PC(USA) participants in this fall’s eighth round of the Reformed-Catholic Dialogue the Rev. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the General Assembly Mission Council, and the Rev. Cynthia Campbell, retired president of McCormick Theological Seminary and interim pastor for Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville.