A Message from Pastor Scott

General Assembly

The Presbyterian Church (USA) just finished their 223rd General Assembly. This year it was in St. Louis, Missouri. Our GA (General Assembly) meets every other year. This year our GA addressed many serious issues in the life of the Church and in our world. While this article does not have room to describe every issue, I would like to take a moment to lift out a few of the actions you might find interesting.

 

Again this year, the GA debated the ongoing Israel-Palestine/Middle East issue. The following actions were taken by the Assembly.

  • Asked RE/MAX, LLC, to end its sale and rental of property on occupied, disputed land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The vote was 393-55.
  • Voiced support for all efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis together peacefully.
  • Asked the state of Israel to fully comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in order to stop discriminatory practices and called on the U.S. government to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council.
  • Condemned the recent violence along the border between Israel and Gaza.

 

The GA approved increasing their share of Per Capita. Per Capita is a payment each church pays for each member of a congregation. The Presbytery gets the largest share of the Per Capita, then Synod gets a share, and finally, the GA gets their share. The GA will now get $8.95 per member which is an increase of $1.25 for each member of the PC(USA). This includes each member of Westminster.

 

The GA also addressed the serious issue of Immigration. The assembly called upon the federal government to end the family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, to immediately reunite parents with their children, to inform every parent where their children are being held and their condition, to stop using separation of children from their parents and their separated children in any ways they can. The assembly also addressed war, violence, and human rights in Central America (particularly Nicaragua), South Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Madagascar, and the Korean Peninsula.

 

Gun Violence was also a topic of continued concern for the General Assembly. The assembly reaffirmed previous General Assembly policies designed to reduce gun violence, called all Presbyterians to pray for a movement of the Spirit to engage Presbyterians in nationwide actions to prevent gun violence, and urged them to create opportunities to study the issue of gun violence, with an emphasis on resources produced by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

 

Finally, the issues of Racism/Poverty/Violence were addressed. Some of the resolutions decided are as follows:

  • Initiated the arduous process of possibility including Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in the Book of Confessions.
  • Changed the church’s nomenclature from “racial ethnic people” to “people of color” and the name of the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns to the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee.
  • Authorized a five-member task group with a black women majority to raise awareness of issues adversely affecting black girls and women in society and the church, and to develop action plans to address those issues.
  • Affirmed and celebrated the “full dignity and humanity” and gifts of people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

 

These are just a few of the actions taken by our General Assembly. I encourage you to go to PCUSA.org if you have interest in finding out more about decisions made by our denomination’s General Assembly.

 

A Thank You Note

I am already missing Westminster Wednesday evenings. I miss seeing everyone each week. One of my favorite parts of the night is sitting with the elementary age children (and some childlike adults) and singing the songs and dancing while Grant plays his ukulele and Kendra accompanies on the piano. I also miss my class. Each person makes the commitment to come every week, taking time to pray for those in need, offering each other support, and learning more about God’s sacred Scripture.

The discipline of meeting and studying each week has been a gift to me. One of the overarching themes my class has taught me over time is that God is less concerned about our making a personal decision for Jesus Christ, and more about showing God our gratitude. I also learned that gratitude is a foundational key to understanding the mind of God.

Throughout my time in Waterloo, I had more theologically conservative members regularly quoting John Piper to me. John Piper is a nationally popular pastor and writer. John Piper is a Reformed Baptist pastor from Minnesota. Over the past few years I am surprised to read that John Piper’s theology is transforming. Piper was a conservative Baptist who emphasized a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as the means of obtaining eternal life.

In one recent article, John Piper, surprisingly wrote, “The effort of this dominant viewpoint in American evangelicalism to define saving faith apart from the spiritual affections is biblically futile. To define saving faith apart from feelings of dependence, thankful trust, fervent admiration, pleased submission, contented resting, thrilled treasuring, eager reverence, heartfelt adoration is futile.” While I doubt John Piper and I will ever affirm the same understanding of Scripture, or theological confession, I do appreciate the understanding he describes.

Traditionally, evangelicalism focused primarily on creating a “saving faith” in someone to gain eternal life. Now, even those conservative evangelicals are recognizing that this is a manipulative and unsuccessful means of engendering lasting faith. These adjectives of “dependence, thankful trust, fervent admiration…” describe feelings of a loving relationship. Throughout the year, our class studied God’s Scripture and found not a God needing to be pacified so as not to cast us into hell, but a loving God, worthy of our deepest gratitude and love. We should not be afraid to approach this God or feel the need to offer the right salvation prayer to be included, but to develop a relationship based on gratitude for all God has done, is doing, and will continue to do.
Thank you, Wednesday group, for allowing me to learn anew, the love and blessings of God, in Jesus Christ.

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