Jul 10, 2012

My Reflections of the 220th General Assembly of the PCUSA

I've been home for four days now since the General Assembly in Pittsburgh.

I am not sure if I've fully recovered from GA.

I am still trying to process what I experienced and what I sense God doing in my life and in the life of his church.

By now, we know that the GA did not redefine marriage, and did not divest from Caterpillar, HP, and Motorola.

Also the GA did not give the recommendations from the Mid Council Commissions even the light of day before voting them down in committee and in plenary.

Going into this GA, if someone would have asked me to define what a good result for GA would be, it would be exactly what the GA did in both the issues of marriage and Israel/Palestine.

What would have put it over the top would have been serious considerations of both the Mid Council Commissions recommendations and for a genuine conversation around the trust clause.

Why is it then that I am not jubilant over the results of the 220th General Assembly?

Some of the things that are clear from our days together in Pittsburgh:

  • We are an incredibly divided church. It's not just about marriage or Israel/Palestine. What is really at the core that divides us is how we understand ourselves as Christians and Presbyterians in relationship to God and the Bible. 
  • The changes in the definition of marriage is a matter of when, not a matter of if. The only reason why this GA did not approve such changes now is because many were cognizant that such a change would be the final straw for many congregations and for our mission partners around the world.
  • Our institutional church is not ready to really engage in conversations about the radical nature of adaptive changes that are before us. The GA is fine with the idea of change, but when it gets down to the actual implications of change, the GA was not even prepared to discuss those realities.
  • Ultimately, I am still left wondering how does what GA's do further the cause of Christ?
So, four days removed, I find myself still quite ambivalent about the 220th General Assembly. 

Can God bring about renewal and revive this dying denomination to be vibrant and growing? Can God use the PC(USA) to be all about bring people to Jesus Christ?

Of course God can.

Will that happen?

I am not sure. 

I sure hope so.

I would love to see it so.

But here's the thing. I have very little control over what any future GA's will do. 

But I can do something about what my local church will be about. 

I want to lead my church in such a way that we be all about bringing people to Jesus Christ. I want to spend my life sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and helping people become faithful followers of Jesus Christ. 

I will do everything I can to pastor and lead my congregation to live into this vision.

I pray that our GA would one day recognize the reality that ministry is done at the local level. Therefore, structures beyond the local church - presbyteries, synods (we still have them), and GA's - exist to serve and enable local congregations to do their ministry more effectively and not the other way around.

Structures ought not get in the way of local churches doing their ministry. 

This adaptive change will happen.

Whether the PC(USA) wants to be a part of that change...that's all up to the PC(USA). 


Tom Hobson said...

My wife uses 2 images to describe our church. Half of us want to be a nudist church, and half of us don't. We are like the married couple where one partner wants an open marriage, and the other doesn't. The content of what divides us is not amenable to compromise.

James Kim said...

Tom, I am in agreement about what fundamentally divides us.

The question for me is if we no longer have our confessions to bind us together, what is it that connects us to one another?

Without our mutual submission to Jesus through the Bible and through our confessions, what else is left to connect us presbyterians?

I would love for our denomination to honestly deal with this question.

James <><

Tom Hobson said...

The best we can do, I think, is to try to find agreement on the meaning of our ordination questions: our belief in one triune God, Jesus as Lord of all and head of the church, the Bible as the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus. If not there, I don't know where else to look for unity. Your heart is obviously in it. Keep up your good work, brother!

Chris Enoch said...

James, one of the highlights for me (as a commissioner) of General Assembly, was your sermon.

A call to healing is open to all of us. May those who are called be able to go through the door to Jesus- and his healing grace.

It does seem to me, and maybe this is being judgmental, that a number of folks who have an attraction to Jesus do not want the healing. Maybe even me. We feel a kinship in our sinfulness, we wallow in our paralysis.

Jesus wants so much more for us...

God bless you.

James Kim said...

Chris, thank you for your comment and for your encouragement. I do pray that what we're seeking is God's healing over the current paralysis of distrust and agendas. Perhaps, as we seek to bring all our paralysis to Jesus, in seeing how we radically love and forgive, that God can bring healing to us and our world.


James <><