Two days before heading to his own church’s national convention, the Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, addressed an enthusiastic crowd at a dinner sponsored by More Light Presbyterians at the 220th General Assembly.
The Rev. Neal D. Presa, pastor of Middlesex (N.J.) Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth Presbytery, was elected moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Saturday evening (June 30) on the fourth ballot. It was the second consecutive Assembly that took four ballots to elect its moderator.
Presa led by double digits on all four ballots, finally attaining a 52 percent majority (338 votes) on the final ballot. The Rev. Sue Krummel finished second with 158 votes (24 percent), the Rev. Robert Austell, Jr., third with 144 votes (22 percent) and the Rev. Randy Branson fourth with 13 votes (2 percent).
“Here it is, the opening day of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 220th General Assembly (2012), and we have come to this gathering from north, south, east and west to share stories,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the General Assembly Mission Council. Valentine and the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, proceeded to share stories from across the church during one of the Riverside Conversations on Saturday morning, June 30.
The Presbyterian missionaries who started schools for the Native American tribes in Alaska in the late 1800s had the best of intentions. They would educate the children – teaching them about the American language, culture and faith. Over time, however, those good intentions led to a culture of oppression. As part of the Riverside Conversation on Equipping the Church for Ministry with God’s Diverse Family, the Rev. Curt Karns, executive presbyter of Yukon Presbytery, described the reconciliation work that has recently begun between the church and community of Gambell, an Alaskan town just 36 miles from Siberia.
Trumpets sounded, flutes trilled, timpani pounded and organ filled the hall. Even cowbell could be heard amongst the joyful noise. Over 4000 people from north, south, east, and west streamed into the hall. After preludes by a mass choir, a jazz band, and various instruments, ruling elder Cindy Bolbach, Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) called the220th General Assembly to order and then immediately to worship. “Our first act as the assembly is to worship God together. It is in worship that, above all else, we come together to be who God calls us to be… that particular body of Jesus Christ known as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”
The Rev. Laura Mendenhall is the recipient of the 2012 Ernest Trice Thompson Award. She received the award on Saturday at the Presbyterian Outlook luncheon that was held as part of the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Mendenhall has served as Christian educator, pastor and, most recently, senior philanthropy advisor for the Texas Presbyterian Foundation. She may be most well known for her tenure as President of Columbia Theological Seminary.
“Eternal God, you call us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden through perils unknown,” prayed Cindy Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), at the close of opening worship on June 30. With these words, she sent the commissioners and advisory delegates to the opening plenary session of the 220th GA. In keeping with historic tradition, piper William C. Fife led them to their seats.
A fresh approach to starting and supporting new churches was presented to about 200 commissioners and visitors in the Riverside Conversation on the Nature of the Church here June 30.
The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, chair of the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century Committee, and the Rev. Stephanie Sorge Wing compared the PC(USA)’s present moment with Pentecost. “What if they [the disciples] had stayed in that small room?” Wing asked. “What if they had not gone out into the streets? Will we as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leave the comfort of our sanctuaries and embrace the diversity that is out there and begin planting new congregations and discern how the Spirit is calling us into the world?”
During a June 30 Riverside Conversation at the 220th General Assembly, Members of the Middle East Monitoring Group (MEMG) shared their study guide for the Kairos Palestine Document, encouraging people to take it to their congregations as a way to begin to understand the Israel-Palestine issues.
“This study guide can't be comprehensive,” said the Rev. J.C. Austin, MEMG member. “We need to recognize our inherit subjectivity in how we approach [the Kairos Palestine Document].”
Renewing the “Riverside Conversations” theme struck two years ago at the 219th General Assembly in Minneapolis, attendees at this year’s Assembly talked about issues Saturday at the confluence of three rivers – the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.
The General Assembly Committee to Review Biennial Assemblies used G-3.0501 from the Book of Order as its guidepost, according to the Rev. David van Dyke of St. Paul, Minn., a commissioner to the General Assembly in 2004 that recommended the move from annual to biennial assemblies: “The General Assembly constitutes the bond of union, community and mission among all its congregations and councils, to the end that the whole church becomes a community of faith, hope, love and witness.”