Saturday, June 25, 2016

Friday

Finished our work at 10:45 pm! Highlights today were worship with Jerry Andrews preaching and a Jazz quartet doing the music, the election of our new stated clerk. Our business came out well on all the social issues except for the fact that once again, it means were are asking PMA to do more with less. If you care about our world mission work, peacemaking efforts, evangelism and discipleship, disaster assistance, please consider donating to one or more of these specific areas or even individual people or issues, or giving a general donation to the Presbyterian Mission Agency. I have many friends in these offices, but they now a have a new budget that they cannot meet. None of your per capita money goes to PMA. They raise every penny and do some of the best work of all our agencies. Tomorrow we will end with worship led by Larissa Kwong Abazia. It has been a bittersweet week. Again, I recommend the experience. I have felt the Holy Spirit, and I have sensed spirits of delusion. I have made new friends and strengthened my connections among my colleagues within the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina. I am utterly exhausted!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thursday

Yesterday was a much better day. We had Alice Ridgill preach for us. I've never heard her give a bad sermon. She is such a dynamic preacher. I wish I could preach like that! Her style is not unlike Dr. Jerry Cannon's. The music we've had all the way around has been great and uplifting. All the resolutions that passed yesterday are ones I can live with. Some, such as finally taking a strong and comprehensive stand against racism, I truly celebrate. It's about doggone time! I never figured out how LGTBQ "rights" became more important than combating racism. The "apology" became an acceptable "regret." I would have even been happy to make a modified apology because we do need to apologize for elevating same-sex sexual acts as "worse" than other sexual acts outside the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or as worse than any sin, period. We need to apologize for using derogatory language. We do need to apologize for making people feel unwelcomed and unloved in our churches regardless of their background. What we do not need to apologize for is our belief on marriage. In our belief on ordination in that sins do not preclude one from being ordained, but that embracing sin of any type does preclude one from being ordained. We do not need to apologize for believing that celibacy is possible, and indeed, can be a call, and a God-honoring way for one to live. We commissioned our new international mission co-workers. I went to a dinner celebrating wonderful Christian work among the Armenian people, both diaspora and within Armenia. I've met lots of great people and reconnected with many others. The only regret is that we voted not to renounce our alliance with the RCRC, a great move that the Methodists just did at their General Conference. This was a commissioner's resolution based on the Methodist vote. It was a valiant effort and generated debate, but still failed miserably. Yesterday was incredibly long, (we did not end until 11:25pm) but overall good. We are all running low on sleep and have another long day ahead. I hope they cut out some of the blither-blather special reports, so that we can move on with business.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesday Rant

We haven't even started plenary yet, and I'm in foul mood. I'm angry that there are whole bodies in this denomination that think you have to subscribe to a whole shebang of liberal agenda in order to be socially just. I'm angry that there are those who assume because I'm Evangelical, I can't possibly stand against racism, human trafficking, and violence because I also don't support "transgender rights." I'm angry that there are those who assume that I can't be against gun violence and yet own a gun. I'm angry that there are those who think I can't support environmental injustice (opposing fracking and offshore drilling) and yet not embrace the idea that humans are entirely responsible for global climate change. I'm angry that the commitment to the uniqueness of the gospel is rapidly evaporating outside of the PMA's offices, which could now possibly be radically restructured thanks to the work of my committee, which I have now learned, that for all the blathering we did, we were still missing crucial pieces of information that committee 10 had. I'm angry that people claiming to be so enlightened regarding world politics have 0 idea of what North Korea is really like. It is the #1 oppressive country in the world. I'm sure Kim Jong-un would LOVE to reunite with South Korea! Part II Plenary Well, we passed 2 amendments regarding evolution that bind consciences of pastors and congregations. One was barely defeated, but enough folks complained that their votes didn't count that we took two more votes on that same resolution and it passed by 12 votes. Open table theology is in. It may be more broad than even the Methodists. We did finally pass a resolution requiring GA's to include a prayer for the persecuted church! Belhar was finally approved. If nothing else, it was historic.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday

We worked hard today. I woke up with a sore throat and tired after a short night's sleep. But I went to the Evangelism breakfast this morning. So encouraging. We celebrated the 25th anniversary of the wonderful document "Turn to the Living God." Our Office of Evangelism has such godly people. Committee work was difficult. We passed a new 2020 vision plan, which I think is very good. We shot down all the Foothills amendments, which frankly, needed to be done, but we had heard such an encouraging and biblical rationale for them yesterday. I didn't want to see that get lost, so I offered an alternative motion, but sadly, it did not pass. I knew it was worded somewhat arbitrarily, but I felt the process was good, and I wish someone had had the courage to tweak what I had written hastily during lunch. I missed a mission lunch to write that thing. I only got to go to part of the mission coworker's dinner. Again, our PMA folks in the World Mission Office are also wonderful people doing great work. Unfortunately, as we know, there has been some dysfunction in PMA operations, which led to an Administrative Commission being established to look into the OGA and PMA. I do hope it helps to ease that dysfunction, but I also hope it does not lead to any more layoffs. Personally, I think what Tony De La Rosa has done has been excellent work, and he is on the right track. Tomorrow at 2:00 pm, we begin plenary sessions. Some hot button things, like the apology resolution, got amended in agreeable ways. It is something to which I can vote "yes." Others will be passed. I was originally planning on speaking to the "Clergy Letter Project," but I really wonder if it is worth it...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday

We worked late tonight in our committee, but I'm excited for our work. Don't know that we will do anything revolutionary or not, but we hope to begin to address problems of communication and to further the denomination to help the work of congregations versus mandating to congregations what they should do. We have wonderful people on our committee. I attended a luncheon today on the plight of refugees. We were able to hear from a refugee who has lived in this country for 8 years and is now helping other refugees. Prior to his coming to the United States, he lived in a refugee camp for 20 YEARS. This is unacceptable. We are treating refugees like criminals. If they turn out to be criminals, then yes, provide the appropriate punishment, but let's not assume refugees are criminals right off the bat. The Outlook is doing wonderful reporting, so read their articles if you really want to know what is happening. Again, I am seeing the best of the church at work. I know I will experience the worst in plenary, but I'm so glad to have the opportunity to experience the best. I see people treating one another with respect and love. I see people being willing to listen to one another. It stands in contrast to the tv that was on in the hotel breakfast room this morning. The channel was one of those ESPN ones and two talking heads were literally yelling at each other over two players in a ball game. Really? Yelling? Over a ball game??!!! I got my coffee and went back to my room to drink it, as it wasn't my prerogative to change the channel, and I do not want to listen to talking heads yelling at each other, esp. over something that, in the long run, is not going to make much, if any, difference in the world. I know a lot of this yelling stuff is for show, but this is how we are treating one another in our world today, and it is not helpful. I'm glad that, so far, we are demonstrating a better way.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Initial Impressions

We had a wonderful opening committee meeting for Committee 4. Our worship was authentic and Christ-centered. We have awesome leadership. I'm glad to be a part of this committee. Our work will be challenging, but also exciting. I think anyone who has the opportunity should attend and/or be a commissioner to a General Assembly. You truly get to see the best of the church. Too often we only focus on the worst of the church, which is also here. Today's opening worship for the General Assembly was also meaningful and Christ exalting. If you didn't watch online, you missed one of the most awesome prelude pieces, "Variations on 'Kum Ba Yah'" arranged by Joel Raney. The bell and voice choirs were also excellent. I enjoyed singing the responses in the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving. We used a simple, gospel tune found in the "Glory to God" hymnal. Afternoon worship wasn't so hot. I know what they were trying to do in acknowledging and denouncing recent acts of violence, but I will not stand for nor recite parts of a prayer made to Allah by one of our ecumenical partners. I can respect Muslims, but I will not recite their prayers. Tonight, we elected our new co-moderators, Jan Edmiston and T. Denise Anderson. I think they are up to the job. Do I agree with them on everything? No, but I didn't with Heath Rada or Bruce Reyes-Chow either, and yet I thought both of them were excellent moderators--fair, good listeners, diplomatic, and good representatives for the church. I think these two ladies will be the same. Denise sat at our dinner table tonight. This morning I got to sit a table with our outgoing Vice-Moderator Larissa Kwong Abazia. I spoke with our wonderful PMA staff this evening. And I'll give a plug for the annual Evangelism/Discipleship conference at St. Pete Beach, FL the first week of August, Be the Light I know there is much ugly and disappointment to come, but I am thankful for the good and right.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

To Serve the Church, the Community, and the World; Galatians 6:1-6

To listen, click here.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

To Teach the Truth; II Thessalonians 2:13-17

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