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 http://ga219.pcusa.org/ 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,