We are those who grow old, and we want everyone made to our aged pattern. The Spirit is never old… Oscar Romero
Before I get into an analysis of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church I would like to say that the most amazing part of my time here has been talking with so many people that I know online and reconnecting with old friends. That is the main reason that I attend things like this and it has been truly a pleasure seeing them.
I know that I am not alone, but I think this has been the most frustrating GA that I have followed since I have been a part of the Presbyterian Church. The hurt and anger that I feel are pretty raw. For those who have had to see that I truly apologize. Still it feels like that there is not only an abandonment of a certain group whose civil rights are so important to our church catching up to the Holy Spirit, it felt like a complete abandonment of an emerging generation of people.
First, let’s talk about homosexuality since it seems that my denomination can never get enough of “studying” and “listening”. Yet, I sometimes feel that they would answer Martin Luther King Jr’s assertion of why we can’t wait with an Obama chant, “Yes we can!” The Spirit of God has already moved a generation well beyond what our church can say publicly on this issue. So much so that homosexuality is really not an issue for them. For those of us vulnerable to ecclesiastical court persecution I am truly sorry.
Second, I would like to say that this has been one of the most blatantly ageist GA assemblies that I have every noticed. The starkness between the “youth” vote and the “mature” has been clear. Some people have openly wondered in conversations why any youth attending this GA would stay in a denomination that not only says very little to them about the good news, but almost seems hostile.
Also, sitting through meals where “occupy” is criticized by those who chose to not lend a hand in leadership or its moral direction is deeply disappointing to me and offensive to those that some in he UN have declared had their human rights violated. It is more clear to me than at any other time that there is not a reciprocity in respect for those who fought the “old” battles for justice and the ones who are faithful now. In event after social justice event if feels like unless the aging social justice class is honored then everything currently done is not valid. It is time for my friends to be good allies of a new generation’s justice issues instead of being distant critics.
Finally, there was something that was far less easy to define that pervaded my conversations. It was a deep sense of disappointment and almost resignation that the denomination that so many of us love could be so painful. We will survive, and unlike others who are dissatisfied we are not going anywhere. Yet, I think that the pain that arose this week was something that I had not seen on so many people in one GA. Maybe it was Tara’s resignation that caused it, but I think that was a mere symptom of a deeper pain that many are now feeling. As one who believes we grieve with those who grieve I am sad with those people who feel like something vital was lost here.
My suggestion is that there is hope in the midst of disappointment and frustration. Some of the things that were passed under the radar have the potential to have deep impacts on racial/ethnic ministry and pay equity. Plus, many of us are talking about creating new peace and justice affinity groups that would have the flexibility to address emerging issues like foreclosures and student loan debts (things that were barely addressed this time around).
One of my favorite graffiti says: There is always hope. That is what I will take from the GA. In the midst of frustration and sadness I will return to Mercy Junction and begin the work of something new.