Sporting a “Fred Talks” T-shirt Friday in honor of the daily broadcast efforts of host Fred Tangeman, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II praised just about everyone he could think of — especially commissioners and advisory delegates — for preparing, enabling and participating in the denomination’s first-ever hybrid General Assembly.
“It comes down to how willing we are to adapt to a world that is not going to stop and wait for us,” said Nelson, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), during GA Live on Friday, the penultimate day of the 225th General Assembly. “We’ve had to figure it out as we go along. That’s the challenge of the 21st century church.”
Listen to the half-hour conversation between Nelson and Tangeman, a reporter in the Office of the General Assembly, by going here.
Nelson identified Thursday’s Hands & Feet discussion on efforts to reform the cash bail system, reported on and available for viewing here, as one of his assembly highlights. “We have seen presbyteries get engaged in this particular activity across the country,” Nelson said. “It’s unethical and antichristian to lock people up so a city can extend its budget. There’s something wrong with that.”
“This is really the role of Christendom. We have to read Jesus in a very different way,” Nelson said. “Jesus didn’t necessarily pick the places he would go to and engage … I’ve heard conversations about ‘we should be doing other things.’ What does it mean to go and just stay there until we eradicate the real problems we are dealing with? … How do we deal with the contextual reality of our time rather than spend time on debating whether this is our true call?”
“Also, it’s been the coming together of commissioners,” Nelson added to his list of favorite GA experiences. “They are not in places they are used to, but they have continually participated in this process. Our Co-Moderators have driven us through that as well.”
A number of supporting ministries, including the people reporting on the assembly, have been “an integral part of this whole work,” Nelson said. “We could not do all that in this office. It takes a lot of people to make that happen. This is the beauty of being the church. People are using their abilities to the glory of God.”
Considering the assembly theme, “From Lament to Hope,” Tangeman wondered about the latter. “Do you have a message of hope for people feeling fatigued but know how important the work is?” Tangeman asked Nelson.
“We do this work because of our love for Jesus Christ,” Nelson said. “We gather here in what I call ‘The Huddle.’ How do we become viable where we are? How do we speak to the world?” New ways of meeting and of holding worship services together in churches and worshiping communities across the country “will carry us to places where we may not want to go,” but recall Jesus’ Great Commission, Nelson said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … and remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
“What more do we need?” Nelson asked. “I am proud of the Presbyterian Church for being that kind of space. We have taken this virtual space and walked with it. It’s all because of the Lord’s help.”
The final broadcast of GA Live is set for 10 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturday. Tangeman’s scheduled guests are the Co-Moderators of the 225th General Assembly, the Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis and the Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace. You can view their conversation here.