General Assembly – Day 2

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Yesterday brought with it many new relationships and excitement for the future.

My day began with the Young(ish) Mid-Council Leaders Breakfast that our Stated Clerk J. Herbert attended as well.  He spoke in a powerful way to us as denominational leaders and challenged us – that despite many of us not having pulpits to fill on Sunday, we nevertheless needed to TELL THE STORY and tell OUR story.  He reminded us that if we are to reclaim an evangelical fervor in our churches, we must re-connect not just with other generations, but with immigrant communities, and all those who see no hope.  And how?With  our own stories of God working in us – and how we came to faith.

As always, J. Herbert reminded us of the central aspect of what grew the early church – relationships and authenticity and STORY.

Opening Worship was an invigorating time of creative scripture reading, voices lifted up in praise and prayer, and some good preaching moments.  It has been a hopeful year with our two co-moderators and I am thankful and sad to see them go.  Worship was multi-cultural and multi-sensory, with brass, Native American flutes, and liturgical dancers.

Later that evening, the Assembly elected another set of co-moderators: Elder Vilmarie Cintron-Olivieri and Rev. Cindy Kohlmann on (I think) the 5th ballot.  After the first ballot, my friend Rev. Bertram Johnson and Rev. Eliana Maxim had an overwhelming lead from the advisory delegates, and a clear lead from the delegates, but failed to reach the required 263 majority to win outright.

Some may be surprised the votes swung to Vilmarie and Cindy with the required 263 instead.  Were they the safe choice?  That might be how the first ballot majority is feeling.  Bertram and Eliana would have been the first gay moderator and first immigrant moderator in our denomination.  They were clear about their desire to challenge the church to be more inclusive and to dismantle the systems and structures that prevent the Holy Spirit from working.

While I am sad for my friend Bertram, I am energized that we have a bilingual co-moderator in Vilmarie and an experienced and wise exec like Cindy.  They will do our denomination proud just as Bertram and Eliana would have.

The trans formative moment of the day for me however came in the Exhibit Hall, where conversations about Israel/Palestine were plentiful, like the one shown above at the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) booth.  I see many of our younger members truly listening when it comes to the issues in the Middle East, issues around immigration, and creation care and fossil fuels which all come to the forefront in this assembly.

This morning we turn our hearts and minds to the local congregations here in the host presbytery: Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery.  I am off!

-Matt

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