Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Off to General Assembly

Bright and early tomorrow morning I hop on a plane for Birmingham, AL for our Presbyterian Church General Assembly -- the biennial gathering of commissioners from all over the country to decide on policy, budget, and procedure for the Presbyterian Church USA.

For those not familiar with the Presbyterian way of doing things, a quick refresher. The presbyterian church is organized around rule by elders (the "presbyters"). Every congregation has ordained elders who are elected by the membership to lead (though the election is not meant as a representitive democracy -- it is a process of the members discerning and confirming a calling by God for the elder to serve). A minister is but one elder among many (though the minister is the one called to moderate the session -- that is the board of elders that runs the church).

Presbyterian churches are accountable to local governing bodies called Presbyteries -- where the leaders are (you guessed it) elders who have been appointed by their local congregations to serve. And guess what -- the General Assembly meeting consists of -- elders who have been selected from the presbyteries to serve. Sounds vaguely like the republic in which we live, no? That is why during the American Revolution, it was quipped in the British House of Commons: "America has run away with a Presbyterian parson"

So many elders gathered from all over the country -- means that the process for decision making is slow, messy, and confusing. And yet, somehow it works (more or less).

We have a number of contentious issues before us that threaten to divide the Presbyterian church. I'll probably touch on some of them in the next week of blogging (as I blog from Birmingham). However, I have great confidence that no matter what happens to the Presbyterian Church USA (whether prosperity or oblivion or tepid languishing), the Kingdom of God will be just fine. And that is a comforting thought

Soli Deo Gloria