Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly

The 219th General Assembly is going on in Minneapolis.  I fear that to the average Presbyterian this will generate about as much interest as if we announced that there would be an extra session meeting next month.  People will figure that something important must be going on but it will probably not dominate the conversation around the dinner table.

Each General Assembly since I have been a minister, we see the same pitched battles at General Assembly.  We see groups advocating for more inclusiveness (translation – hoping for gays to be able to be ordained and for same sex marriage).  We see groups lamenting the ‘apostacy” of the Presbyterian Church and how we need to go back to the way things were.  This doesn’t mean that that is all that goes on at General Assembly.  But it does mean that this is all that tends to be reported in the press (and too often from the pulpits).

And in the meantime, someone will pull out the statistics to show how much the Presbyterian Church (USA) shrank in the past year and use it as “proof” of why we are too liberal or not liberal enough.

There are many issues of merit going on at General Assembly.  They will highlight some of the best preachers in the denomination.  They will discuss important foreign policy issues.  There is an important discussion on adding a new confession to our constitution.  There will be reports from missionaries and from our military chaplains.  There will be discussions on Christian Education and family issues.  But it will take a lot of work to get any of this news over the “noise” of what stance the denomination is taking regarding the ordination of gays and same sex marriages.

We live in such a pivotal age.  There is so much going on in our world that is important.  There are so many issues – spiritual and practical issues – that everyday Christians are struggling with.  Yet, we allow organizations that are about as opposed as possible to unite and dominating the news out of General Assembly to make it all about one basic issues.  We’ve got to stop allowing this to happen.

I know liberals love the issue.  It is a perfect example for them of how we can show grace in the world where so little grace is given.  I know conservatives love the issue.  They feel it is a cut and dried example of how to church is deviating from Biblical standards.  And the media loves a good fight.  And so it becomes “the issue” again and again.  And the church loses again and again.

Somehow we have to navigate out of this ‘perfect storm’ and get the word out that the Presbyterian Church (USA) focused on issues that have gravity in most Presbyterian homes and neighborhoods beyond this one issue.  And we can all make that happen by paying attention to GA and intentionally sharing stories from it that have nothing to do with ordination standards or marriage of homosexuals.

Let’s all make GA relevant again to more Presbyterians.

All the best and until next time,



4 thoughts on “Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly

  1. Tom,

    I am not of the opinion that conservatives love the gay ordaination issue. As a conservative and an elder (and just re-elected for Session by Grace PC Houston), I loathe the thought of having to vote on this issue every two years. Conservatives would rather wake up in the morning asking God how we can help the poor, sick, the unchurched, to know Jesus Christ. It appears to me that our more progressive (liberal) brothers and sisters have one goal: ordaination of practicing homosexuals.

    We welcome everyone who comes to Grace with the love of Jesus Christ. We are all sinners that need the mercy and forgiveness of our Lord – that love and mercy we cannot earn by works but only by the love of God.

    Yes several issues of importance are being discussed and you named the ones (especially the new moderator that wants to have gay ordination) that will overshadow all others. However, the amendment of Israel and Palestine tells me that the committee did not read or understand history. Or if they did, they choose not to ignore it. Divestment of Caterpillar is asinine. And our “political office” in D.C. is an affront to most Presbyterians in the pews.

    The way of our leadership in Louisville is not the way of the leadership in most of our local churches.

    In Christ,


    1. Michael:

      I am not saying you should stand or vote for anything you believe to be wrong. But what I am saying is that if asking God how we can help the poor, sick, the unchurched, to know Jesus Christ should be our priority (which I readily agree) let’s focus in on all the things that happen at GA that bring us closer to those goals (and there will be many such things that do so).

      But when the average person in the pew and outside of the church hears that the Presbyterians have gotten together, yet again, seemingly to just debate gay ordination and homosexual marriage we should not be surprised if our pews don’t fill. Regardless of how we stand on those issues, to focus on the negative and divisive issues discounts so much wonderful work being done for the Lord and for others that it is numbing. We have churches that are growing in the PC(USA). We have hungry people who are being fed. We have so much clothes being shared with those who have little or none it is incredible. We have people learning of Jesus Christ and his way. We have people trying exciting new things in the church. But what will the bulk of the reports be on coming out of GA? Not on the things that unify us but on the things that divide us.

      We have to find a way out of this storm and it isn’t going to be about one side “winning” over the other. There is no “win” in church conflict, either locally or nationally, when significant numbers of people are on opposing sides.

      Thank you for writing in.

      In Christ,

      Tom Paine

  2. Great post Tom . . . we need to focus on what it means to be the church . . . sharing Jesus Christ with the broken, the lost and the lonely who need the transfroming touch of the Master.

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