Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Women in the Word

This week, I've been doing worship planning. For the summer, I've decided to preach about women in the Bible. (inspired by a book by Lisa Wilson Davison, Preaching the Women of the Bible) Interestingly, most of the women are from the Old Testament--maybe because I've chosen either little-known women or because it's a longer testament. As I look at the schedule for the summer, I wonder if people will get tired of hearing about women. Maybe they will ask, "Why not just do four women--why ten?" Yes, it does sound like a lot! But think about it. For thousands of years, who have we mostly heard about? Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Job, Jesus, Paul, Peter ... and on and on. Yes, it's been mostly about men. So hopefully, there will be a little grace as we spend one summer looking at women and the role they play in scripture. Women still play an amazingly important role in the life of faith. My mind goes to some of the female saints of history, and the female saints I see every day in my own congregation and among my colleagues and friends. So here goes! We will lift up women who followed God's call throughout the years.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Last Full Day of General Assembly

I'm writing at 8:05 pm. We have been at it since 8:30 this morning, and the day is far from finished. There is a lot of work that has been done by the various committees, and some items call forth very different opinions. As you know, our call is not to vote our opinions, but together to seek God's will through the Holy Spirit's guidance. This is HARD!

We have made decisions about how to name leaders, what do do about misconduct by leaders, how to approach the thorny division between Israelis and Palestinians, affirmed Presbyterian Foundation loans to help development and our call to care for creation. We issued a call to congregations and others to welcome refugees from world conflicts. We thoughtfully crafted wise words for the treatment of animals and our earth in farming to feed the world.

As we work together, we are not unmindful of events in other places in the world. We have prayed for the storms and flooding back home, for the loss of life and the safety of those in danger. We were advised that Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is already on the ground at work in West Virginia. (You can donate to help by going to the PDA web site or by sending a donation to Northside earmarked for West Virginia relief.) We lifted up the "Brexit" vote and those affected.

9:50 pm - One difficult issue we considered was in regard to investing or divestment in fossil fuel corporations to help mitigate climate change. While the Assembly is overwhelmingly in favor of action to combat climate change, negotiating a path toward divestment from fossil fuels is difficult to chart. We voted to use channels available to us to influence decisions by fossil fuel companies, while taking into account people whose livelihoods rest on these endeavors. I believe we chose a good path.

We heard a report from Annie Ntumba Tshiswaka, a representative of the Presbyterian Church of Kinshasha (Congo) on the dire situation in that nation. They asked for support and prayer for justice in their land. The General Secretary of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba spoke of the possibilities for reconciliation between our countries. Dr. Lee Hong Jung, General Secretary, Presbyterian Church of Korea, asked for prayer for reunification of the Korean peninsula.

We approved a major peacemaking report (developed over the past six years) that calls us to renounce violence and pursue the ways of peace. A website available to view is

These are only a few things we considered prayerfully.

10:53 Recess!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thursday at GA

This day promises to be a long one. We began at 8:30, with prayers, presentations, and overtures. We worshiped before lunch. My lunch gathering today was with alumni of CREDO. You may remember that 8-9 years ago, I attended a CREDO conference, offered by the Board of Pensions, to offer clergy the opportunity for renewal in health, vocation, spirituality and other areas of vitality. I was happy to catch up with 3 others who were at that conference with me, although there are now over 1,000 clergy who have benefited.]

Your commission from Peaks--George, John, Jordan, Jude and I--has been working hard and holding up. Sometimes the decisions are difficult, and we do not always get what we prefer, but that is the beauty of our connectional church. There is room for differing opinions.

9 new mission workers were commissioned this afternoon, and we honored 41 who are retiring. A huge group of Young Adult
Volunteers (75) was commissioned for a year of service and intentional community. We paid tribute to Synghman Rhee, our former moderator, born in N. Korea, who died Dec. 31, 2015.

I don't know how familiar many of you are with Robert's Rules, but I can tell you that it's really easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of amendments, amendments to amendments, and whether a "yes" vote really means "yes" or "no." (I know this should be obvious, but believe me, it is not.)

We are finally getting real Portland weather--that is, it's really raining! Not my favorite weather for trekking back and forth from hotel to convention center. Please keep your General Assembly in prayer these next couple of days. Besides being tired, we are now damp around the edges, so we pray for civil discourse, and not too many amendments.

Jordan and me at work.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finally, another post from General Assembly

Well, so I promised to blog every day, and . . . oops . . . I have not. I've put a lot of things on Facebook, but by the end of these LONG days, I mostly want to REST! My committee, Church Polity and Ordered Ministry, spent a day and a half going over all the overtures submitted to our committee. It is so rewarding to see the careful attention that ruling and teaching elders put into considering the merits of proposed actions. Everyone doesn't "win" but everyone has a voice.

We are now back in the plenary part, where the whole body of commissioners will consider what we will do with what the committees have referred back to us. You can follow all the action at We spend much time in prayer and in song. I hope you will all remember that General Assembly is not "them," it is "us." We are all here because our presbyteries put faith in us to discern God's will as we debate together. Pray that we hear the Holy Spirit.

This is Jordan Phillips from Pulaski Pres. and me.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Work begins tomorrow

Today I got to know a lot more Presbyterians--from Long Island, Idaho, North Carolina, Philadelphia, and lots of other places. Most of them I met on our "mission trip" up the Columbia River Gorge. We visited several waterfalls, a 1917 "rest area," and the Timberline Lodge halfway up the 5% active volcano, Mt. Hood. That lodge was the hotel featured in the Jack Nicholson film, The Shining.

Tonight I attended a briefing offered by the Covenant Network at a beautiful UCC church. They are still at work for unity, justice, and reconciliation within our denomination. We met the candidates for co-moderators and stated clerk. We were also treated to Voodoo doughnuts, and I am still in a sugar coma from that!

I want to remind you that General Assembly is US. Commissioners have been elected by presbyteries represented by each church in each presbytery. Surprisingly, the way our polity is set up, smaller churches have a much larger voice in church government, as even the very smallest churches are entitled to one commissioner at Presbytery. Whatever decisions are made at GA, they are made by "us," not "them." It is a great strength of our church, but is often misunderstood. Even though our U.S. government was modeled on the Presbyterian system of representation, it does not work as well, probably because of the huge expense of running for office, often funded by larger corporations expecting payoff for their contributions. Leaders of our church do not run for office, they STAND, and do not campaign. They owe allegiance to no party or donor, but to God.

Please pray for your church tomorrow as we begin our work with worship. You can live stream the service, which will begin at 2:00 pm EDT. Prayer surrounds this Assembly, as the entire Cascades Presbytery (our host) has been praying for all events, and each commissioner by name by prayer partners. At the beginning of each day of work, a team of volunteers will visit each room being used that day, and will "pray into" that space, invoking God's presence and a spirit of reconciliation and hope among the commissioners. Tomorrow evening we elect co-moderators who will serve for the next two years.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


I spent a great family and sightseeing week in and around Dupont, Washington, and today made my way to Portland for the PCUSA General Assembly. This place is CRAWLING with Presbyterians! The first familiar face I saw was Moderator Heath Rada. He has been a wonderful representative of our denomination over these past two years.

Highlights from last week: my two beautiful granddaughters! They are charming, witty, and very loving children. There is nothing better than hearing two little voices scream, "Grandma's here!" We spent a morning at the Olympia Children's Museum--very cool! Aaron and Mary had to work on the weekdays, so I went adventuring on those days--Seattle (Pike's Place Market and the Space Needle), a Nature Trek out in the woods, and a real adventure up as far as the car could go on Mt. Rainier. It was snowing there! In June!

I am now at the Doubletree in Portland with lots of those other Presbyterians--we are scattered over the city in many hotels. The Convention Center, where most of the action takes place, is impressive. They are getting all the electronics in place--we will e-vote and be wired in through our computers--the Assembly is paperless, so everyone needs a tablet or laptop.

I met a YAAD (Young Adult Advisory Delegate) at the airport and we navigated the light rail to our hotel together. We were a bit worried about identifying the "red line," but one of the Assembly volunteers said: "Every train is the right train right now." I love that! We go in so many directions so much of the time, and wonder if we are on the right track. Maybe we can claim that, in God's gracious guiding, every train is the right train. Wherever we are heading, God is going along, and will bring us to the completion of God's plan.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Off to the West Coast

June is a big month for our denomination! Commissioners and advisory delegates from all 171 PC(USA) presbyteries, along with other participants and observers from around the world, will converge on the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland for celebrations, deliberations, and inspirations in support of the denomination’s biennial gathering. Hosted by the Presbytery of the Cascades and united under the theme “The Hope in Our Calling,” from Ephesians 1:18, the General Assembly will include rich worship services, the election of the Moderator, action on a plethora of overtures, and much more. This year’s GA will consider the nomination and election of a Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to serve, in the words of the current job description, as chief ecclesiastical officer of the denomination to succeed Gradye Parsons, who is not standing for another term. The nominating committee is presenting The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson as candidate. Dr. Nelson currently serves as Director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness (OPW) in Washington, DC. The Office of Public Witness is a prophetic office of the denomination and implements the social justice agenda of the General Assembly through advocacy with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. The Rev. David M. Baker, stated clerk and director of communications for the Presbytery of Tampa Bay, is also standing for the office. The election will be held June 24. A new moderator of the GA will also be elected. Standing are Jan Edmiston and Denise Anderson, and David Parker and Adan Mairena (standing for co-moderators). You can follow all the business of GA at Plenary sessions will be live-streamed. Please keep the GA and commissioners in your prayers!