Monday, July 12, 2010
This year I spent a lot of time at the PCUSA Church Growth booth, connecting with Philip Lotspeitch and Ray Jones. We shared what was new in our presbytery and what was happening around the country ... nothing much new to share with you, though I am conversing with Philip about doing a national NCD conference here in Houston sometime next year.
Mission Insite had a booth in the Exhibit Hall and I spent one afternoon catching up with Peter and Chuck about the newest innovations being offered our congregations through this demographic tool. In case you aren't aware, our presbytery was one of the first to sign on with a contract to Mission Insite ... if you want demographic information on your community this is the place to go. All the information you need to sign on is on our website. The great news is that soon every congregation will be able to plot their congregation members on the interactive map and have a visual representation of where their members live. If you'd like to get your congregation plotted, just drop me an email and I'll get you started.
Mary Marcotte and I spent one afternoon being introduced to a new assessment program for congregations facing an indefinite future. It's called New Beginnings. At first blush, it seems very comprehensive, solid, and intentional. We both volunteered to be trained as consultants/assessors for other presbyteries as we discern its usefulness with our own presbytery and the congregations here as then imagine different possible scenarios for their future.
Having heard Phyllis Tickle speak to the middle governing body representatives, I was intrigued by the challenges virtual worlds were facing the church. In passing she mentioned a facebook friend of mine, Neal Locke, and his venture at starting a PCUSA congregation online in Second Life. First Presbyterian Church of Second Life has been meeting regularly for a little more than eight months now. I spent a couple of hours one afternoon picking Neal's brain about the challenges and realities of new church development in a virtual world. The avatars who worship on Sunday evenings all represent a Real Life human being, many of whom are meeting Jesus and developing life-changing relationships online through this ministry. Call or email me if you want to chat more about this ... it's absolutely fascinating!
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
This was also a GA that desired to be fluid and flexible. The new Form of Government, the Commission on Middle Governing Bodies, the study papers on Christian marriage and civil union all point to a GA that wants the denomination to be more nimble and adaptable to our rapidly changing context. I see these are positive actions which will enable us to become more missional and transformational in structural ways. There is still a lot of work ahead of us, but the actions of the GA give us a framework for doing God’s work together.
As I leave, I want to share a word of appreciation for the beauty of the churches in downtown Minneapolis! They are beautiful old buildings, of various stone, and their proximity to the Convention Center provided us with images of strength and grace, wherever we walked! To the Lutherans who welcomed us with banners and the other congregations who prayed for us as we met, we give thanks to God!
As for the congregation of Westminster Presbyterian Church, a block from the Convention Center, may they soon have a time of rest and renewal! We praise God for their warm and engaging hospitality! This church flung wide its doors to provide space for meetings, for meals, for prayer, and for renewal through daily offerings of music to entertain, and to soothe troubled souls. I was only able to attend one lunchtime concert -- a duo of Celtic harp and Irish whistles. What a treat for all who were there.
I didn't get to see the statue of Mary Tyler Moore (i.e., character Mary Richards of that old sit-com), but I can attest that Minneapolis IS a city where one feels like throwing a hat in the air, smiling and dancing a bit!
Mike Cole and our commissioners will close out this blog as the GA winds down today and adjourns tomorrow morning with worship. Let me remind all who read this that the presbytery is holding a special called meeting on Sunday, July 18 (3-6pm @ Pinecrest PC) to hear the report of the GA Commissioners, and to engage in a time of conversation together. I hope to see you there! (dkp)
Thursday, July 8, 2010
GA approves Both the Majority and Minority Reports on Civil Union and Christian Marriage – Mike Cole
The GA also voted by 52% to consider the above action its response to ALL overtures previously submitted to it on civil union and Christian marriage. The other overtures addressed a variety of issues related to guidance to churches and ministers on civil union. As a result of this vote, the PC(U.S.A.) definition of marriage remains unchanged.
GA commissioners are having floor discussion about marriage ....
...and civil unions.
Perfecting major and minor reports and then will determine if the perfected minor report shall become the main motion? If not, the perfected main motion (major report) will be acted upon.
The language (what is presently in the Book of Order) that would be replaced by the amendment reads: “Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”
A majority of presbyteries would have to vote in favor of this amendment in order for it to become a part of our constitution. If passed, this amendment would allow each ordaining body (session and presbytery) to establish ordination standards which might differ from standards established by other ordaining bodies. The amendment would not require ordination of homosexuals but it would allow an ordaining body to make that decision based on its own examination. It’ll be interesting to see how important our presbyteries consider it to be to have a uniform standard of ordination across the denomination.
Spirit of the living God
fall afresh on me;
Spirit of the living God
fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God
fall afresh on me.
May this be the prayer of each and every commissioner in this current debate, and as they vote.
There are also very special moments interspersed throughout the day while the assembly is in session. Short video presentations have highlighted the varieties of Presbyterian ministries that are making a difference throughout the world. We have marked the 50th celebration of the Presbyterian Peacemaking ministry, and we have prayed together and raised our voices to sing familiar and not-so-familiar hymns and songs.
It is now almost time for the lunch break -- a welcome time of rest and renewal before a long and perhaps contentious afternoon and evening.
15 minutes later..... seems like folks still remember how we "used to do it." I was writing the paragraph above when I was summoned, along with 6 other stated clerks, to be tellers to count paper ballots -- as a solution to the technology glitch! While we waited for our instructions backstage, the voting mechanism was restored. So, our little group of clerks is now on stand-by as the back-up plan for the next time this happens! (dkp)
This morning, the GA approved by 84% TO 15% a recommendation to create a 21 person Commission for Middle Governing Bodies, which will consult will "consult with sessions, presbyteries, synods, and the wider church on the mission and function of middle governing bodies. The commission will develop models that reflect the roles of middle governing bodies in our polity and the changing context of our witness in the United States and their relationships with other governing bodies. The commission will prepare a report to the 220th General Assembly (2012) of its findings and any recommended Book of Order changes. The commission will implement, within the powers granted it, any decisions forwarded from the 219th General Assembly (2010) and approved by presbyteries regarding the form and function of middle governing bodies with a report to the 220th General Assembly (2012). In response to actions of the 219th General Assembly (2010), or upon request of the presbytery and synod by 2/3 vote, the commission is authorized to act as the General Assembly according to organize new synods and to divide, unite, or otherwise combine synods or portions of synods previously existing; or to approve the organization, division, uniting, or combining of presbyteries or portions of presbyteries by synods. Finally, The commission will supervise the Special Administrative Review Committee on Puerto Rico and act on any recommendations they may make within the powers given to the commission.
This has the potential of allowing us to be more flexible and nimble with regard to structural matters and the development of new and creative models for the mission and vision of our middle governing bodies.
If you want to see how the business will be handled the rest of the week, go to http://oga.pcusa.org/ga219. Find the link to PC-Biz. Follow directions to register, then open Committees, Bills and Overtures, and click on 02-05, "Docket and Minutes."
Blessings this day.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The caveat, "unless it is moved up," refers to the fact that Moderator Bolbach possesses a command of the podium that we have not seen in many years! Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons complimented her before the dinner recess by telling the body that she is "...the most efficient moderator he has ever known!" May it be so as we enter this evening's session.
Holy Spirit, descend on us, we pray.
The GA also sent the Belhar Confession to the presbyteries for a vote on including it in our Book of Confessions. This will require a favorable vote of 2/3 of all presbyteries. It was interesting to note that at present we do not have a single confession from the southern hemisphere, in spite of the fact that this is the are where the Christian church is growing fastest.
Commissioners, presbytery and synod staff, and GA "junkies" from our presbytery gathered last night at a local restaurant for a dutch-treat appetizer supper and to catch up with each other. Since everyone has been assigned to different committees, our contingent has not had much opportunity to see each other since last Saturday. It was good to relax together and to hear what about each committee's work. Today the General Assembly returns to plenary sessions -- the gathering of the whole -- to begin to sort through committee recommendations. This morning is set aside for reading all of those recommendations, and then after lunch back to work in when the plenary reconvenes.
Please continue to keep all commissioners, but especially ours, in your prayers. As a reminder, they are: Cassandra Dahnke, Doug Gleditsch, Greg Han, Shelley Hernandez, Mary Mahlmann, Marie Mickey, Steve Newton, Ginny Raska, Gary Johnson. Advisory Delegates from New Covenant are Ross Freeman, Amy Klinkovsky and Shane Webb.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The Committee on Civil Union and Marriage is forwarding to the GA Plenary the endorsement of 12-04 and similar overtures changing the language in the Book of Order and Directory for Worship in reference to marriage as between two people instead of between a man and a woman. The committee added language that clarifies that ministers and Commissioned Lay pastors have the right to refuse to perform any marriage, even those sanctioned by the civil court and that sessions may prohibit any marriage on its property. The vote was about 2/3 in favor. Mike Cole
At 2:45 pm this afternoon, Church Orders and Ministry approved an overture submitted by the Presbytery of Western Reserve to strike the current text of the Book of Order, Chapter 6 (6.0106b), and insert new text. The approved overture follows; it will be recommended for approval by the whole of General Assembly. The vote of the committee was: (36)Yes; (16)No; (1) Abstention.
Shall G-6.0106b be amended by striking the current text and inserting new text in its place: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]
Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”
Late this morning, the Committee on Civil Unions and Marriage voted to send New Covenant's overture (#12-01) to the General Assembly with the recommendation not to approve. Two similar overtures received the same action. The Rev. Dr. Jim Davis (Pastor, FPC Kingwood) spoke eloquently before the committee in advocacy for our overture.
I am sitting in the Church Orders and Ministry Committee and on the floor is a motion to adopt an overture, on which a substitute motion was made, to which an amendment was made, to which an amendment to the amendment was made. Slowly but surely they will vote in this order: on the amendment to the amendment; on the amendment; on the amended substitute motion; on whether the (amended/amended) substitute motion shall become the main motion -- and then either on the substitute motion as the main motion, or back to the original motion: to approve the overture. Whew! I am exhausted!
Oh, and I forgot, all of the motions to call the question along the way ...... (dkp)
Some decisions already made are as follows:
1) to recommend adoption of the report of the special committee on Civil Union and Marriage; 2) to recommend denouncing Caterpillar for actions in the Middle East; 3) to recommend approval of recommendations from special committee on the Heidelberg Catechism, and to recommend including the Belhar Confession in the Book of Confessions; 4) to recommend the role of certified Christian educators be affirmed; 5) to recommend a negative vote on "Christians and Jews" paper; 5) to recommend the establishment of a Middle Governing Body Commission, which would be authorized to act on the requests of presbyteries and synods "to divide, unite or otherwise combine" them during the next two years. If created by the General Assembly, this 21 member commission will be authorized to act as the General Assembly during the period between this assembly and the next; 6) to recommend the establishment of financial support for a coastal wetlands education center in south Louisiana ($111,700); 7) to recommend that GA bring to the attention of the church significant trends and developments in human rights, particularly in the areas of trafficking, detention of immigrants, and the continuing problem of torture.
More to follow at the end of this day. (dkp)
Monday, July 5, 2010
I was also fortunate to be selected as one of about 25-30 presenters to the Middle East Committee. There were 160 people signed up to speak for 90 minutes of open hearing. I was able to make the primary points I intended - the MESC report erodes rather than enhances our relationship with Jews and the report is unfair, unbalanced and biased. As Presbyterians, many of whom have little history with the Presbyterian church, we expect study reports to be balanced and fair. This report and its conclusions are flawed. Therefore, the recommendations, some of which I could support, are flawed and do not rise to the level of objectivity I have come to expect from the PCUSA. Mike Cole
I am serving as a Theological Student Advisory Delegate on the Civil Unions and Christian Marriage Committee. The stories on both sides of the issue are incredibly heart- and gut-wrenching. Our moderator, Rick Nutt, pointed out at the end of our time together yesterday that he had been staring at a cross on the wall in the back of the room that was formed by the shadow of our WiFi intranet hardware. This was not a staged photo. Some might say it’s merely a coincidence, I choose to believe it is radical proof of the presence of God even in (and, perhaps, especially in) the midst of heated disagreement.
In conversation with members of the Office of Vocations, I am encouraged that our presbytery WILL have a voice in this evaluation and that many of the concerns we have identified within our Committee on Ministry are already on the table for discussion in Louisville. There was agreement among us in this conversation that the current CALL Process was established in a different time -- e.g., when most pastoral positions were full-time; when position descriptions were fairly standardized; and when churches had money! New times require new ways of meeting the pastoral, preaching and leadership needs of the denomination's churches. And so, the work begins! As for the time requirement, I am assured that as insights are voiced and solutions proposed, these will be shared in a timely fashion, and will not be held until a final report is prepared and circulated.
Gratitude is expressed to the session of FPC Pasadena for bringing their concerns to the presbytery in a positive and proactive way, by way of this overture to the General Assembly. (dkp)
Former PCUSA moderator, Syngman Rhee, came by the proceedings this morning with the Vice Moderator of the Korean Presbyterian Church (yes, in Korea), who brought greetings and prayed for our efforts. Rev. Rhee had received an award from The Presbyterian Outlook at a luncheon on Saturday. He has been a minister for 50 years, and celebrates his 50th wedding anniversary! What a witness he has been ...
If you aren't a current subscriber to the Outlook, they are offering a 40% off cover price during the assembly. Come visit the booth in the display area!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
I will be advocating not to adopt the MESC report and for the creation of a commission for middle governing bodies and will be speaking early in the hearings. Pray for the commissioners in all the committees as they listen to speakers who are all passionate about their opinions. Mike Cole
The Committee on Local Arrangements hosted a picnic and fireworks display on Nicollet Island tonight. July 4 comes to a close in Minneapolis, MN. Tomorrow will be a day filled with meetings for everyone. Committees get down to business, but not until we worship together.
Gracious God, please shed your grace on us this week as we discern YOUR future for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
We started committee meetings today and we (committee 18) had a really good time and got to know each other. Tomorrow starts the real work of attending to the overtures that have been sent to us. I pray God will attend to all of us and we can get the work of his church done "decently and in order" as Presbyterians should!
Keep us all in your prayers.
We also honored all military chaplains and recognized their outstanding service to our nation and our God. This was an especially moving moment as we gave the military personnel a standing ovation on our national Independence Day.
Bruce Reyes-Chow preached a dynamic sermon challenging the church to be prepared for the movement of the Holy Spirit in shaking the mountains of tradition that we have always considered permanent and immovable. Bruce also challenged the worshipers to show the world (and the younger generations) that we care enough to include them and those things which they count as important. It was the start of a great day.
Outgoing Moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow, and Incoming Moderator, Cindy Bolbach:
Out of 6 candidates for Moderator and 6 for Vice Moderator, Cindy was the only elder! She is a member of FPC, Arlington, VA, and has served in many capacities in National Capital Presbytery. She is an attorney who announced she would move to part-time work in order to serve the denomination. As we give thanks for the Bruce's leadership these past two years, let us keep Cindy in our prayers as she begins her work tomorrow.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
Dear God, thank you for the blessing of the freely shared gifts of others that bring such joy to our lives. Tonight we are especially grateful for the warm and gracious hospitality being showered upon us by the good people of Twin Cities. May they rest well this night. Amen.
Dear God, shower your grace, mercy and discernment upon those who gather in your name this week. We are only a small part of your large family here on earth, but pray for big hearts and open minds as we conduct the business of our denomination. May all that we do glorify your name. Amen.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Anyone is invited to comment and ask questions ... let the conversation begin ...