Friday, September 19, 2008

Pastoral Letter

Bruce, Gradye, and Linda have written a pastoral letter to the PCUSA. In particular, it responds to the various natural disasters we all have faced during the last several weeks and months. You can read it on Bruce's Moderator Blog.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Poll Results -- What Language I Should Learn Next (according to you)

I wanted to write a quick note about the results of the last poll that I had posted regarding what language you fine people thought that I should study next. I thought that the results were rather interesting, with 60% of you voting for me to study Spanish. I should say that I have studied Spanish before, but I could certainly use a refresher course or two.

Really, I had imagined that more of you would have voted for me to study Korean, but that only received one vote! I am increasingly interested in learning Korean -- especially since there are so many Presbyterian brothers and sisters who speak Korean that I would like to be able to communicate with more easily at presbytery meetings and the like. Although, I would like to brush up on my Spanish for the same reason...

I have not yet ordered the materials to begin my study, but I hope to be able to do that before the end of this year. At this point, I am feeling especially drawn to brushing up my Spanish skills; but, I imagine that I will be taking on a study of Korean before too long, as well. I am likely going to use Rosetta Stone, so I would be very interested to hear from people who have used these materials in the past (or present).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Further Reflections on the 218th General Assembly

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35 (NRSV)

Almost three months have gone by since the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA) met in San Jose, California, and I find that I am still reflecting on the many things that happened there – as well as the many responses and reactions to what happened (or what is rumored to have happened) there.

The committee that I worked with was the Church Orders and Ministry Committee. I must admit that I was both very excited and somewhat anxious about working on that committee, as it was the committee that would discuss issues surrounding the topic of ordination. Prior to going out to San Jose, I spent hours upon hours reading, re-reading, researching, listening, studying, reflecting, consulting, and reading some more. I poured over the overtures, all of the supplemental material, the Bible, the Book of Order, and the Book of Confessions. It all made for interesting conversations with the staff at the local Buffalo Wild Wings, which is where I did much of my pre-GA prep – boneless buffalo wings, free cola refills, and Presbyterian polity… yum!

I think that I expected more division and, well, “fighting” in my committee. But, thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. The majority of the committee was ready and wanting to truly listen to – and maybe even learn from – one another. Certainly, there were those who arrived in San Jose with their minds closed to any ideas or opinions different from their own, but it was my experience that the majority of folks were there to honestly discern and listen with patience and respect to the voices of all who had been called to serve the Assembly. We worked hard as a committee, and it was not easy work for any of us. And when all of the debates were closed and the voting ended, we wrapped up our time together in a time of worship. With the exception of about 3 people who were upset by the results of the last vote that we cast, the entire committee – as well as those who were gathered to observe our committee – shared in the Lord’s Supper together.

Yes, there had been moments of finger-pointing, name-calling, derogatory statements, or assumptions made on all sides. Some of the presentations and debates that took place were not what I would consider to be nice or (occasionally) civilized. The Church is not perfect – it is made up of people. (I recall Paul saying something about everyone falling short of the glory of God…) Neither the conservatives nor the liberals have it all right. But I believe that there is hope. There is dialogue that is happening between those who disagree. There are places where faithful Presbyterians are reaching out to each other from across the theological divide. I know that it is happening, because I’ve been a part of it. I have had the opportunity to stay in contact with a fellow member of the Church Orders and Ministry Committee who lives on the other end of the country – as well as on the other end of the theological spectrum. She and I did not agree on many of the things that were decided in our committee, but we are both committed to staying connected. We may not agree on some theological issues, but we both confess with glad and joyful hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord. We both have come to realize that if there is to be any real hope for the Church, we must be willing to honestly listen to one another – recognizing and acknowledging one another as fellow children of God and sisters/brothers in Christ.

On July 1, 2008, I wrote the following reflection on my blog:
I just got back from General Assembly... and my head is still spinning! I am amazed at what we were able to accomplish as a Church! Wow! I'm sure that there are a few who are reading this blog who aren't as thrilled as I am, but that's okay... It is our diversity which can make us strong.Now that GA is over, the real work begins. We re-affirmed our commitment to the recommendations made by the Peace, Unity, and Purity Task Force in 2006, which challenges us to be in conversation and communion with one another. While there are certainly some churches who will want to leave the denomination, I fervently hope that most churches will seek ways to be in dialogue with each other. The words of Psalm 133 continue to echo in my head. How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity…

I had one response to that post. He wrote: “I hate to burst your bubble, Amy, but the 218 GA has created more divisions across the denomination than any other.”

Really? I guess I have a very different take on things – and it isn’t because I agree with what all happened at the 218th General Assembly. I don’t agree with every decision that was made by the Assembly. But I have come to understand that God is so much bigger than all of our squabbling and differences. It is very true that my perception of what God desires for the PC(USA) is different from my neighbors’, but it is my firm belief that God is able to work through and speak through the voices of both people with whom I agree and people with whom I fervently disagree. We are called to trust God in the process – really trusting that God is the one who is in charge. God calls us through scripture to live together, work together, pray together, worship together, and witness together.

I pray that we will seek to live out our calling to live as brothers and sisters in Christ, so that our willingness to look past our differences and declare together that Jesus Christ is Lord can bear witness to the amazing power of the love and grace of God!

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35 (NRSV)