As you know I am preparing for my next, and probably my last, stint as a commissioner to the General Assembly. This meeting will no doubt be as emotional as it was last time. There are some really big issues that are coming up at this General Assembly that will mark the direction and future of our denomination.
But this is to be expected. Just look around. It is not like things are going well for our society. We are on the verge of electing a president most people agree is not the best person for the job, at least if you are relying on the polls for either front runner. The disparity between the wealthy and poor is increasing. Racial and religious tensions are at a place where cities here and around the world are already breaking down. We stand at the precipice of an environmental catastrophe.
I don’t say this to be gloom and doom, but we share a lot of the blame for the direction of our country and world. While we were fighting about gay and lesbian people, we lost sight of what was happening to the faithful communities. Christians¾not just Presbyterians¾became known as hypocrites and haters. We lost our moral authority, because instead of following our instruction to give voice to the voiceless and create a just society, we spent billions of dollars to prove that a group less then 10% of the population¾was not worthy of faith. And right there, you can see the problem. It is not our place to say who is worthy and who is not it is God’s.
I have a radical theory about modern Christianity. It goes like this: we do not like God, but we feel real guilty about that. Shocking, I know, but think about it. When we debate issues and analyze the things that are said, most of the time the driving points rely on tradition, comfort, or power. Even when people claim an argument to be “theological,” it rarely has to do with God.
Here is the problem: because we do not trust in God and let Christ be our guide, we have rightly lost our place at the table, because there is no foundation and no unique voice that we bring to issues. Because of this, we see an increase in policies and laws that are at best discriminatory and at worst, genocidal. We have dropped the ball!
This General Assembly has the potential to act boldly in justice and retake our moral authority. With the LGBTQ issues behind us, we are running towards deeper questions of justice in our world, especially in how we welcome people, how we give voice to the voiceless, and how we create a better environment.
The scary thing is that there is still a win-at-all-costs attitude. Like last time, proposals are being made which are more about power and winning then they are about really making a difference. And many are reflecting social norms, rather than speaking to the things God would be calling us to do.
So here is my plea: most of the commissioners will be doing last-minute cramming for the General Assembly this week as they prepare to leave next week. Pray that God will speak to them as they read and seek information; that the Holy Spirit will use them to make the right decisions; and that as a denomination, we can come out of this year’s General Assembly with a bold statement that can help redirect our nation and our world, before it really is too late.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen