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Thursday, July 12, 2012

ga220 reflection 1 - disappointment and hope

I’ve been back from General Assembly for four days now and I’m just now feeling rested and alert.  Not only were the days long and intense, there was an overload of information, implications, opinions, and feelings.  I mention the last one because for this INFJ pastor, bearing the spoken and unspoken range of emotion for a room of 1500+ people is exhausting after 30 minutes, much less after a 15+ hour day.

I’m still processing much of the experience, and will share over the next few days and weeks, but I want to begin by sharing broadly on the themes of disappointment and hope.

Disappointment

I experienced great disappointment and sadness during the Assembly.  I was not disappointed to not be elected moderator.  I was not disappointed that some votes didn’t go my way (and not particularly elated over the ones that did).  I was disappointed that, as a whole, this Assembly seemed to choose the familiarity and “safety” of the old way of doing things over the admittedly risky possibility of something new.  The invitations were there from all four moderator candidates, from the community and example of the YAADs, from three significant two-year committee reports (Mid-Councils, 21st Century, Biennial Assembly), and from the stories and inspirational leadership of the GAMC.  And time and again, I saw or perceived the unwillingness of the body to relinquish any ground that could possibly be used by ecclesiastical opponents.  I’ll unpack some of that in subsequent posts, but overall, it left me saddened that several places where folks with theological differences could have come together around mission and ministry, we backed away and hunkered down.

Hope

There were shining exceptions to that disappointment, and those exceptions gave me great hope.  I found hope in folks like Emily Proctor, who extended trust and with whom (I discovered) I have more in common than we have apart.  I was blessed to begin a friendship with her in the midst of the Assembly, despite our differences on some issues.  I experienced hope when Chris Campbell, a notably conservative commissioner, moved to pull deliberation of an authoritative interpretation on marriage out of the “answer all” motion on the floor because he knew how important that discussion was to so many (even though he would have voted against it).  I experienced hope when Miriam Dolin, who did not support non-geographic presbyteries, nonetheless moved for the discussion of them to be put back on the floor after that topic was disapproved in committee.  I experienced hope from various places on the theological spectrum as a few questioned our tendency to refer, study, ignore, repeat, and instead challenged the Assembly to use money and resources to strengthen local churches and grow healthy disciples.

What gives me an extra measure of hope is that though we feel so stuck, the Spirit is yet moving in and through brothers and sisters like these.

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