By Rev. Janine Moriarty, Member at Large and Commissioner to the 220th General Assembly
Phew…how does one put into writing all that was experienced during a fast paced, over scheduled, mind filling (and sometimes mind numbing), decision making, worshipful, impacting, exhausting and amazing week that was the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA). Honestly, I’m not sure I can at this point. It seems like daily something comes to mind that I experienced during my time in Pittsburgh, and I find myself once again processing all that happened.
If I were to use one word to describe the week – it would be passionate. Commissioners were passionate about “their side” of every issue. I watched as people formed alliances, lobbied commissioners, handed out flyers, sang…whatever it took to get people to listen to their side and possibly vote their way. I was impressed on how well people listened to each other while in debate and at the same time I was saddened at how ugly people became towards each other during those same debates. In my committee one of our advisory delegates spoke very passionately on how she sees the future of our church. Sadly, one of the clergy commissioners in his passionate response verbally attacked her in such a way she ended up in tears. I was grateful for the way people rallied around her…affirming her for how eloquently she spoke. In response our moderator reminded us of our covenant to listen and respect each other even if we disagree.
During our plenary sessions the debates/discussions were long and passionate on the “hot issues”. We spent four hours on one issue alone…and in all honesty I don’t think anyone changed their minds after listening to both sides of the debate. One of those issues revolved around whether or not the definition of marriage should be redefined in the Book of Order. The committee recommended a change from marriage is between a man and a woman, to marriage is between two people…allowing for acceptance of same gender marriages. The vote was very close, with the definition of marriage remaining between a man and a woman.
Worship and music were a high point of the assembly. We had amazing music led by a group of musicians who had us singing before each plenary session and during worship. Those who preached brought God’s word to life in ways that challenged and touched us. It was refreshing to pause each day in the midst of business to focus our attention on God.
If there is one thing I could really emphasize about General Assembly and the Presbyterian Church, USA it is this… We need to remember it’s not about us. We can argue and debate the “hot issues” which are facing us, and we may or may not agree…most likely we will disagree. But in the end…the issues mean nothing. Our focus should be on Jesus…and if we are truly responding to the great commission… “To love one another as Jesus has loved us…” we need to accept and welcome everyone, even if we don’t agree. That is after all…what Jesus did.
Going to General Assembly is like attending a huge family reunion. I saw friends and colleagues from churches I had served years ago. We had lost touch over the years but truly enjoyed reconnecting during the week. In the midst of all the business…there was time for fun as well… I was able to take in a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game on our free evening.
It was indeed an honor to serve as a Commissioner representing Seattle Presbytery in Pittsburgh. Thank you for your prayers and allowing me to be away from RBPC for the week.