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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ◆ 223 General Assembly 2018
June 22, 2018
Kindom building for the 21st Century.
Commissioners overwhelmingly approve Way Forward plan Assembly pauses during lengthy debate for impromptu salsa dance by Mike Ferguson ST. LOUIS — By a more than 10-1 margin Thursday, commissioners at the 223rd General Assembly approved The Way Forward Commission report designed to, as Assembly Committee on The Way Forward Moderator the Rev. Cindy Jarvis said, “discern the vision for structure and function of our denomination.” The vote was 474-47. Except for one slight language change, commissioners turned back a number of amendments to the committee’s recommendation, which will, among other things, change the structure of the denomination’s corporate entity, strive for cost equity among the various shared services delivered to the church’s six agencies and create a Moving Forward Implementation Commission to make what Jarvis called “course corrections that will be necessary” between the current Assembly and the next. In strengthening the role of the stated clerk, commissioners rejected proposed amendments that would
Samantha Gonzalez-Block, associate pastor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, NC, leads a salsa dance break during the Thursday afternoon plenary. (Photo by Danny Bolin)
have eliminated his ability to exercise pastoral authority during times of crisis and would have required the stated clerk to consult with agency leaders
Assembly confirms new mission leader
hold for about 24 hours while the Advisory Committee on the Constitution huddled with committee and commisSee Way Forward plan p. 7
A pauper’s grave, a place of honor
The Rev. Diane Moffett wants Presbyterians to ‘be love with skin on it’ by Pat Cole ST. LOUIS — The 223rd General Assembly confirmed the Rev. Diane Moffett as president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency by voice vote on Wednesday evening. Moffett will lead the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) agency charged with conducting the church’s national and international mission endeavors. A veteran Presbyterian pastor, Moffett comes to the role from Saint James Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, N.C., where she served for 13 years. She has also
before speaking to and for the church in matters of faith and practice. Earlier in the week, committee work on part of the plan was put on
Diane Moffett speaks prior to her confirmation as president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. (Photo by Danny Bolin)
See New Mission Leader p. 4
Nez Perce Presbyterians visit St. Louis grave of ancestors who aided Lewis and Clark by Paul Seebeck ST. LOUIS — When Irv Porter, associate for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Native American Congregational Support, and Jo Ann Kauffman, a commissioned ruling elder from Inland Northwest Presbytery, stood at a St. Louis gravesite and monument earlier this week, sadness swept over them. Two Nez Perce warriors — Speaking Eagle and Black Eagle — are buried here at Calvary Cemetery in a pauper’s grave. “I can only imagine what it would feel like to be so far away from home,” Kauffman said. See Pauper’s Grave p. 4
Irv Porter (left) and Jo Ann Kauffman visit the grave of Porter’s ancestor, the Nez Perce leader Speaking Eagle, in St. Louis. (Photo by Paul Seebeck)
C. Fred Jenkins Award Cuba’s man in St. Louis
Foundation’s Tom Taylor Writers Guild lunch
Kindom building for the 21st Century.
Friday June 22, 2018
Assembly honors the memory of Ben Weir and Jack Rogers The two former moderators were remembered for their service and witness by Pat Cole ST. LOUIS — The 223rd General Assembly on Thursday paid tribute to two former GA moderators who have died since the last Assembly. The Assembly remembered the Rev. Ben Weir, moderator of the 198th General Assembly (1986), who died Oct. 9, 2016, and the Rev. Jack Rogers, moderator of the 213th General Assembly (2001), who died July 13, 2016. Weir and his wife, Carol, who died in 2010, were Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers in Lebanon from 1953 to 1985. Ben Weir was kidnapped on the streets of Beirut in 1984 by a faction in Lebanon’s civil war and was held captive for 16 months. He was one of seven Americans kidnapped in Lebanon over a 14-month period. After returning to the United States, the Weirs taught mission and evangelism at San Francisco Theological Seminary until their retirement in 1995. “Ben oriented his life toward the relentless and often risky struggle for justice,” said Debra Avery, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, Calif., where Weir worshiped. This commitment, she said, continued until the end of his life. Avery said that a “leader of Lebanon’s oppressed Shiite Muslim community” approached Weir in 1975 as unrest in Lebanon began to worsen. The leader, she said, told Weir “my people are in trouble” and asked for his help.
“Ben wrote that it was in moments like this that faith lets you know that you can’t stand back and say, ‘I’m not here,’ hoping that the trouble will go away,” she said. Rogers became moderator after a lengthy teaching career that included faculty appointments at San Francisco Theological Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary and Westminster College. He also served as a vice president at San Francisco Seminary. Beth Hessel, executive director of the Presbyterian Historical Society, said Rogers’ work as a theologian was deeply related to his life as a Presbyterian. The 13 books he authored “deepened our ability as Presbyterians to think holistically about Scriptures and the Reformed tradition,” she observed. Hessel noted Rogers’ multiple denominational involvements, including his service on the committee that drafted the PC(USA)’s Brief Statement of Faith. Hessel said Rogers “humbly claimed that his one tangible contribution” to the statement was the inclusion of the words “holy and joyful lives.” They are in a part of the statement that exhorts Presbyterians to “serve Christ in our daily tasks and to live holy and joyful lives.” “He embodied that commitment in the way he carried out his work and in the way he integrated his insatiable and faithful curiosity about the endless manifestations of God’s word in God’s world,” she said.
The Rev. Jack Rogers, moderator of the 213th General Assembly (2001), and his wife, Sharon (photo courtesy of Presbyterian Historical Society)
The Rev. Ben Weir, moderator of the 198th General Assembly (1986), and his wife, Carol (photo courtesy of Presbyterian Historical Society)
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Kindom building for the 21st Century. 3
223 General Assembly
Assembly moves MLK’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ toward confessional status Proposal to add accompanying letter to Confession of Belhar also OK’d by Emily Enders Odom ST. LOUIS — By a vote of 352– 160, the 223rd General Assembly approved a motion presented by the Assembly Committee on Theological and Church Growth Issues and Institutions that will initiate the process toward amending the Book of Confessions to potentially include the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” The overture from the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area carries with it financial implications of $41,080 over a two-year period. Teaching Elder Commissioner Erin Hayes-Cook, of the Presbytery of Elizabeth, addressed her experience as a member of Committee 14. “We recognized the urgency in our current context,” she said. “What we found was that within the current structure, there is no action for a contemporary statement of faith. If we approve this motion, our church can study the letter now. If we enter into the process outlined in the Book of Order, it would give us an opportunity to further discern whether [the letter] belongs in the Book of Confessions or whether we need to find a further category.” As the motion was being debated, Teaching Elder Commissioner Rose McCurdy, of the Presbytery of Winnebago, rose to say that she was “shocked by the financial number,” and requested a breakdown. John Wood, speaking for the Office of the General Assembly, explained that the projected expenditures are associated with the formation and meeting costs of the required 15-member committee in outlined in G-6.03 in the Book of Order. An amendment moved by Teaching Elder Commissioner Debra Avery, of the Presbytery of San Francisco, which would have removed the Book of Confessions process from the motion —
YAAD Journal Claire Wineman, Presbytery of Denver
Miriam Foltz, vice-moderator, and Anne Apple, moderator of Assembly Committee 14 make their report to the 223rd General Assembly. (Photo by Michael Whitman)
commending King’s letter only to the church for study — failed by a vote of 213–302. Speaking against the amendment in favor of the committee’s original recommendation, Alexandra Hunt, a Young Adult Advisory Delegate from the Presbytery of New Covenant, said that “it’s important for not only youth, but also for adults to have access to [the letter] on a regular basis.” The Assembly also approved Item 14-01, as amended, a five-part recommendation on developing a letter to accompany the Confession of Belhar, which was added to the Book of Confessions in 2016. In answer to a question from Teaching Elder Commissioner Darren Pollock, of the San Fernando Presbytery, on how the proposed letter would differ from the 2014 letter, Clifton Kirkpatrick, a co-moderator of the Special Committee on the Confession of Belhar, explained that what was done in 2014 was solely to adopt the Confession. “We’re concerned with the context in the U.S.,” said Kirkpatrick. “Whenever Belhar has been adopted with its fundamental principles, it has always been accompanied by a letter that gives
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those principles life.” The Assembly also acted on the report of the Special Committee to Study the Reformed Perspective on Christian Education in the 21st Century, approving, as amended, its six-part charge. The prevailing amendment clarified the committee’s emphasis on the importance of intergenerational ministry and its recommendation, according to Emily Chudy, a teaching elder commissioner from the Presbytery of Donegal, that the Presbyterian Mission Agency “put energy into intergenerational formation.” An overture from the Presbytery of Wabash Valley, which would have added constitutional questions to the installation of Ministers of Word and Sacrament to be answered by members of the presbytery, was disapproved by the Assembly in accordance with the committee’s recommendation. A substitute motion by Ruling Elder Commissioner Linda Long, Presbytery of Wabash Valley — with which the Advisory Committee on the Constitution had issues that remained unaddressed — failed to become the main motion. A Commissioners’ Resolution: On Supporting the Reclaiming Jesus Statement with Prayer and Study was approved to refer, as amended, to the PMA’s Office of Theology and Worship. In other business, the Assembly approved the recognition of the Rev. Katie Geneva Cannon, Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary, and the Rev. Douglas Oldenburg, President Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary, for outstanding lifetime contributions to theological education in and for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Assembly also approved — and heard brief remarks from — Alton B. Pollard III, the new president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
It seems appropriate that General Assembly convenes during the longest days of the year. The only other time in my life I’ve been so exhausted was after Presbyterian Youth Triennium, compared to which General Assembly is an extended version with far more intense subject matter. It can be difficult to spend the day working hard in plenary, staying spiritually centered and spending time with the other YAADs in the evening before going to bed late and waking up a few hours later to start the whole process over again. A wonderful surprise for me has been discovering the best way to get through every long day: prayer. One of the most special aspects of GA is getting to hear and participate in prayers of incredible variety, from many different voices and numerous places. I’ve deeply enjoyed listening to the concerns and thanksgivings of our ecumenical partners, prayers in languages I don’t understand and the words of other YAADs as we process the events of GA. It can be challenging to remain focused on God as the reason we are all here, but prayer is an excellent reminder of the love and connection binding us to one another. At the end of the day, all of these prayers come down to one message in my own heart: Thank you, God, for allowing us to be here, in this place, as your family together. Amen.
presbyga and #GA223
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4 Pauper’s Grave from p. 1 The warriors arrived in St. Louis, having traveled 2,000 miles from Kamiah, Idaho, in 1831 to see their friend William Clark. According to legend they were in search of “the book of heaven.” “They could see the changes that were coming from the encroaching white world,” Kauffman said. “They were seeking the keys of understanding the new, modern technology. Every white person carried this book. They wanted to understand what was in it.” Within a month of seeing Clark, the two warriors became ill and died. Porter, who is a descendant of Speaking Eagle, was at the gravesite in 2003 when an 8-foot granite carving of two eagle feathers — designed by a historian from Lapwai, Idaho — was dedicated in the warriors’ honor. The Nez Perce nursed Meriwether Lewis and Clark back to health when the two explorers emerged out of the Bitterroot mountains in 1803, near starvation. According to Nez Perce oral tradition, an older tribal woman helped convince leaders to not kill Lewis and Clark for their guns and ammunition. “This woman had been helped by a white woman when she was in need,” said Kauffman. “If not for that, the Lewis and Clark expedition might’ve ended. Instead, Nez Perce showed them the way to the ocean.” While at the gravesite Kauffman sprinkled medicinal roots and homemade tea — something from home — as a way of honoring them for the sacrifices they made “in making a trail for us to come.” None of the four warriors who made the trip to see Clark made it home. Rabbit Skin Leggings and No HornsOn died on their homeward journey. Their final resting place is not known. Their story of a similar journey to that of Lewis and Clark, from the Pacific Coast to St. Louis, lives on — after nearly two centuries of obscurity. “Last time, when I left the gravesite, it was surrounded by hundreds of people,” said Porter. “This time it looked so lonely — to leave them so far from home.”
Kindom building for the 21st Century.
Friday June 22, 2018
C. Fred Jenkins Award is presented to Gradye Parsons Former stated clerk moved by honor which memorializes his mentor by Shane Whisler ST. LOUIS — The Rev. Gradye Parsons, former stated clerk of the General Assembly from 2008 to 2016, accepted an award that was particularly meaningful as it is named for his mentor. The C. Fred Jenkins Award is presented to those who have “given wise and prudent and vigilant support to the Constitution and polity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).” “Fred could calm you down over the phone,” said Parsons, referring to his early days as an executive presbyter and stated clerk for the Presbytery of Holston. “(He would) give you solid advice and usually make you think you thought of it yourself.” The Rev. David Bartley, member the Presbytery of Maumee Valley and President of the Association of Stated Clerks, which hosted the luncheon on Thursday at the General Assembly of the PC(USA), presented a beautiful memorial plaque with a bag of balloons. Bartley noted “a different Gradye story” where Parsons played with balloons that were bounced around during a presbytery meeting when Bartley gave a report on camps. While praising the more than 50 stated clerks in attendance, Parsons shared a thought from a recent sermon New Mission Leader from p. 1 been pastor of congregations in California and New Jersey. Moffett was elected by the PMA Board in May and her confirmation was recommended this week by the Assembly’s Mission Coordination Committee. Prior to the vote, Moffett told commissioners: “I have a passion and love for people that moves me to say yes to all of the challenges and yes to all of the responsibilities and yes to saying press the reset button, let go of the past and embrace the future and look for creative ways for us, you and I, to be love with skin on it representing Jesus in this day
Former General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons received the C. Fred Jenkins Award Thursday. (Photo by Michael Whitman)
on keeping the sabbath he preached as an interim pastor in Knoxville, Tenn. He quoted Jesus’ view that the sabbath was created for humanity, not the reverse. “I think we need to remind ourselves it’s true about our polity too,” he said. “Our polity was made so that the church can do mission.”
Jenkins served as associated stated clerk of the PC(USA) from 1990 until his death in 2000. The award description said that “Fred was available always to those who sought his counsel and wisdom, and demonstrated in his responses, in wonderful ways, a love of the church and a grace in the face of our frailties.”
and in this time wherever the liberating and loving, healing presence and power of God are needed.” Moffett received a ringing endorsement from the Rev. Dianna Wright, associate presbyter of Salem Presbytery, where Moffett is a member. With a group of Salem Presbytery ruling and teaching elders standing with her, Wright said, “As you can tell, she is really excited and full of energy and God is ready to use her for the life of the church and the world, and we ask you to confirm what God already knows will be a great gift to the church.” The Assembly confirmation is to a four-year term. The PMA has been under interim leadership since the resignation of Linda Valentine in 2015. Like the Moffett confirmation, the other items presented by the Mission Coordination Committee passed by wide majorities, but two of its proposed actions were amended. One of them was an overture aimed at helping congregations, presbyteries and seminaries address serious mental health issues. It allocates $250,000 to the PMA for this effort, and it instructs the agency to update a 2008 publication titled “Comfort My People: A Policy Statement on Serious Mental Illness.” The Rev. Dan Milford, a commissioner from Mission Presbytery, brought to the floor some recommendations that were narrowly rejected by
the committee earlier this week. His amendment passed 443–60. Much of what he proposed had been recommended by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) in its comments on the overture. Among ACSWP’s comments were recommendations that would draw seminary professors, the ACSWP and the PMA’s Research Services office into the effort. Another component of Milford’s amendment, which was not suggested by ACSWP, calls for the creation of a churchwide network concerned with mental illness. The other Mission Coordination Committee item amended by the Assembly was an action related to the creation of a task force to determine if there is a need for an LGBTQ+ advocacy committee in the denomination. Commissioners voted to change the terminology from LGBTQ+ to LGBTQIA+. The change was proposed by the Rev. Steve Werth, a commissioner from Pittsburgh Presbytery. He said the new language is the “current and fullest representation” of this group. Asked by a commissioner what the acronym stands for, the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, the Assembly’s co-moderator, replied: “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual, but the ‘plus’ recognizes that we are fluid people.”
Kindom building for the 21st Century. 5
223 General Assembly
Cuba’s man in St. Louis
Pastor/moderator helps reaffirm ties between Cuban church and PC(USA)
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by Fred Tangeman ST. LOUIS – Just as no man is an island entire of itself, no man can speak for an entire national church. That hasn’t stopped the Rev. Ary Fernández Alban from doing his best at the 223rd General Assembly to answer the many earnest questions he’s fielded about his island home. Rev. Fernández is moderator of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba (IPRC), pastor of a congregation in Matanzas and professor at that city’s Evangelical Theological Seminary. This week, he’s also IPRC delegate to GA223. In Committee 10: Mission Coordination and at the Cuba Partners Network breakfast and booth, Fernández has shared his insights about Cuba’s Reformed community, relating its hopes and concerns and affirming its links with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). At the breakfast, Fernández spoke of Presbyterian ties between Cuba and the United States dating back to the 19th century. After the 1959 revolution, Cuba’s Presbyterian community shrank, with many members leaving for the United States. Remaining pastors often ministered to more than one worshiping community, a reality that continues in today’s Cuba, where interest in religion is rising. Fernández said that the IPRC currently has 54 churches, 25 active pastors and 11 pastoral candidates. The denomination’s biggest challenge beyond ministering to its congregations is “to be the church of Jesus Christ in Cuba” during a time of dramatic economic and cultural change. “There is more inequality in Cuba than in past
decades,” Fernandez said. “The Cuban population is also relatively old.” Another concern of the IPRC is its financial dependence on the United States. “We don’t want to betray our mission or sovereignty in pursuit of funding.” An overture recommended to the full Assembly by Committee 10 and approved in the consent agenda helps clarify the collaboration between the two churches, affirming “the strong and long relationship between Cuban and United States Presbyterians” through the approval of a “new mutual mission agreement.” The Rev. Jo Ella Holman, Presbyterian Mission Agency regional liaison for the Caribbean, said that the last such agreement was in 1986. “This updates for current times the opportunities and challenges of mission in Cuba and in the U.S,” Holman said. “This is about mutuality and working together. It provides a framework for all of our engagements – congregation-, mid council- and Assemblylevel – with IPRC.” At the breakfast, Patricia Metcalf, Assembly organizer for the Cuba Partners Network (CPN), said that one great way for U.S. congregations to connect with Cuba is through the CPN. The Rev. José Luis Casal, director of World Mission for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, noted another: ask Cuban pastors who don’t have travel visas to come to the United States. Without individual invitations, such visas are difficult to acquire. “That’s a way you can help to break the blockade of the island,” Casal said.
The Rev. Ary Fernandez, moderator of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba (IPRC), and GA Co-moderator Cindy Kohlmann. (Photo by Fred Tangeman)
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Thirty years ago, during the last Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) GA in St. Louis, reports to the Assembly described conflicts in Central America that displaced families and strained resources in countries such as Guatemala and Costa Rica. While sanctuary advocates such as Presbyterian minister John Fife helped to publicize the plight of refugees, the denominational structure helped families that had left Central America through World Resettlement and Emergency Relief Services. By the summer of 1988, WRERS reported having settled 18,830 refugees in the United States. WRERS also made grants of “$187,000 to 23 projects in 10 synods serving asylum seekers” and an overall support effort worth $400,000 for “35 First Asylum Projects around the country.” Other services and funding offered through WRERS included “a half million dollar appeal for a special Immigrant Service Project of-
fering assistance in Church Education and Orientation” and “Outreach to Undocumented Immigrants.” Today’s church support to immigrants is led by such groups as the Office of the General Assembly’s Immigration Issues and the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns, Office of Public Witness, and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. —Kristen Gaydos, Development and Communications Assistant
Kindom building for the 21st Century.
Assembly reaffirms PC(USA)’s inclusiveness requirements, noting ‘declining nature of black congregations’
Commission authorized to ‘address disorder’ in Synod of the Covenant by Duane Sweep ST. LOUIS — Kennerly David Benraty, a Young Adult Advisory Delegate from the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia, spoke eloquently to the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Wednesday evening, seeking passage of an amended commissioner resolution to reaffirm the requirements for inclusiveness as stated in the denomination’s constitution. In the end, the Assembly approved the resolution by voice vote. The resolution directs the Office of the General Assembly to report within one year to the presbyteries and synods concerning the progress on this resolution and provide a full report to the 224th General Assembly (2020). Benraty said there is a “legacy of social and economic inequality” in the nation, and added that few in the Assembly would “understand or face the challenge of being black” in the PC(USA). The resolution advises mid councils to follow the lead of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus (NBPC) in raising awareness of the declining nature of black congregations throughout the church and the lack of pastoral leadership. It directs the stated clerk of the denomination to respond to the presbyteries, identified by the NBPC, that do not abide by Committee on Representation guidelines. The resolution also calls on the
Board of Pensions to analyze and report on the viability of African-American Presbyterian churches in their efforts to support installed pastoral leadership. The Assembly voted 514–6 to create an administrative commission to “address disorder in the Synod of the Covenant.” The administrative commission will have the authority to assume original jurisdiction of the synod if the commission deems it necessary. The Assembly followed the advice of its Mid Councils Committee in addressing two overtures that came to the Assembly with diverging interests. An overture from the Presbytery of Cincinnati had called for an administrative commission while an overture from the Synod of the Covenant had asked the Assembly to reject the Cincinnati overture. The Rev. Deborah Uchtman, commissioner from the Presbytery of Cincinnati, noted extreme tension in the synod. “We have appealed to our synod and they have done nothing.” The original Cincinnati overture had alleged multiple synod failures to meet its obligations identified in the Book of Order and alleged failings on the part of the synod executive. The action of the Assembly has no reference to the synod executive. What the action does, however, is seek reconciliation and healing while resolving disagreements and conflict.
In a page 2 story in the Thursday, June 21, issue of The General Assembly News, we incorrectly reported that the prospectus for the ninth round in the dialogue between U.S. Reformed churches and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was approved. The prospectus was referred to the 224th General Assembly (2020).
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Friday June 22, 2018
Oldenburg, Cannon honored at Theological Education Awards Breakfast
Trailblazers are recognized, in absentia, with the 2018 Award for Excellence in Theological Education by Emily Enders Odom ST. LOUIS — Impassioned tributes and deep gratitude flowed freely as leaders from across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s theological education landscape gathered Thursday for the General Assembly’s Theological Education Awards Breakfast to honor and celebrate two distinguished educators and trailblazers for marginalized people and voices. The Rev. Katie Geneva Cannon and the Rev. Douglas Oldenburg were represented at the breakfast by proud family members, since health issues prevented both from traveling to St. Louis to receive their Award for Excellence in Theological Education. The award, which is conferred biennially by the Committee on Theological Education (COTE) and the Theological Education Fund (TEF) of the Presbyterian Foundation, is the highest honor in the PC(USA) for those who teach, lead and support theological education. Cannon, a professor of theology and ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va., is the first African-American woman to be ordained in the former United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Oldenburg, a former president of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., also served as moderator of the 210th General Assembly (1998). Following a welcome by Lee Hinson-Hasty, senior director of funds development for the TEF, and the recognition of the awardees’ families and other special guests — including Assembly Co-moderators Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and Cindy Kohlmann; PC(USA) Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II; Diane Moffett, the newly confirmed president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency; and Tom Taylor, president and CEO of the Presbyterian Foundation — Tom Trinidad, COTE chair, opened the gathering with prayer.
In addition to the remarks given by the honorees’ family members, Todd Oldenburg, Douglas Oldenburg’s son from Asheville, N.C., and Bridgette Cannon, Katie Geneva Cannon’s niece from Jacksonville, Fla., the highlight of the breakfast was the screening of two professionally produced tribute videos, in which Cannon’s and Oldenburg’s respective and unique impact on theological education was celebrated by their distinguished colleagues, students and friends. “My father deeply regrets he could not be here to receive this recognition as his health can be inconsistent,” said Todd Oldenburg. “Education and educating others has always been a priority for my father. He saw education as an important part of his life’s work. He loved the mission of preparing the next generation for ministry. The only thing he didn’t like about being president [of Columbia Seminary] is that he didn’t get to be in the classroom teaching.” In her remarks, Bridgette Cannon recalled when her beloved aunt — widely recognized as a founder of Womanist theology and most recently the initiator and creative force behind Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Center for Womanist Leadership — was diagnosed with leukemia. “I just want to thank you,” Bridgette Cannon said. “I know there are so many mentees that she has out there who are saying, ‘I really wanted to see Dr. Cannon today. I wanted to hear her words of encouragement to do better and be better.’ Please keep her in your prayers as she continues to undergo her chemo.” The tribute videos are available at the following links: • The Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon — vimeo. com/276246157 • The Rev. Dr. Douglas Oldenburg — vimeo.com/276246713
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Lee Hinson Hasty, Brigette Cannon, family and friends at the Theological Education Awards Breakfast at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis, on Thursday, June 21. (Photo by Michael Whitman)
223 General Assembly
Kindom building for the 21st Century. 7
Assembly affirms re-election of Foundation President Taylor
Foundation nurtures ‘transformational generosity,’ Taylor says by Eva Stimson
Way Forward plan from p. 1 sion leadership over possible constitutional conflicts. “The constitutional issue almost set us back to the fleshpots of Egypt,” Jarvis joked, a reference to the hardships the Hebrew people faced during the Exodus. Asked how the new approach will change denominational culture to be more transparent and responsive, Jarvis said it’s “a question that was very much before our committee.” An administrative action issued by the Way Forward Commission June 12 calling for greater transparency and the freedom among national church employees to speak their minds to directly address the prevailing culture, Jarvis said. Committee members “began to get their minds and hearts around what it is to work in the national offic-
es of the church,” she said. “Consultants aren’t going to fix everything, but it’s sometimes helpful to have someone with that balcony view.” “And how will we know [when we have successfully changed the work culture]?” she asked. “The Book of Order says our way of government is designed not to work without trust and love. I think that as love and trust are increased, trust and transparency will begin to get better.” Commissioners solidly backed the other significant items recommended by the committee, approving the report of the All Agency Review Committee, the interim report of the 2020 Vision Team and proposals to boost translation services and require race audits of the six agencies.
NEED A GA BULLETIN INSERT? Of course you do! Tom Taylor, president of the Presbyterian Foundation, speaks at PC(USA) General Assembly 223 in St. Louis. (Photo by Danny Bolin)
ST. LOUIS — The 223rd General Assembly affirmed the election of the Rev. Thomas F. Taylor to a third term as president and CEO of the Presbyterian Foundation. In a brief address to commissioners following the vote, Taylor said his service with the Foundation has been “the most meaningful work I’ve ever done in my life.” He noted that the Foundation nurtures “transformational generosity” in both the giver and the recipient, adding, “We’re giving an average of $60 million a year, nationally and internationally.” The Foundation receives some 24,000 new gifts a year, Taylor said. “The vast majority of funds we hold are for congregations.” In response to a request of the 2012 Assembly, the Foundation has begun a program of “positive investing” in microfinance projects in Israel/Palestine. Taylor’s election was the only business item dealt with by Assembly Committee 13 that was not on the consent agenda and had to be voted on by the full Assembly. The committee considered business related to four of the six national agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): the
Board of Pensions (BOP), Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (PILP), Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) and the Presbyterian Foundation. In its report to the Assembly, the committee called on the heads of the BOP, PILP and PPC to address commissioners for four minutes each. Other business approved by commissioners on the consent agenda included: • A guide to just compensation for ministers prepared by the BOP • A response to overtures raising concerns about the administration of the Jarvie Commonweal Fund calling for a reconciliation team to identify and engage all parties in a peacemaking and reconciliation process and to report back to the 224th Assembly (2020) • A revised resolution encouraging the Presbyterian Mission Agency and PILP to consider forgiveness of mortgage grants established in 1968 or earlier to congregations closing and turning over their assets to presbyteries, but not to churches leaving the denomination.
The Presbyterian Outlook will produce bulletin inserts summarizing the major decisions of the 223rd General Assembly. They will be available the afternoon of June 23 and you can find them on the Presbyterian Outlook website. https://pres-outlook.org/2018/03/2018-ga-bulletin-inserts/
Today at GA • Opening plenary, 8:30 a.m. • Daily worship, 11:15 a.m. • Afternoon plenary, 1:30 p.m. • Evening plenary, 7:00 p.m.
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Friday June 22, 2018
Gun violence is ‘the greatest moral issue,’ Jim Atwood tells Presbyterian Writers Guild lunch attendees Pastor/author receives Guild’s 2018 distinguished writer award by Eva Stimson ST. LOUIS — Accepting “on behalf of the one million Americans who have died at the barrel of a gun since 1979,” the Rev. James E. “Jim” Atwood, an author, pastor and nationally recognized voice on the subject of gun violence prevention, received the 2018 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award at the Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) luncheon at the 223rd General Assembly. Atwood, 83, is pastor emeritus of Trinity Presbyterian Church, in Arlington, Va., and the author of Gundamentalism and Where It Is Taking America (Cascade Books, 2017), America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé (Cascade, 2012), The Leaven of Laughter for Advent and Christmas (Trafford Publishing, 2006), and other books. Calling gun violence “the greatest moral, ethical issue,” Atwood said, “In the ’70s and’80s, so many thought I was crazy to talk about gun violence when nobody cared.” He said he was more hopeful today, as more people, including young survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., are speaking out and taking action on the issue.
“We’ve never had a real sustained movement, but we’ve got one now,” Atwood said. He also dedicated his award to the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, which has developed resources on gun violence, and to GA commissioners who have been “a consistent voice” for sane regulation of firearms for more than 60 years. Those commissioners “took risks for the gospel when they returned home,” Atwood said. “It’s tough holding your biblical and theological ground when gun-lovers threaten to leave your church and take their wallets with them.” Atwood continued, “I thank God for those who refuse to be cowed by those who say the only way to stop gun violence is with more guns.” And to those who say the church has no business speaking out on gun violence because it’s a political issue, not a faith issue, Atwood had this response: “Each of the 39,000 gun victims last year was born in the image of God and is a neighbor that God commands us to love. Can you think of anything more spiritual than that?” Atwood first became an advocate
Rev. Jim Atwood, winner of the David Steele Distinguished Writer Award, speaking at the Presbyterian Writers Guild luncheon (Photo by Michael Whitman)
for gun violence prevention – joining the board of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence – after a member of the congregation he was then serving, Grace Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Va., was shot and killed by a robber with a Saturday Night Special. Since then, he has served as interfaith coordinator of the Million Mom March, chair of the Greater Washington chapter of the anti-gun-violence group Heeding God’s Call, and a member of the National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, which in 2014 selected him unanimously to receive its
2014 Peaceseeker Award. Atwood told those at the Writers Guild luncheon, “The most effective thing you can do about gun violence is talk about it – from the pulpit, in the classroom … and when you’re in line at the grocery store.” The distinguished writer award is named for the late David Steele – Presbyterian poet and essayist best known for his “Tuesday Morning” column in The Presbyterian Outlook – and is given biennially to a Presbyterian writer who blessed the church with his or her writing over the course of a career.
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