Church Leaders Offer Call to Prayer

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” – Psalm 46:1-3 (NRSV)

Gracious Lord, you are our refuge and strength, our very present help in trouble. With sadness and questions in our hearts, your Spirit prompts us in this hour to pray for our sisters and brothers in the wake of the tragedy in Boston. Comfort with your generous grace in a way only you can, Lord, those who lost their loved ones in the bomb explosions today, those who are trying to connect with their loved ones, and those who are injured. Strengthen first responders, medical personnel, and other authorities as they work through the day and night to come to the aid of many. Pierce the heart and soul of the perpetrator(s) of this act of violence. Forgive that individual(s) for they know not what they do.

The complete prayer offered by Neal Presa, moderator of the 220th General Assembly; Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly; and Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, can be found at the website of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Presa Shares Reflections

The Rev. Dr. Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the General Assembly, shared these  Reflections in Progress as part of a semi-annual report.   You may download the full report here.

Reflections in Progress

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is experiencing a deep time of discernment. With a fast changing landscape in our society, congregations and mid-councils responding in varied ways, the PC(USA) as a prior generation had known it, or even as we have collectively experienced it at the dawn of this new millennium is necessarily changing.

What I have seen and heard is a Church seeking to be faithful to our Reformed tradition, while willing to experiment and take risks. Folks are in one or a combination of three places:

  • Awareness: becoming aware that a changing landscape, demographic changes, finite resources, and a call to be more faithful in the midst of it all is calling for not onlystructural and organizational changes, but more importantly, durable, and attitudinal and cultural changes
  • Anxiety: with the prospect of change comes the anxiety of grappling with the question, “So, what next, Lord?” With this comes the instinct of organizational reconfigurations, managing stress and conflict, and with the ecclesial map shifting as congregations seek dismissal or exploring dismissal, anxiety and tension increase. The Presbyterian instinct is to run to the rules, processes, and policies as a safe haven for what is manageable and controllable
  • Advent: with the New Form of Government, some mid-councils and congregations are taking risks to do innovative ministries, or doing away with old structures and grappling with councils that focused so much on the governance function and attending more and more to cultivating and sustaining meaningful relationships nourished and propelled by worship, mission, and fellowship

In the midst of the various travels, speeches, and sermons in the next 18 months of my term, as with the first six months, I will give focused attention on two areas of a vision for our life together

  • Unity with Difference: building upon the groundwork laid out at the Stony Point Talks last December with leaders of the various progressive and conservative affinity groups, our hope is to bring both the discussion/debate model and the substance of the nature of our theological differences to the public arena to catalyze serious consideration around our unity in Jesus Christ with the differences we have
  • Ecclesiology: moves to restructure and reorganize must be informed and shaped by a robust ecclesiology grounded in our Reformed tradition for the 21st century, around Christ’s enduring and continual call to worship-witness, for we are Christ’s gathered-sent community

I remain grateful to serve our Lord and the Church in this way. Please join me in praying daily for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and for sisters and brothers in Christ here and around the world as we all seek to serve faithfully and fully in our Lord’s name. Grace and peace be with you.

Keeping Up with the 220th General Assembly

Stay abreast of all the reports, committee actions, and Assembly work by visiting http://oga.pcusa.org/section/ga/ga220/

Plenary sessions will be live-streamed.  Click on PC-Biz on the above site to follow the business as it happens.

Remember our Commissioners and YAAD in your prayers throughout the Assembly.

Teaching Elder – Randy Argall

Ruling Elder – Anneliese Waggoner

YAAD – Sarah Johanek

Stated Clerk releases PC(USA) 2010 statistics

Total membership stands at 2,016,091

Office of the General Assembly                               July 1, 2011                         Sharon Youngs – Communications Coordinator

The Office of the General Assembly has released the 2010 statistics of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The statistical materials include a comparative summary of the PC(USA) membership, a summary of receipts and expenditures from 2007-2010, and additional miscellaneous information.

The new numbers show that the total membership of the PC(USA) in 2010 was 2,016,091, compared to 2,077,138 in the previous year, a decline of just over 61,000 members.

Nearly 59,000 individuals joined by profession or reaffirmation of faith. Adult baptisms totaled 6,148, a decrease of 672, and child baptisms numbered 22,460, which was 2,163 fewer than 2009.

While 21,615 members joined by certificate of transfer, 29,835 left by the same manner.

The number of PC(USA) churches stood at 10,560, down from 10,657. The figure reflects only those congregations that have been chartered, rather than new church developments, new immigrant fellowships, or other worshiping communities within the denomination.

Twenty new churches were organized, 77 were dissolved, and 26 were dismissed to other denominations.

The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, noted that the latest statistics continue a difficult trend.

“These numbers are not what anyone wants to see,” he said. “While it appears that we lost fewer people in the category of ‘other’ (those who did not die or transfer to another congregation) than the previous three years, it is still where our largest number of losses occur.”

In the area of financial giving, the annual statistics for 2010 show a total in contributions of $2,027,479,202.

“Presbyterians continue to be incredibly generous,” said Parsons, “even when their own pocketbooks are taking a hit from the economy.”

Speaking from the Big Tent event in Indianapolis, Parsons reflected further on this year’s statistical report. “Our numbers are down,” he said. “Seeing the data on paper is sobering. And yet, incredible things are happening in the PC(USA). For example, more folks than ever are at the Big Tent this year, especially youth and children. There’s a palpable sense of excitement and energy and conversation about vital ministries that are happening across the church.”

“It is an important time in the life of the PC(USA),” he added. “We have a new Form of Government that will encourage all of us to think differently about how we do church. I anticipate that we’ll see new models and fresh approaches springing up.”

“The excitement doesn’t nullify the numbers,” Parsons said, “but it’s a clear indication that God is not nearly finished with us.”

Read the complete summary of statistics.

Read the miscellaneous information.

Resources on 10-A

As many of you know, the ongoing voting in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reached a critical mass yesterday when Twin Cities Area Presbytery became the 87th presbytery to vote in favor of Amendment 10-A.

During Winnebago Presbytery’s regular meeting yesterday there was discussion about what this means for congregations and presbyteries.  Several resources were mentioned and you can find links to all of the resources below including the four key points used to begin yesterday’s discussion.

Official PC (USA) press release and churchwide letter from the Stated Clerk, Executive Director, Moderator and Vice Moderator

Frequently Asked Questions – Amendment 10-A and ordination standards

Communication Guidelines for Working with the Media re: 10-A

4 Key Reflection Points (from May 10, 2011 Presbytery Meeting Discussion)

You may also find these comments made via YouTube videos useful as well:

Elder Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator of the General Assembly

The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

We will continue to add resources as they become available.

Amen

The Rev. Gradye Parsons

The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

by Gradye Parsons

LOUISVILLE

It looks like spring might finally come after a winter filled with snowstorms, ice, bitter winds and new records for low temperatures. Winter may have a last gasp or two, but in most places things are starting to warm up. On one hand, my irises are, as usual, trying to rush the growing season. On the other hand, my roses are wisely laying low until evidence of several sunny days in a row.

In the congregation where I worship, we have a long tradition of confirmation classes slogging through winter by studying theology, history, polity and Scripture. Now, as spring approaches, these youngsters are writing down their own understanding of what it all means. Soon, they will meet with the session and answer questions about their faith and what they have learned. Elders will most likely gain new insights on their own faith from the conversations. I know my faith has already been enriched through the conversations I have had with the fine young confirmand for whom I am a mentor.  .  . Read more

Let a thousand flowers bloom

Headshot of Cynthia Bolbach
Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator of the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Where is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) headed?

I wish I knew.

Serious, engaged, and exciting discussion about what our future will, or should, look like is going on all around the church.

The discussion is taking many forms. Presbyteries are talking about what a “missional polity” really means as they debate the merits of the proposed new Form of Government. The Commission on Middle Governing Bodies is actively seeking input on how presbyteries and synods can best help us proclaim the gospel effectively (check out commission moderator Tod Bolsinger’s engaging blog posts. . . Read more

Monthly column featuring Moderator Cynthia Bolbach and Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons

Divine deposits
BY GRADYE PARSONS
Michael Fisher was my great grandfather to the fifth power. The Fishers were German. To show you how German, I can only point to Michael’s birth in Heidelberg, Penn., and his wife’s in Germantown, Penn.
Michael enlisted with the Pennsylvania Troops when he was fifteen. He fought in several battles, including Yorktown where Hessian (German) troops fought on the British side.
Afterward, he migrated to Tennessee where he and Christina had many children and descendants like me. Lots of Germans came to Pennsylvania.
It was not always a warm welcome they received, as the following quote illustrates:
“In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.”
Now, it may surprise you to know that the quote is from Benjamin Franklin, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, inventor, ambassador, and so forth. That quote does not square with the Benjamin Franklin I read about in history books. We all continue to need to hone the skills of sharing and accepting the other.
To quote the great John Calvin: “All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.” In Calvin’s formula, the “advantages” that Franklin and his circle enjoyed were given for the purpose of sharing with neighbors – even German neighbors like the Fishers.
We are in a rough economic period. Much abounds that frightens us, causing us to be defensive and anxious. People and religions from other countries push us when we are the most fearful of being pushed. But the gospel calls us to be good stewards of our hearts where the love of God dwells. It’s a love that should be dispensed for the benefit of our new neighbors.

Last day of General Assembly

Hello all,

This morning, the 219th General Assembly will conclude.  And I am very aware that I have not kept up with the blogging — it turns out that there is a lot of work to do at General Assembly!  And a lot of being together with this large, boisterous, loving, faithful Presbyterian family.

Much has happened here – and you have likely been aware of some of it.  I will try to share some musings soon, but today, I need to pack up, check out, and wrap up.  We have one more plenary, and a closing worship service.  It has been an honor to serve God in this way, and especially to serve alongside Mariana Berbert and Mary Ellen Keller.

Thank you for sending us to General Assembly.