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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ◆ 223 General Assembly 2018


Kindom building for the 21st Century.

June 21, 2018

Committee urges divestment from fossil-fuel stocks Recommends renewable energy sources, greater efficiency by Fred Tangeman ST. LOUIS — The 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), like its two immediate predecessor GAs, will consider a recommendation to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The Assembly Committee on Environmental Issues voted 35-20 to recommend approval of Overture 08-01, drafted by the Presbytery of Hudson River with the concurrence of more than 40 presbyteries. The overture was not substantially amended during the committee’s two days of meetings, yet the committee did some he avy lifting by “answering” three similar overtures referred to them. Those overtures — 08-02, 08-08 and 10 — called for divestment using different criteria, or instructed the church’s office of Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to continue its current evaluation of and engagement with fossil fuel producers the church invests in. Responding to commissioners’ questions about the seeming irreconcilability of the four

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Fossil Free PCUSA representatives march into General Assembly 223 encouraging corporate divestment from fossil fuel corporations. (Photo by Danny Bolin)

overtures, Rob Fohr, MRTI’s director of faith-based investing and corporate engagement, said, “If the General As-

Navy chief says chaplains meet vital spiritual needs

Christ calls us to serve with people who need it most’ by Pat Cole ST. LOUIS — While the religious backgrounds of U.S. military personnel have changed greatly over the past three decades, their spiritual care continues to be a pressing need, the U.S. Navy’s chief of chaplains said Wednesday. Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben, a Presbyterian minister of Word and Sacrament, addressed commissioners to the 223rd General Assembly on the day she celebrated her 35th anniversary as a Navy chaplain. When she began her career, she said, there was a common religious

sembly votes to divest, MRTI will no longer be at the table.” Statements from advocates of di-

vestment presented testimony about the human impact of pollution and cliSee Fossil-Fuel p. 2

Way Forward, Vision 2020 reports recommended to plenary Committee 4 proposes corporate-entity reforms, greater role for stated clerk by Mike Ferguson

Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben, Chief of Chaplains, United States Navy brings commissioners to their feet as guest speaker Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Danny Bolin)

See Navy chief p. 2

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Ecumenical and interfaith relations

ST. LOUIS — The Assembly Committee on The Way Forward is recommending significant changes in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)’s corporate arm and in how the church’s six agencies relate to one another, mid councils and congregations. Included in The Way Forward Commission’s report, which the committee approved Tuesday, are resolutions prioritizing translation and accessibility in the PC(USA) and requiring race audits of the six agencies. If the General Assembly concurs

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Ghana partnership

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Hands and Feet in Ferguson

Sue Krummel addresses The Way Forward Committee at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis on Monday. (Photo by Michael Whitman)

See Way Forward p. 3

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Native American Presbyterians

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Ecumenical worship

Kindom building for the 21st Century.

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Navy chief from p. 1

mate change in the United States and around the world, from India to Nigeria to Nicaragua. Voices on both sides of the divestment issue spoke about last year’s climate-change-linked devastation in Houston and Puerto Rico. In addition to calling for divestment from fossil fuels, the committeeapproved overture, 08-01, instructs the investing agencies of the PC(USA) — the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation — “to actively seek out and invest in securities of companies whose predominant focus is in renewable and/or energy efficiency” and “to report to the 224th General Assembly (2020) about their progress.” The committee also will be sending a minority report to the full Assembly that recommends Overture 08-08, which would instruct MRTI to continue its current engagement process with the fossil fuel industry. Committee 8 also approved overtures calling for: reduced use of Polystyrene foam; a lower churchwide carbon footprint; the adoption of the “precautionary principle” approach to risk assessment; and increased advocacy for environmental justice and against environmental racism. Desiree Lawson, a pastor from the Presbytery of Huron, told the committee that her home town of Flint, Mich., “can’t trust the water coming through our pipes,” and that “GE stopped using Flint water because it was corroding engines.” She said “black people (in Flint) are not allowed to talk about this issue because we are not a priority, we are not valued.”

language that included such words as “forgiveness,” “grace,” “faith” and “reconciliation,” and these words were understood. Today, she said, military chaplains not only serve people from diverse religious traditions, but have many people in their charge who have no religious background at all: “Many men and women we deal with have never darkened the door of a church, a mosque or a synagogue.” Nevertheless, Kibben said, chaplains are called to “care for each soul in our command and our service.” She said chaplains have a unique opportunity to provide a listening ear to military personnel in need. “We have access to every space, every place and every office where people serve and can come alongside them.” Chaplains are expected to provide spiritual nurture for people of all ranks, including senior leadership, she said. In addition to serving as a “moral compass” for senior officers, she says chaplains often are the only people in whom they can confide when they feel lonely and afraid. Kibben told commissioners that when young people leave their congregations to serve in the military, they can count on chaplains to help with their spiritual needs. She encouraged those present to suggest military chaplaincy as a vocational option for people who believe they are called to ministry. “If there is any dissonance there, forgive me, but think about it very deeply,” she said. “Christ calls us to serve with the people who need it most.”

Thursday June 21, 2018

Assembly reaffirms PC(USA)’s interfaith relations

Dialogues with Episcopal Church, U.S. Catholic bishops also approved by Theodore Gill ST. LOUIS – Quick and grateful approval was extended by the 223rd General Assembly Wednesday afternoon to actions recommended by its Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. It was the first Assembly committee to complete its work in St. Louis. During its deliberations of the previous three days, the committee had an opportunity to interact with representatives of churches and faiths from five continents and with spokespersons from such organizations as the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., Christian Churches Together, the International Council of Community Churches, the Islamic Society of North America, the National Council of Synagogues and the Anti-Defamation League. Each of the committee’s guests received a hand-crafted pocket cross as a gift. The committee reviewed and endorsed the ongoing work of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (GACEIR). It also endorsed a prospectus for the third round of dialogue between the PC(USA) and the Episcopal Church in America and another prospectus for the ninth round in the dialogue between U.S. Reformed churches and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. An overture from the Presbytery

of Carlisle, On America’s Interfaith Context and the Church’s Challenge, approved by GA223, directs the church to: • Affirm and embrace the religious diversity of the U.S.A. and to love all our neighbors – including those of other faiths – as we love ourselves. • Condemn all religiously inspired and motivated violence, prejudice, discrimination and hate speech. • Reaffirm particular General Assembly positions on interreligious relations. • Seek reconciliation with religious groups with whom Presbyterians and their partners have exchanged hateful words and unjust actions. • Encourage presbyteries to create interfaith relations committees or task forces to promote interreligious relations, dialogue and understanding. • Encourage congregations to engage in interfaith conversations and partnerships in their communities. • Direct the stated clerk of the General Assembly to encourage congregations to use the resources of the Office of Interfaith Relations to promote education about other religions. A commissioners’ resolution adopted by the Assembly directs the PC(USA) to begin to explore developing a covenant relationship with the Gereja Maseh Injili di Minahasa (GMIM), an Indonesian-language communion of the Reformed Protestant tradition.

In a sea of change . . .

2019 APCE Annual Event

February 6–9, 2019

Bring your entire team: Educators, Pastors, Musicians, Youth Workers, Mission Leaders, and Volunteers! Handcrafted crosses were presented as gifts during the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations report to the 223rd General Assembly. (Photo by Michael Whitman)

www.apcenet.org THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY NEWS Published daily, June 16-23, by Office of General Assembly Communications in cooperation with Presbyterian Mission Agency Communications Managing Editor/Publisher: Jerry Van Marter Associate Editor: Gregg Brekke

Designer: Mark Thomson Reporters: Pat Cole, Erin Cox-Holmes, Eleanor Ferguson, Mike Ferguson, Theo Gill, Rick Jones, Chris Keating, Emily Enders Odom, Eva Stimson, Gail Strange, Duane Sweep, Fred Tangeman, Shane Whisler. Copy Editors: John Filiatreau, Jennifer Cash

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223 General Assembly

Kindom building for the 21st Century. 3

Way Forward from p. 1 with the committee’s recommendation, the denomination’s A Corporation board, whose membership exactly matches the board of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, will be pared from 40 members to 11. The PMA Board would remain in place, but would not serve as the A Corp. after its new board was seated. The Way Forward Commission’s recommendation approved by the committee also calls for strengthening the office of the stated clerk of the General Assembly; establishing a Diverse Voices Table to examine issues of equity and inclusion within agencies; and creating a Moving Forward Implementation Commission. That commission would be charged with ensuring compliance with and implementation of 2018 Assembly action and compliance with recommendations from The Way Forward Commission and All-Agency Review Committee. It would report its findings and recommendations to the 224th General Assembly in 2020. The committee recommends hiring an outside consultant to address issues of trust and transparency raised in a June 12 administrative action issued by The Way Forward Commission. Also approved Tuesday were two other important documents — the report of the All Agency Review Committee, and the interim report of the 2020 Vision Team. The former includes instructions to the six agencies to study the per capita funding model and its ability to pay for the Office of the General Assembly and the PMA, as well as an exploration of “alternative and creative” funding resources for both. When agencies are developing work plans and budgets, the report says they should identify “what radical obedience to Christ looks like, both in times of possibility as well as in times of peril,” and to determine how to “grieve what was once beautiful, but now is no longer possible.” The committee disapproved, at the request of the PMA’s Governance Task Force, a deliverance that would have divided the A Corp. into two corporations. It approved updates to the PMA Board’s Manual of Operations. Charged by the 222nd General Assembly (2016) to develop a guiding statement for the denomination, the 2020 Vision Team calls on Presbyterians to live up to the qualities reflected in the denomination’s acronym: Prayerful, Courageous, United, Serving and Alive. Plenary action for the Way Forward Committee’s recommendations is set for 1:30 p.m. Central Time Thursday.

YAAD Journal Claire Wineman, Presbytery of Denver

The Rev. Michael Blair of the United Church of Canada at the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations breakfast at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis on Wednesday, June 20. (Photo by Michael Whitman)

Michael Blair asks churches to live and serve from the margins

Ecumenical and Interfaith breakfast crowd hears call to relinquish privilege by Theodore Gill ST. LOUIS — “The curse of Constantine put Christians ‘at the center,’ in our minds at least,” the Rev. Michael Blair explained at the Ecumenical and Interfaith breakfast on June 20. “The Roman emperor established us as a people of power, and we have been trying to maintain our status and privilege ever since. As churches, we need to confront one another about that.” Blair, executive director of the Church in Mission unit of the United Church of Canada, spoke on “Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in a Season of Civil and Political Divisions and Hostilities.” He noted that many sources of exclusion, social stratification and bias stem from attitudes in churches, “and now the chickens have come home to roost” in world and national cultures. Blair opined that when Christians from the global North praise the concept of “mission from the margins,” it is usually while picturing other people as marginal.

Such a worldview is rooted in the Doctrine of Discovery, imagining explorers traveling out from a “center” to claim and civilize an unfamiliar other somewhere on the world’s periphery. This attitude persists unconsciously even though our churches have formally condemned it. “We need to reorient ourselves,” he said. In North American churches, we must learn to ask for help from farflung partners if there is to be true mutuality in mission. “Are we ready to give up privilege as we serve the God of mission?” Blair asked. “We are called to live and serve from the margin, with energy, passion and grace: for the sake of the world, for healing and for hope.” Hosts and presenters at the ecumenical breakfast included Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) staff members the Rev. Robina Marie Winbush, the Rev. Everdith Landrau, the Rev. Dr. Jose Luis Casal and Ruling Elder Sara Lisherness.

“This is what democracy looks like!” was one of the many chants that resounded throughout the streets of downtown St. Louis during our march to the Justice Center on Tuesday afternoon. Though I have previously participated in similar marches, this one was made particularly special because of the presence of my church family and the members of St. Louis activist communities who are doing so much for the city that has graciously welcomed us into its arms. After days spent in the confines of committee meetings, it was important to be reminded of the world beyond our bubble and the wider meaning our Christian love has when taken out of the context of General Assembly. It is a powerful tool we extend to one another not only because we are siblings in Christ, but because we are humans, and because the liberation the truth of love brings is a basic human right. The earlier chant took on new meaning when raised up in the voices of YAADs, amidst our fight for greater democratic representation at the Assembly. Our committed presence at the march sent a message: we are here, now, to carry the battle for the freedom of all people into the future on our shoulders, and when there are so many of us, we are able to form a body strong enough to carry what is right, and also what is good.

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Kindom building for the 21st Century.


Thursday June 21, 2018

Lake Erie, Ghana presbyteries join on a journey of faith Partners look for areas of collaboration, face similar challenges by Kathy Melvin ST. LOUIS — The Rev. Seth Agidi, moderator of the General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana (EPCG), came to the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to strengthen relationships with his brothers and sisters in Christ, but also to visit family — his Lake Erie family. For more than seven years, the Upper Northern Presbytery of the EPCG and the Lake Erie Presbytery in Pennsylvania have enjoyed a deep and growing partnership focused not on giving and getting, but on building relationships, learning from one another, and walking together in faith and friendship. “In the faith journey with the Ghana/Lake Erie partnership, we are mutually empowered and enjoy each other’s unique hospitality,” said Agidi. “Our American friends are welcomed to Ghanaian homes with generous smiles of ‘Mia woe zor’ (welcome). This relationship continues to develop into individual and family ties. We mourn, comfort, rejoice with, support and mutually build up each other in our journey of faith and friendship.” The EPCG was founded in 1847 by

German missionaries from Bremen, but Agidi said the church moved from one of merely receiving to becoming a missionary church, operating its own mission and ministry programs with partner churches. Although it isn’t the oldest partnership, Agidi says the relationship with Lake Erie and the Upper Northern Presbytery is certainly among the deepest and the strongest. “Our oldest partnership is with Germany,” he said. “But when we go there, we have meetings and stay in hotels. When we visit Lake Erie we sleep in one another’s homes, we get to know each other’s children, we stand in one another’s pulpits.” The Rev. David Oyler of Lake Erie Presbytery said that this relationship presented an opportunity for the presbyteries to “understand a different culture, a different world, learn the strengths of each other’s system that bind us together to build the body of Christ in both places.” Sitting side-by-side in the America Center, Agidi and Oyler talked about how the two partners look for areas of collaboration and find they are facing similar challenges — caring for the

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Members of the Lake Erie Presbytery visit the family and home of a pastor, David Bindati, who died in a motorcycle accident. The Rev. David Oyler is in the center and the Rev. Seth Agidi is at left. (Photo by the Rev. Josh Heikkila)

elderly and losing young people from the rural setting to the urban areas where jobs are more available. Oyler said that last year, a Ghana pastor, David Bindati, died in a motorcycle accident. The grief was felt on both continents. Members of the Lake Erie Presbytery visited the pastor’s widow and children and helped with their care, financially and emotionally. “You wouldn’t think of Lake Erie and Ghana as having any similarities, but they both require a little time and stamina to get there,” said mission co-worker the Rev. Josh Heikkila. Agidi joked that in Ghana, Lake Erie is a household name. Agidi also said that Heikkila’s presence provides an opportunity for a unique relationship. “Joshua and visiting friends from the US participate in almost all activities of the EPCG. We worship together, eat together, sing and dance together. Joshua has pastoral oversight of one of our congregations. He speaks our language. We, in turn, learn more about the US and the global church,” he said. Mission co-worker Ruth Brown recently answered the call to serve in Ghana’s Northern Region with the EPCG, working to build leadership for community health programs. She supports church leadership in devel-

oping Community Health Evangelism (CHE) programs. The CHE approach is developed through Bible study and discussion of Christian life and responsibilities for all creation, particularly for neighbors. Study groups are taught strategies for health promotion and disease prevention. Community members learn to identify their local health concerns and resources and to implement programs for positive, sustainable change. The Rev. Debbie Braaksma, World Mission’s coordinator for the Africa area office, believes this relationship is an excellent example of the way Presbyterians do partnership. “True partnership is not about being a donor,” she said. “It’s not about giving some money to international partnership that is left over in your budget, it’s about growing together in the body of Christ. A wonderful way to experience the depth and breadth of God’s love is international partnership.” The PC(USA) has partnerships with several churches in West Africa — the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Togo. The PC(USA) also has partnerships with the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria and the Evangelical Church of the Republic of Niger.

Today at GA • Theological Education awards, 7:00 a.m. • Presbyterian Writers Guild, noon • C. Fred Jenkins Award, noon • Award-winning documentaries, 5:30 p.m. • Hands and Feet celebration with Kirk Whalum, 7:30 p.m.

Kindom building for the 21st Century. 5

223 General Assembly

Youth pitch in to share God’s love in Ferguson

Hands and Feet opportunities combine learning and service

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by Chris Keating ST LOUIS — Cleaning basements, tearing down metal sheds and filling dumpsters are hardly the activities most high school students choose for summer vacation. But that’s exactly what two groups of Presbyterian youth are doing in Ferguson, Mo., this week as part of the Hands and Feet initiative. Youth groups from Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations in Kentucky and Arkansas are participating in a week of service learning activities sponsored by St. Louis Urban Missions, a ministry of First Presbyterian Church in Ferguson. Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb of 21,000, garnered national attention in August 2014, when a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. The Hands and Feet initiative was planned as a way for the PC(USA) to have a positive impact in the St. Louis area in conjunction with the 223rd General Assembly (2018). Presbyteries were invited to send mission teams to the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy. The initiative will be replicated in future General Assembly cities. On Tuesday, youth from Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., helped a resident living near Ferguson clear out junk and debris from her basement. The homeowner was referred by a St. Louis County governmental office overseeing problem properties. The homeowner’s daughter said her mother’s advanced age and dementia have made housekeeping

tasks difficult. She was grateful for the help from Hands and Feet. “It truly is a blessing,” she told the group. “I’m overwhelmed, but in a good way.” The Rev. Doodle Harris, associate pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, brought seven volunteers to the woman’s house. Harris said the youth are benefiting from participating in both the Hands and Feet project and General Assembly. “What’s been most important have been the conversations on race,” Harris said. Abby Sekula, a student from Louisville, agreed. “I think it helps us get a better understanding of the situations people face,” Sekula said. Youth and adults from the Presbytery of Arkansas spent Tuesday tutoring at-risk children in Ferguson. The Rev. Brian Brock, pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Russellville, Ark., said the presbytery regularly sponsors mission trips in conjunction with General Assembly. Brock said the intent of Hands and Feet to offer service in the host city makes sense. Until now, he said, “one of the things about General Assembly is that there has not been much focused on the city itself.” First Presbyterian Church in Ferguson has been hosting work teams since 1998, says church trustee Duane Mazzacavallo. As the coordinator of St. Louis Urban Missions, Mazzacavallo connects work teams with various agencies in and near Ferguson.

Abby Sekula, Grady Stevens, and Caleb Morris, all of Louisville, Ky., load a dumpster near Ferguson, Mo., on Tuesday, June 19. (Photo by Michael Whitman)


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Fifty years ago, Presbyterian assemblies considered actions that would signal the Church’s responsibility and commitment to peace and social justice. Weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. convened its 1968 General Assembly in Minneapolis. In addition to hearing from Ralph Abernathy, King’s successor as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the assembly voted to make $100,000 available to the SCLC for a King memorial fund. It also adopted a paper “The Crisis in the Cities,” which declared “we must begin to make amends for historic wrongs, fashion new relationships based on mutual trust and respect” and “make the needed resources available for strengthening the scope and effectiveness of ghetto ministries.” In an eerie echo one month later, the Presbyterian Church in the

U.S. assembled in Montreat, North Carolina days after the shooting of Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Besides recording 115 commissioner protests against the assembly’s non-endorsement of the Solidarity Day March for the King-organized Poor People’s Campaign, the PCUS adopted a resolution urging legislation to “effectively control the sale and possession of firearms of all kinds.” —Charlene Peacock, Reference Archivist

Kindom building for the 21st Century.


Thursday June 21, 2018

PHS remembers Head Start program Civil Rights struggle included early childhood education by Fred Tangeman

June Lorenzo at the Native American Consulting Committee Dinner at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis on Tuesday, June 19. (Photo by Michael Whitman)

Native American speaker says repudiating ‘discovery’ doctrine will address historic harm

Lorenzo says generations have been abused, traumatized by Pat Cole ST. LOUIS — Repudiating the “Doctrine of Discovery” will help the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) address the harm of past injustices and inform the denomination in its future mission work, a Presbyterian human rights attorney said Tuesday. The “discovery” doctrine led to abuses generations ago that continue to traumatize Native Americans, June Lorenzo said in an address during the Native American Consulting Committee dinner. A member of Laguna United Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe Presbytery, she served on the team that produced the Doctrine of Discovery report to be received by the PC(USA) General Assembly this week. The doctrine originated as a papal teaching that European countries used to justify their colonization of other parts of the world. It also played a role in the westward expansion of the United States, and large numbers of Native Americans lost their land, and their lives, as a result. Lorenzo said Native American women and children often were sexu-

ally abused by military personnel. “It is no wonder that we have more and more native scholars who say that you cannot leave intergenerational trauma out of the picture” when considering the plight of Native Americans, she observed. The General Assembly is being asked to urge Presbyterians to repudiate the doctrine and confess their complicity in it. Lorenzo reminded the gathering that the rights of indigenous people is an issue that goes beyond the borders of the United States. She said the PC(USA) should always be concerned about justice for indigenous people as it pursues its international mission work. The dinner guests were informed about education/leadership development grants available through the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Native American Leadership Fund Award. The deadline to apply for a grant is Aug. 31. An application can be downloaded from pcusa.org/native-american-leadership-grant.

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ST. LOUIS — Historian and author Crystal R. Sanders left Presbyterians feeling proud about a 50-yearold chapter of their social witness, telling the Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) luncheon how the Church supported a fledgling Head Start program in 1960s Mississippi. After introductory remarks from PHS Board Chair the Rev. George Abdo and Executive Director the Rev. Beth Hessel, Sanders delivered a presentation on the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM), a federally funded Head Start program from 1965 to 1968. CDGM received vital institutional sponsorship from Mary Holmes Junior College, an African-American school founded by Presbyterian missionaries, and from the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., a predecessor denomination of today’s Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Mary Holmes and the UPCUSA tried to defend CDGM against attacks by white segregationists. As Sanders explained, Kenneth Neigh, UPCUSA’s general secretary of the Board of National Missions, even offered to “back any misspent funds” from CDGM, protecting the group from baseless charges of financial mismanagement by a U.S. senator from Mississippi.

Although the CDGM Head Start program lost its federal funding three years after its inception, Sanders refused to call that “a sad ending.” CDGM employed African Americans previously frozen out of the job market, including the mother of James Meredith, the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi. “Many black women would go on to transfer skills they learned from working with CDGM into other areas,” Sanders said, including knowledge of administration, management and self-empowerment. Thousands of African-American children enrolled in the program received schooling, regular nutrition and medical care for the first time. Sanders, author of A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi’s Black Freedom Struggle (2016), delivered her remarks to 70 people on Tuesday. Among those attending were St. Louis representatives of the NAACP and Head Start. “Mainline Protestant churches played a large and largely forgotten role in the Civil Rights movement,” Sanders said, adding that this is particularly important to remember in 2018, “when we need churches to step up again.”

Crystal R. Sanders was guest speaker Tuesday during the Presbyterian Historical Society luncheon held at the Marriott. (Danny Bolin)


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In the story in the Wednesday, June 20, issue of the General Assembly News there were two errors: • Bassem Masri was not invited by any network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to participate in the 223rd General Assembly. • Former General Assembly Moderator the Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel did not hear any threats spoken in Arabic by Mr. Masri. The General Assembly News regrets these errors and any harm that was done to any individual or group by publishing them.

223 General Assembly

Kindom building for the 21st Century. 7

We are family

More Light Presbyterians honor the past while looking toward the future by Emily Enders Odom ST. LOUIS — As Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks, a member of the board of directors of More Light Presbyterians, greeted guests at Tuesday’s More Light Lunch, the spirit of welcome and sense of family was generous and palpable. Acknowledging and honoring her colleagues on the board, the organization’s staff and its many partners — including Brian Ellison, executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians — Kyremes-Parks said that More Light’s executive director, Alex Patchin McNeill, continues to teach her about sharing God’s presence with all, and about mutual liberation. “If someone is not welcome and free, then I am not welcome and free,” she said. Following an opening prayer by Kyremes-Parks, McNeill shared the organization’s history, which traces back to a watershed moment 44 years ago when the Rev. David Sindt stood on the floor of the 1974 General Assembly and held up a sign that read, “Is anyone else out there gay?” McNeill said that sign marked the first meeting of the caucus that welcomed those who identify as LGBTQ and their allies. The second pivotal moment in More Light’s history occurred after the 1978 Presbyterian ruling that openly LGBTQ people could be received into church membership but not ordained as church leaders. “West Park [Presbyterian Church] said ‘there is more light,’ and that they were going to be more inclusive in whom they called to serve,” he said.

McNeill said that in the three years since marriage equality has been reality both in the church and in the U.S., More Light has “returned to our roots [in protest] and emboldened congregations to step out of the pews and into the streets for prophetic justice.” After outlining three new programs designed for congregational use, McNeill introduced the lunch’s featured speaker, Jess Cook, More Light’s program and communications manager. Because Cook said that more and more young people are continuing to leave the church because it “doesn’t feel like home,” Cook focused their presentation on ministry with LGBTQIA+ youth. “Because of the work of our elders and saints, young people are asking about their identity in ways that are totally new,” Cook said, which constitutes a “seismic shift” for the church. “They have the safety to explore,” said Cook. “For me, it wasn’t until I was working with youth that I could find words for my identity. When I was growing up, the words didn’t exist.” After citing research that over 50 percent of people ages 18–24 do not see gender on a binary of male-female and that 10 percent of people 18–34 do not identify as cisgender (the gender that corresponds with their birth sex), Cook shared that LGBTQIA+ youth in general are coming out at an earlier age. “Anyone working with young people in the church would benefit by digging into this,” Cook said. “In church, if they constantly have to defend their

Jess Cook delivers the keynote speech during the More Light luncheon Tuesday. (Photo by Danny Bolin)

identity — if worship is only ‘brothers and sisters’ — youth will simply opt out of church. When we baptize, we promise to nurture them. We promise to journey with young people. I can’t find it stated anywhere that this commitment is conditional. We have an obligation to help LGBTQIA+ youth.” Cook said that among the best ways church members can support LGBTQIA+ youth in their congregations is to “trust young people when they tell you who they are.” “Being the best resource is not about knowing all of the terms and definitions in advance,” they said. “It is about reminding those children and youth that they are beloved children of God.” Because Cook advocated for the

respect and use of people’s preferred pronouns — even if they are unfamiliar — attendees were invited to model around tables how such conversations might go. “Difference is no longer a burden to carry, but a way to see the myriad ways in which the creation reveals itself,” said Cook. The luncheon closed with More Light’s practice of honoring “all of the people who came before us as a light on this journey of inclusion.” Among others, the name of the Rev. Peg True — who died after a fall at this General Assembly — was lifted up as she was remembered “as a vision of what it means to be a compassionate person on fire for justice.”

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Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II and ecumenical colleges socialize before start of worship Wednesday morning. (Danny Bolin)

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Thursday June 21, 2018

Najla Kassab looks to transformation, reconciliation, peace

Ecumenical Service of Worship takes up offering for the Deirmimas Presbyterian Dispensary in Lebanon by Theodore Gill

The Rev. Najla Kassab, President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, delivers sermon “Towards a Kingdom of Reconciliation” in Wednesday Ecumenical Service of Worship.

ST. LOUIS — “We are called to change things, and to change the world as well,” said the Rev. Najla Kassab, president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, preaching Wednesday morning at the Ecumenical Service of Worship of the 223rd General Assembly.

Her sermon, “Towards a Kingdom of Reconciliation,” was based on a text by the Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:11–6:2. Paul wrote at a time of divisions within the congregation in Corinth, speaking with fervor about the Christian vocation to bear “the message of

reconciliation” as “ambassadors for Christ” (5:19–20). Kassab discussed Paul’s approach to reconciliation as seeking unity “beyond the flesh.” That is, looking beyond the human condition, beyond a person’s wealth or marginality, beyond outward physical appearance. Following Christ’s resurrection, it was no longer appropriate to form judgments on such grounds, Paul taught. A minister of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, Kassab reflected on her family’s experience of Israeli attacks on Beirut. “With the start of the Lebanese War, outlooks changed,” she said. “Before, we were hardly aware of who was Christian and who was Muslim.” Suddenly, they saw their neighbors “according to the flesh,” or “from a human point of view” (5:16). “Our challenge is to live the Jesus paradigm,” said Kassab, “… to see beyond the flesh.” Commitment to reconciliation, Kassab believes, “is tested at the point of pain. But reconciliation can never be achieved by violence; violence

will bring more violence all around the world.” Overcoming pain and violence, war and separation of children from their families, requires that we see and live “beyond the flesh,” nurturing the reign of reconciliation on earth. Led by ministers and lay people from more than a dozen denominations and nations, the GA Ecumenical Service of Worship was based on a service of Holy Communion in Churches Uniting in Christ Liturgy (adapted for local use). Co-presiding at the Lord’s Table were the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II, stated clerk of the General Assembly, and the Rev. Farouk Hammo, Ecumenical Advisory Delegate from the Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches in Iraq. The offering at the service was taken in support of the Deirmimas Presbyterian Dispensary, a ministry of the Deirmimas Village Church in South Lebanon, affiliated with the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. The dispensary provides free medical and pharmaceutical care to refugees from Iraq and Syria.


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General Assembly News - Day 6 - June 21, 2018  

General Assembly News - Day 6 - June 21, 2018  

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