Even as Detroit filed yesterday for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) is proceeding with confidence with preparations for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s biennial legislative gathering to be held June 14–21 in Detroit.
The Cobo Center ― where the assembly will meet ― is not owned by the city and is therefore not a part of the bankruptcy filing.
In the wake of today’s news reports, the Reverend Thomas Hay, associate for Assembly Operations for the OGA, affirmed his belief in the host city. “I believe that when the assembly chose Detroit in 2008, the Spirit was guiding us toward a unique opportunity to witness and to be witnessed to,” said Hay. “By our presence in Detroit we stand with people who are creatively working to bring forth a new city in a difficult time and can learn from their energy and imagination. By our presence in Detroit we refuse to give up on a people and a city that refuses to give up on itself.”
Hay added that the Cobo Center’s administration is taking “extraordinary measures to ensure that every convention that comes to the city will find a safe place of hospitality.”
Vincent Thomas, moderator of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) ― who was born and raised in Detroit, as well as baptized, confirmed, and ordained as a ruling elder in churches that are a part of the Presbytery of Detroit ― expressed his commitment to making the assembly a positive experience for all who attend.
“In this situation, I am reminded of comments made by Rick Ufford-Chase [Moderator of the 216th General Assembly (2004)], during a presentation at my family’s church a couple of years ago,” said Thomas. “He said that we, as Presbyterians, have to be willing to go outside of our comfort zone in order to engage in ministry. He said this in the context of urging affluent Americans to visit locations in the developing world where people live in poverty, and that would seem strange and even frightening to us. Perhaps all of the ’out-of-our-comfort-zone‘ places where we need to be willing to go in order to be in ministry aren't in the developing world. Perhaps some of them are right here in the U.S.”
The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, similarly affirmed the church’s solidarity with the poor in the light of the bankruptcy’s potential impact on Detroit’s most vulnerable residents.
“We hope that the bankruptcy will be carried through with justice, and not create greater suffering on families that are already struggling,” Parsons said.
Rev. Hay added that bringing the assembly to Detroit―and with it, much-needed revenue for the city―will provide a source of income for those who are working to support their families, as well as opportunities to worship and pray with the city’s multicultural congregations, who seek to be a steadfast witness to Jesus Christ.
In the face of Detroit’s many challenges, the OGA remains optimistic.
“I continue to be excited about Detroit,” said Hay. “Detroit Presbytery’s Committee on Local Arrangements has been outstanding. And I think that Detroit has something important to say to us.”