Minutes in Brief

From the Office of the Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Philadelphia

Minutes in Brief for the November 18 Meeting

The Presbytery of Philadelphia met on Tuesday, November 18, 2014. It was a brisk and windy day as ministers, commissioners and visitors gathered at the Carmel Presbyterian Church in Glenside to listen, learn, discern and participate in the mission and ministry we share as a community.

At 3:00 p.m., Rev. James Thornton of Carmel welcomed everyone and Moderator Rev. Wonjae Choi called the meeting to order. After presenting the Stated Clerk’s report, Vice-Moderator, Mike Henry reported on the new partnership for Christian camping with Lehigh Presbytery. Former Board Members of Kirkwood came forward to be recognized for their service to Kirkwood. We are all grateful for the heart work they have done for the ministry of Kirkwood.

Ruling Elder Wanda McNeill (Moderator, Committee on Representation) then presented her report, commenting on the diversity of our presbytery and renewed efforts to be inclusive in our churches. Her teaching moment was sweet – she treated the Presbytery to M&M’s of various colors and flavors, representing our unique make-up.

Following the COR report, Rev. Ken Ross (Moderator, Preparation and Credentials) introduced candidate Shannon Waite for examination to the office of Teaching Elder. After her successful examination, the Presbytery welcomed her with prayer as she looks toward her ordination.

Ruling Elder Elaine McCray (Budget Committee Chair, Financial Management) presented the proposed 2015 Budget, which the Presbytery then approved. Rev. Jesse Gardner then presented the Nomination Report, and with no nominations from the floor, the slate was approved as reported.

In an extraordinary turn of events, the Presbytery of Philadelphia concluded this portion of the meeting an hour early! Taking advantage of the extra time, Moderator, Rev. Wonjae Choi invited the body to a time of informal and comfortable conversation, which all seemed to enjoy.

Worship began with the hymn “Gather Us In”, led by the Carmel Sanctuary Choir. The beauty of the words touched my heart as we all sang together~
“Here in this place the new light is shining, now is the kingdom, and now is the day.
Gather us in and hold us forever, gather us in and make us your own;
gather us in, all peoples together, fire of love in our flesh and our bone.”
During worship we lifted up the Ministers and Ruling Elders who entered the Church triumphant in the past year. The Regional Conveners lit candles as Mike Henry read off the names of those beloved who have entered the cloud of witnesses.

At the conclusion of worship, we moved from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall to enjoy a warm, homemade meal prepared by the hands and hearts of Carmel volunteers. During dinner we heard from Janet Brown (Presbyterian Women, Philadelphia) about their efforts in supporting our Care Closets. Following her presentation we were all entertained by “The Bible in 50 Words” and a time to share gratitude for our respective ministries around our tables.

At 7:00 p.m. we returned to the sanctuary to hear Executive Presbyter, Ruth Faith Santana-Grace’s report in preparation for our consideration of the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution from the 221st General Assembly. Her report was interrupted by a modified “flash mob” comprised of choir members from Oxford Presbyterian Church who led us in a rousing rendition of “Guide My Feet”! The interlude was actually orchestrated by Ruth in order to remind us of our common identity as a community seeking to be faithful to God’s leading in Christ.

Alluding to the John 20 account of how the Risen Lord found his way through the door that his disciples had locked in fear, Ruth encouraged us to embrace the same Spirit as we engaged in our discerning and deciding.

Then to business: We reviewed the proposed amendments one at a time, entered into discussion and then voted. All were voted by voice vote, except for 14-F (The Marriage Amendment), which was a ballot vote. All the amendments were passed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia. The ballot result for 14-F was 207 in favor, 131 opposed and 7 abstentions.

To all of the 450 people who attended, I personally want to express my deep appreciation and heart-felt gratitude. While we came from divergent points of theological interpretation, the consideration, compassion and love expressed during the time of debate reflected the Holy Spirit moving in each of us.

I look forward to gathering again for our meeting on Tuesday, January 27, 2014 at the Lower Providence Presbyterian Church.