Like all living organisms, every General Assembly has its own unique DNA – its own personality, if you will. This one is no different. There is a quiet spirit in the halls and gatherings – causing seasoned attendees to wonder if we as a church will be able to move forward without the deep theological rift that defined our conversations for almost four decades. Framed by this Assembly’s theme, “the hope of our calling” (Ephesians 1:18), the quiet question lingers in the minds of some – how we will define ourselves as we are faced with organizational concerns, fiscal sustainability, and the changing face of our denomination? Will we respond to the opportunities before us – opportunities to do church differently, to focus on discipleship and mission? It can seem like untenable expectations in the midst of untenable challenges. But here’s the thing – we claim to be a people of hope. I was reminded that the hope we carry through Christ is embodied in the faithfulness of men and women who have served and continue to serve as leaders of our churches and denomination.
Sunday I had the privilege of attending a dinner with all the former Moderators of the PCUSA. As part of this dinner, each moderator updates those present with what they have been up to recently. There were seven such moderators present (not counting the first elected co-moderators at this Assembly – Denise Anderson and Jan Edmitson). Those present served between the years of 1991 (our very own Herb Valentine) through 2016 (Heath Rada). I was humbled by a faithfulness that continues to be part of their witness. Each and everyone of them is defined by a passion for justice, reconciliation, ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, literacy, immigration. They continue to serve as witnesses for the issues important to them – even as they enjoy their families or grandchildren. They continue to believe that the voice of the church matters – and that we – the church – are called to be agents of transformation. I was reminded that evening that we stand on the shoulders of men and women who continue to give their life for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I came face-to-face with a profound hope in that room – a hope that encourages me to believe against all the darkness around us. God has and will continue to be faithful – that is our hope. It is we who must join God on the journey.