Live from General Assembly: What ARE We Doing?

by Talitha Phillips

Blogging live from the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s bi-annual gathering, General Assembly (GA).

Nearly 3,000 Presbyterians have descended upon Minneapolis, with nametags flapping, outfitted in everything from suits to sloganed T-shirts, meandering like tourists around the convention center & associated hotels. We stick out like a circus. I watch us bumbling around and wonder — what ARE we doing?

When we invest gadzooks of money into a week of imposed togetherness in some chosen city… one of the bluntest ways to put it is that we are taking our collective temperature. How hot are we on gay ordination this year? Because it comes up year after year, and a slow shift has been taking place. So every GA we test it — is the church prepared to make a change, or has it not yet reached critical mass? And some of the issues change over time. The situation in Palestine has been worsening — are people ready to get outraged? Of course we know that some are, and some aren’t, but we get together to take a lot of votes and see where the median and majority lie … that hardly makes sense, though. That’s a wickedly expensive poll — I could administer one through for zero dollars, and have it done ten minutes ago.

To put it in a more positive light, we’re struggling together for common ground. We gather from far-flung lands, states, schools and theologies, and try to affirm the things we can all agree on. Sometimes our minds get blessedly changed in the process, and sometimes it’s just an exercise in holding on to the major things and letting go of the minors.

But most of all (though most invisibly) we come together to try to see Christ in the other, see God in our common work, and open our hearts to Spirit above, around, and among us all. We gather to seek transformation and inspiration together, and to hold one another accountable. We surround our communal impasses and ask God to make a way. We wait, quieten, listen, pray, read Scripture, and look up for the Spirit brooding over us – we try to get on that ride. Sometimes it sweeps us off our feet and sometimes our heels are stuck in and dragging, but God always shows up. May it be so this week at General Assembly!

Talitha Phillips is a seminary student at San Francisco Theological Seminary.  She will be filing regular posts from the PC(USA) General Assembly over the next few days.

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