Yesterday the Assembly made it back into plenary. The echoes of the march to the justice center rang in our memories and our ears, and many shared stories and reflections of the previous day. The press coverage has also been quite remarkable, at least here in St. Louis. I’m not sure what you all have heard or are hearing.
As we entered Plenary, Melissa’s committee made their report. But before we heard from Committee 7 – Ecumenical Relations, we voted the Consent Agenda. I was a little surprised that no one removed certain items from it for individual discussion and vote. If some of these items would have been there 5 years ago they most certainly would have been taken off.
In short, it is a new day for God’s LGBTQIA people in the PCUSA. The General Assembly unanimously approved two historic overtures (at least historic from the Covenant Network’s standpoint). One affirms and celebrates the gifts of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the church. The second affirms the rights and dignity of people of transgender, non-binary and people of varying gender identities.
I have been around this divisive church long enough to be very surprised by this. Not by the fact that it passed, but that it was voted unanimously. Things have certainly changed. It is a whole, brave new day for this church.
So back to Melissa’s committee and the Ecumenical things at work. To me, this is the news-worthy elements of the day, although I doubt the press will pick up on these things. This is part of the behind-the-scenes pieces of the Assembly that are so easy to miss.
This morning was an extraordinary Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast. I say that because my good friend and colleague Rev. Michael Blair was speaking this morning. He challenged us to shelve a lot of this “God is not at the Center….God is at the margins” talk. As if the world still revolves around us? It never did. And God is speaking most profoundly in the Global South. Even the talk of Center/Margins is ethnocentric and warped. Instead he said,
“We have all always been on the margins. Everyone of us. It is God at the Center. And God is also with us on the margins.”
Michael stated that as part of a healthy ecumenism and part of a true building of relationships that:
“It is not the case that we are the Church in the world. It is the God of mission that has a Church in the world. So, the question is what is God up to in God’s world?”
It may seem like theologically splitting hairs, but it is not. It means EVERYTHING. It means once and for all outgrowing our stereotypes and prejudices, and embracing all denominations as being directed by and full of God’s Spirit.
We then moved into an Ecumenical Worship service which was led by the President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches a Lebanese/Syrian Christian who shared very powerfully.
In Melissa’s Committee much of which was adopted in the consent agenda, one of the most exciting and celebratory parts of their report, and one of the things that makes Melissa most proud is the forging of new partnerships, like the covenant relationship being fostered with the significant Indonesian and Minahasah-speaking members of the church, and the move toward officially being in covenant relationship with the Gereja Masehi Injili di Minahasa denomination.
It is truly an exciting new day for so many corners of God’s Church.
There was also an overture from Mission Presbytery originally on mental health that passed. #Breakthestigma was the hashtag that blew up my phone late into the night. Truly an encouraging and exciting day.
Today is another day of the full Assembly meeting. Let us hope and pray we can build on the strong and unified start we had yesterday.