So what’s going on at General Assembly?

June 26, 2008 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

My loyal readers may be wondering why I haven’t posted much about General Assembly.

The truth is that the kerfluffle about my blog and my local congregation has consumed most of my blogging energy.  I am following General Assembly, though this year it’s not with the thought of “I might get there someday” but rather “I’m never gonna get there”.

But I am following it.

So here’s what’s going on.

Sexuality and Ordination

The committees involved (the sexuality question kinda got split between two committees) passed resolutions recommending changes to the Book of Order or Authoritative Interpretations that would essentially allow two things:

  1. Scruples could be declared by an ordained officer at the time of examination.  The examining body (and only that body) would be able to decide whether or not to accept that scruple.  The word Scruple was not used.  This was passed as an Authoritative Interpretation.
  2. To reword G-6.0106b, replacing the famous “marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” with:  Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate’s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards. This would essentially allow gay ordination in presbyteries or congregations that allow it.  This resolution also nullifies the 1978 and 1979 Authoritative Interpretations and any such later action that homosexuality is a bar to ordination.  This resolution also requires the examining body to be sure that the person is willing to assent to the ordination vows before approving them.

The committee also turned down an overture that would redefine marriage as between two persons, rather than between a man and a woman.  That committee turned back an attempt to solidify the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, instead commenting that this issue is still in question in our denomination.

Big stuff, eh?  Remember that this is just the committee work – the whole General Assembly votes later.

The General Assembly as a whole passed a resolution to create a sexuality curriculum for youth, choosing NOT to state specifics about what must be included.  This was passed after a lively debate that included a minister from KY (speaking against the curriculum) revealing on the floor of GA that his daughter has or had a sexually transmitted disease.

Christian/Jew/Muslim Relations

The General Assembly last night commended for study the relationships between these religions, calling for tolerance and mutual respect.  The resolution originally included a clause stating that the God of Christians, Jews and Muslim was the same God of Abraham, but that was removed by the General Assembly as a whole.

Membership Vows

The committee passed a resolution calling for a Book of Order amendment that would require that members being received by a method other than Confirmation will also make a public profession of faith.  This replaces the overture that I wrote about previously that would have required specific membership vows.

Form of Government (Book of Order) revision

The committee is recommending that the draft be referred to a new task force consisting of the original task force and members of the Assembly committee considering it.  This group would consult with the presbyteries and bring back a revised recommendation to the next General Assembly.  It’s not quite a punt or ignore, but rather a “still needs work” decision.  This is just the committee decision – we’ll see what GA does but I suspect this will be what happens.


The committee recommended that the Heidelberg Confession be amended to return it to a closer translation from the original German, correcting some license taken by the translators in the 1960’s.  This has the effect of removing the wording against homosexuality from the confession, though others claim that the original intent of the passage in question was to mirror 1 Corinthians.

The committee also recommended that a team be created to study the inclusion of the Belhar Confession in the Book of Confessions – to report back at the next General Assembly.

Some little but important stuff

The GA passed a statement that the Catholic and Presbyterian baptism should be recognized by the other denomination, subject to each denomination’s rules.  This means something to me, a Presbyterian married to a Catholic.

The GA passed full recognition and participation in Eucharist between the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church.  We can now take Communion in the other church without question.  This also allows for limited use of ministers from the other denomination and allows further talks on allow integration in the future.

The GA passed a Book of Order amendment that changes part of the definition of the office of deacon – substituting “compassion” for “sympathy”.

Church: Getting your money’s worth

September 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

This Sunday the congregants at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville experienced a trifecta of worship events.

It started with a 5 minute plus speech by a member of the Stewardship committee.

Later we followed that up with a baptism.

After the sermon, we had ordination and installations.  One elder was recently elected to fill the term of a brand new elder who had to move for his job.  Two deacons had been unable to attend the ordination and installation the week after the election back in June – one had to be ordained.

Then after the offering we had the commissioning of the Hearts and Hands team.

The staff managed to keep the total time to 1 hour 15 minutes through the creative use of short hymns and short prayers.

After the service a number of us were joking about how we should have added Communion and a Wedding to the service.

In other news:  tonight is the first meeting of the Welcome and Outreach Task Force that I’m co-chairing.  I have all handouts copied, and I’m just about to send a reminder e-mail.  Wish me luck!

Reception of New Members

November 19, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

Today the Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church received me (and 15 others) as new members of the church.

All of us were asked to sit up front in the church along with our families.  Carolyn joined me this weekend (taking a break from the Catholic thing) and sat with me in the first pew.  I think I like it better towards the back.  The building looked full – just enough room for everybody to be comfortable rather than crammed in.

The bulletin included a legal size page with our pictures and self-written bios on both sides.

Just after the Children’s Message, we were called up by name to be recognized as new members.  One of us, Kate – a student at Princeton Seminary – needed to be baptized.  We were all asked the traditional baptism questions as our formal profession of faith, and then Kate was baptized in what has to be the wettest baptism I’ve ever seen in a Presbyterian church (water was actually running down her back).  Then the congregation read the Words of Welcome from the Book of Common Worship, and sang a hymn “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” and the congregation was then invited to pass the peace (moved from the beginning of the service).  The Peace was as chaotic as usual with the crowd of us tripping over each other.  Then we all sat down and the service continued.

One pleasant surprise was the hymn just before we were received.  It was “I Danced in the Morning” (#302 in the blue Presbyterian hymnal, if you’re playing along at home).  The Rev. Tim Ives was the Associate Pastor at the church that I grew up in.  He has to be in the top 5 people responsible for my spiritual growth, and I doubt that I would have been a deacon, YAD, member of Synod committees, or Youth Triennium participant if it weren’t for him.  This hymn was the centerpiece of his service of installation in that church.  “I am the Lord of the Dance, said He”  Freaky coincidence?  Carolyn and I don’t think so.

At the end of the service, the group of new members left at the beginning of the last hymn to form a receiving line in Fellowship Hall.  I managed to get Carolyn to stand next to me – after all she is part of the family now, too.  We then met a huge crowd of people, most of whom who told me their name and few that I remember, and then we had the cake that was specially made for us.  We chatted with all sorts of folks and then headed home.

This is the end of the journey that began in August 2005 when another volunteer at Camp Johnsonburg asked me “What church do you belong to?” and I had no answer.  It went on to include the Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat at camp and my church search.

While this is the end of the journey back home, it is certainly NOT the end of my spiritual journey.  I hope to bring you news as time goes on.  I look forward to this church finding a way to pull me into greater involvement – I’m eager to get started but I need help to find that first thing to volunteer for.  And I also look forward to telling the story of this successful journey at the new Reconnecting with Faith retreat next January.