Looking for a sign
Parsons opens Polity Conference
October 18, 2013
“If God came into this room and said, ‘I will give you a sign for this grand faith enterprise you call the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’, wouldn’t you go for that sign?” asked the Rev. Gradye Parsons in his sermon opening the annual Polity Conference of the PC(USA), held Oct. 14-16.
More than 250 mid council leaders and denominational staff gathered to prepare for the 221st General Assembly — held here June 14-21, 2014 — and for their yearly pondering on leadership in the changing climate of the denomination.
Parsons told the biblical story of Ahaz, a king ruling during times of profound change in Israel and Judah. Even though the Lord offered Ahaz a sign, Ahaz said, “No, thank you.”
Denominational leaders would like a sign that we will get through this chapter of our lives to the other side, Parsons said.
“Wouldn’t you personally like a sign that getting out of bed in the morning and doing all the heavy lifting of this denomination will turn out all right?” he asked.
Parsons recalled the first-century dream of John on an island called Patmos. In his dream, it is the new Jerusalem. It is the new world. The old has passed away. No more budgets. No more committees. No more sermons.
“But you know what?” Parsons said. “God has not told our presbyteries, or you and me that it is done. And that is our sign.”
Looking ahead to the General Assembly, Parsons reminded attendees that it is the biannual covenant witness of our life together.
“You don’t need me to tell you what the big issues are. You know what they are. You need to be praying about this,” he said. “There is compassion everywhere you look. There is courage everywhere. There is connection.”
And that was sign enough for the mid council leaders to take up their work. They went on to face a packed agenda on issues likely to be before the 221st Assembly, adapting to changes in polity and demographics and hearing about good news from mid councils.
Erin Cox-Holmes is executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Donegal and a contributor to Presbyterian News Service.