St. Louis

Hurricanes, wildfires, mass shootings — it seems as though the world has been ravaged by a seemingly endless string of disasters over the past few months.

“And what does God call us to do in these days?” Jan Edmiston, co-moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016), asked nearly 500 leaders of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) presbyteries and synods. Edmiston preached at the worship service that opened the Mid-Council Leaders Gathering in St. Louis October 13. 

Speaking in a similar time of crisis, the prophet Habakkuk — as expressed by Eugene Peterson in The Message — tells God’s people to “brace themselves.”

“Your enemies will prevail, my friends. It’s gonna get ugly before it gets better,” says God, according to Edmiston.

“And yet, we can do more than brace ourselves for the worst,” she continued. “God is calling us to something more.”

Like Habakkuk, we are called to “cast a vision” of a world where all people are empowered and where a woman can walk anywhere without fear of being assaulted.

“It’s a vision where all people of all colors, genders, faiths, political parties, and backgrounds are seen first as human beings created in the image of God,” Edmiston said. “Imagine bracing ourselves for a new and glorious time. Are we ready to shift the narrative?”

In the face of rapid changes, mid councils and various other church bodies are seeking to discern a fresh vision for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). As part of that vision, Edmiston urged mid-council leaders to help promote a New Poor People’s Campaign planned for May through June 2018.

She noted that next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign started by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and others to draw attention to economic injustice in the United States.

“The Poor People’s Campaign was not initiated by Dr. King,” Edmiston declared. “It was initiated by Jesus Christ in his first sermon” — when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has annointed me to bring good news to the poor.”

The campaign is about “pointing out how the structures of our government make it hard on the poor and keep people in systemic poverty.”

Edmiston ended her sermon with a challenge to mid-council leaders: “God’s people look to you for hope. Don’t just tell them to brace themselves. Tell God’s people that there is work to do.

“We do have a vision. We do have a power — of the one who has called us here,” Edmiston concluded. “This, my friends, is God’s year to act.”

Over the next four days, mid-council leaders will worship, learn, and share ideas about important issues in the life of the denomination. The annual gathering begins with concurrent meetings of three mid-council leader groups — the Moderators Conference, the Association of Mid Council Leaders, and the Association of Stated Clerks —and concludes with a joint gathering formerly known as the Fall Polity Conference.

—by Randy Hobson