Saturday’s Assembly was a day to remember. The first virtual Assembly in the history of our denomination came to a close. And it was, by all accounts, a great success!
And while the dust settles, and commissioners recover from a long day, I hope they can celebrate in the biggest news of the day – the reelection of J. Herbert Nelson to a second term as our Stated Clerk.
You heard me right. This is the big news of the day.
Some who were part of the Assembly may think that is an odd thing for me to say, for much business was enacted today, some that may make headlines. But the lasting change of this Assembly is yet to play out, another 4 years of this visionary and determined advocate for justice.
My takeaway from today is CELEBRATION – not just for J. Herbert, but for the great work that was done. And more so, it is the first time I have really felt General Assembly really STAND up for those who are marginalized, truly listening to and lifting up our Indigenous siblings. I feel like we turned a page today, and we are truly listening to the cries of those among us who are experiencing pain.
And J. Herbert will carry that “lifting” forward, as will our 2 new Co-Moderators.
Many may have left the Assembly with a sour taste in their mouths, perhaps feeling slighted or downright miffed – in something that the Assembly did not do, despite the pleadings of many. Those feelings may range from disappointment, to hurt, or even traumatized, for the 224th PC(USA) General Assembly failed to consider a statement on Black Women and Girls offered by Rev. Kerri Allen, Rev. Ashley DeTar Birt, and the Black Women and Girls Task Force. In the words of a friend, “When will we acknowledge our participation ‘in structural sin that has exploited, abused, and dehumanized Black women and girls?’ Not at this GA.”
That disappointment may have turned to anger for some at the Assembly when during the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of sacred silence to remember George Floyd and other Black and Brown people who continue to experience oppression even to the point of death, one ignorant commissioner evidently placed a sign on his screen revealing that racism is alive and well in the church. (I did not see it, but am already hearing stories. And I hope this one idiot doesn’t detract from the good work that has begun.)
But I come back to the election of J. Herbert.
Racism isn’t going away in a week or a month. White privilege will continue to haunt us. But 4 more years of a clerk that has brought sweeping change to our national office. Wow. That alone provides a bit of continuity – an agenda and vision carried forward for 4 more years.
That’s four years of overhauling the dysfunction at PMA/GA that has haunted us for decades. That’s four years of a prophetic voice dismantling powers and principalities and listening for the voice of the Shepherd. That’s four more years of stable leadership, and a commitment to turning the page on the past, reaching out to young people and BIPOC. That’s four more years of retooling how we “do church” at mid-council levels, undisturbed by yet another “regime change”.
In short, his reelection gives me hope.
J. Herbert is a megaphone for God’s gracious activity and possibility within the PCUSA, and he will continue to serve with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.
So rest in the work that you have done, siblings in Christ.
You have set the stage for God’s gracious new future for us all! And you are listening. And you have encouraged us to LISTEN to the Spirit still.
(Below is a picture of me and J. Herbert, taken a couple years ago at one of our Mid-Council Leader Gatherings.)
Thanks for your GA Musings, and especially for the picture of you and J. Herbert… I’m just far enough out- of-things Presbyterian that I didn’t know our stated clerk’s name, let alone that he was African American. So much the better for us.
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