I See Presbyterians

Like many Presbyterians who rode down the escalators at the Pittsburgh airport, when I arrived last night, I was greeted by the, the familiar – and oh so stylish – sight of those Committee On Local Arrangements (COLA) PC(USA) seal-emblazoned aprons. Like the smell of fresh cookies or sizzling bacon wafting from the kitchen, it was a warm reminder what was to come. Yep, it’s General Assembly time - the 220th – for the Presbyterian Church (USA), my denominational family.

In a nutshell, the PC(USA) gathers together every two years to discern the mind of Christ and the will of God together at the national level of our church. Made up of commissioners from across the country, advisory delegates from around the world and thousands of others who love attending this “family reunion,” GA is time when we worship together, pray together and struggle through the difficult calling of being community in the world today, complete with all of the complexity, dysfunction and beauty that families tend to embody. Here is a reporter’s tongue-in-cheek guide to the 220th General Assembly from Jim Nedelka that will give you a little taste of the family fun.

This year, as we descend upon downtown Pittsburgh, we will be taking on many issues. From “hot buttons” ones such as the definition of marriage and our divestment from the Caterpillar corporation, to less-buzz-worthy, but just as important issues as restructuring our special offerings and approving the formation of non-geographic presbyteries, this year should, once again, be jam-packed.

There are a variety of groups who will be reporting on General Assembly from a variety of perspectives but I would commend a few for you to track, not because I endorse them all, but because you’ll get a broad view of what’s going on at GA: GA Junkie, The Presbyterian Outlook, The Presbyterian Layman, More Light Presbyterians, Presbyterian for RenewalCovenant Network of Presbyterians and others. For official news be sure to follow the Presbyterian News Service and you will want to bookmark the official General Assembly Home Page for all information about business items, schedules, live-streaming, etc.

If you are attending General Assembly and have one of them fancy, schmancy smart phones, be sure to download the Guidebook App, search for “General Assembly” and begin tracking your schedule of activities. Pretty sweet app.

Social media will again play a big role in how people connect and communicate with one another about and at General Assembly. Not only do I predict that more than one of us will become Mayor of our assigned plenary seat on FoursquareGeek Alert Level Red – but the Twitter hashtag, #GA220, will be quite active throughout the week.

I will be live-tweeting from @brc_live and posting pictures on my FB Photo Album and if you are on Twitter you may want to follow my Twitter list of those at GA , the List of Candidates for Moderator and Vice-Moderator and @presbyterian for official news. If you or your organization needs to be added, please let me know via @breyeschow and I’ll be sure to add you.

Please keep in prayer the many GA staff and volunteers who keep things running smoothly, the Commissioners and Advisory Delegates who will be debating and voting and the many observers who simply soaking it all in. I would also lift up special prayers from the out-going Moderator and Vice-Moderator, Cindy Bolback and Landon Whitsitt as well as the current candidates, one of whom will be elected tonight.

On a personal note, as a former moderator, my time is pretty cush. I’ll help out with some things during the election, sit in the former moderators section on the plenary floor and generally try to stay out of the way. Like many, I’ll be exploring the amazing exhibition hall so please stop me and say hi, stop at the SparkHouse Animate booth to see a new study that I am part of and, if you are free, you are invited to join me for my Book Release Party on July 3rd at August Henry’s City Saloon.

Let me end by saying that, despite what many say about our General Assemblies when decision are made with which they do not agree, I am a firm believer that GA brings people together from across the church and helps us to remain connected in a culture that would rather have us retreat into our own individual bubbles and clusters. While there is much that can be improved, at every General Assembly there are moments when the Holy Spirit sweeps over the body and we get a glimpse of God’s grace and hope for the world and for us. For these grand moments as well as the random hallway conversations, I am grateful for and excited about what is in store for the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

See you around the hall.

PC(USA) Moderator Candidates’ Wildcard Question

For you Presbyterians out there, admit it, you know you are getting all excited about our upcoming General Assembly (July, 2012) just around the corner in Pittsburgh. The exhibit hall schwag, the stylish local host aprons and the endless arguing over what word works best: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet or So (FANBOYS).

Yes, we Presbyterians know how to party like it’s 1955.

In all seriousness, while there is much to critique my denominational family concerning a great many things, there is a genuine sense of family for many of us who attend our biennial national gathering. At our worst we model the full spectrum of  human brokeness and at our best, we allow the Holy Spirit to move in and through our hearts, minds and actiona. It’s a frustratingly wacky family, but it’s my family.

One of the geekiest and loveliest parts of our General Assembly is the election of our Moderator. This is the person who moderates the week-long meeting of roughly 1,000 commissioners and then travels and speaks on behalf of the denomination for the following two years. I held this office from 2008-2010 and, while exhausting beyond belief on so many levels, it was a great honor to serve. It really was. As a denomination without a bishop in our structure, the Moderator has no real political power, but there is a great affection for and openness to the office by more folks than I had ever expected. Easy to dismiss as an irrelevant position – and that reality is clearer at some times more than others – it’s still an important part of our denominational life together.

This year there are five candidates who have declared their intentions to “stand” for Moderator: Rev. Janet Edwards of Pittsburg Presbytery, Rev. Robert M. Austell Jr. of Charlotte Presbytery, Rev. Randy Branson of Palo Duro Presbytery; Rev. Sue Krummel of Great Rivers Presbytery; and Rev. Neal Presa of Elizabeth Presbytery. We do not “run” for the office, as this is not about a campaign for an individual to win, but a calling to for a community to discern. Part of that process is that the candidates answer questions before and during General Assembly from various organizations and entities. It will be completely up to them whether or not they respond and there is a general understanding that all candidates should be included in all public discussions.

This year I am going to pose a few questions to the  candidates as well as to those whom they have selected, should they be elected, to serve as vice-moderator. I will post their responses and links in the next few weeks.

This is where you come in.

One of the questions that I am going to ask them to answer is a wild card: “Answer one question that you would like to answer but have not been asked and/or select from any submitted on this blog post.” So if you have a question that you hope one/all might answer, please leave it in the comment section. It will be totally up to each candidate to choose which and whether they choose one from this pool of questions, but you never know. I will be sending the full slate of my questions to the candidates this weekend, so if you add your contribution soon the more likely it will be answered by one of the candidates.

DISCLAIMER: Just to be clear, I am doing this on my own and not as any official action of any General Assembly entity.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X