Category Archives: Moderator

Moderator Designate For The Presbyterian Church In Ireland 2017 General Assembly

It is the first Tuesday in February and as I begin writing this the 19 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland are meeting to independently vote on the nomination of the Moderator for this year’s General Assembly. There are four individuals who have qualified for the ballot:

  • Rev. Brian Boyd B.Sc., B.D., who has served as the pastor at Kells and Eskylane for the last 25 years. Ordained in 1986 he has served larger church including as convener of the Alcohol and Drug Education Committee.
  • Rev. Tony Davidson B.A. (Q.U.B.), B.D. (Aber.) became the pastor of First Armagh Presbyterian Church in 1994. He has extensive experience with the larger church having been the convener of the Irish Church Relations Committee, Inter-Church Relations Board, Church Relations Committee, and the Nomination Committee most recently.
  • Rev. Charles McMullen, M.A., M. Litt., B.D. currently serves at West Church, Bangor, where he has been since 1999. His service to the larger church includes serving as convener of the Magee Fund Scheme Committee, National and International Problems Committee, and Global Concerns Committee.
  • Rev. Noble McNeely,  B.Ed., B.D. is the pastor of First Holywood Presbyterian Church, a position he has held since 1997. He has been extensively involved in local and church-wide panels and has served as the the convener of the Youth Education and Mission Committee, City Area Committee, Ministerial Studies and Development Committee, Board of Christian Training, and the Council for Training in Ministry.

As a side note, it is a good reminder that the Presbyterian Church of Ireland does span the whole of the isle and while the headquarters is in Belfast in Norther Ireland, Rev. Boyd’s parish of Kells and a previous parish of Rev. Davidson in Limerick are both in the Republic of Ireland.

So the presbyteries have voted and we can say…

Congratulations to the Rev. Noble McNeely, pastor of First Holywood Presbyterian Church who has been endorsed by 10 of the 19 presbyteries. (Picture from his church web site.)

Rev. McNeely was ordained at Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in Belfast in 1982 and before being installed at Holywood also served at First Ballymoney.

He grew up in Crossgar and holds an Education degree from Stranmillis College, with a specialisation in jewellery and silversmithing. From college he taught Craft and Design at Deramore High School (now Balmoral High) in Belfast for two years. He then continued on and earned his B.D. from Union Theological College in 1981.

An interesting note on his wife, Florence, who is a physiotherapist. This is a similar line of work in the caring professions to Claire Sellar, the wife of the current Moderator, who is an occupational therapist. (Probably jumped out at me since my wife is also a physiotherapist.) Noble and Florence have three adult children.

Concerning his nomination, the official announcement quotes him as saying:

I am sincerely humbled. I have served the wider church in a number of roles and I see my nomination as Moderator as another opportunity to serve Christ and His church.

At the same time, I recognise the responsibility that has been entrusted to me and I pray that with God’s help and the prayers of the Church, I will be able to fulfil expectations.

While we expect Rev. McNeely to take over the @pcimoderator Twitter feed, he does have his own @mcneelynoble which is not heavily used. In addition, I could not find one for First Holywood, but the Young Life group there does have a slightly used one at @YLHolywood.

I would note that Rev. McNeely was the strong favorite in the voting with the other thee individuals fairly evenly splitting the remaining nine votes. (Boyd – 3, Davidson – 2, McMullen – 4)

We look forward to hearing more from the traditional press conference tomorrow morning and I will add links here following that event.

UPDATE: The press conference got good media coverage and reports can be read in the Belfast Telegraph – including a post with video clip – as well as the News Letter. Topics reflected in the coverage include a call for politicians to build bridges between the sides and his view, consistent with the current position of the church, that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Our congratulations to Rev. McNeely on his nomination and prayers and best wishes as he prepares for the Assembly and for his whole moderatorial year.

Moderator Designate For The 2017 Church Of Scotland General Assembly

Rev Dr Derek BrowningTwo weeks ago the Presbyterian Mother Church – that would be the Church of Scotlandannounced that the Rev. Dr. Derek Browning had been selected as the Moderator Designate for their 2017 General Assembly in May.

Rev. Dr. Browning is no stranger to many in the Church of Scotland, especially those familiar with the Assembly, as he has had a regular presence on the platform as the Business Convener for several years now. (You can consult the picture at the end of this article.)

His primary call is as the minister at Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh, having served there for the last 15 years. He began in pastoral ministry at Cupar Old and St Michael of Tarvit Parish Church in Fife in 1987.

He studied at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, from which he ultimately completed a MA Honors History degree.  He did his ministerial training at St. Mary’s College, St. Andrews, and later completed a D.Min. at Princeton Theological Seminary.

His extended list of service to the church is too long to recite here, but it is worth noting that besides his service as convener of the Assembly Business Committee, he has served as a presbytery moderator and on the national Prayer and Devotion Committee as well as the Stewardship and Finance Committee. He has also served as the chair of the Board of Directors at the Eric Liddell Centre.

It is noted in the announcement that in his work with the Assembly Arrangements Committee and the Business Committee, he has had significant responsibility for organizing the Heart And Soul event  that is held on the Sunday afternoon of Assembly Week. In the press release he is quoted as saying, “The theme for Heart and Soul 2017 is ‘Word of Life’ and this rich and layered theme speaks to me about many things but ‘inclusion’ is one of those words of life. The issue of social inclusion is a key one in society and the church.” He continues, “People find themselves excluded for all sorts of reasons and the Church must play a role in bridging the gaps between individuals, communities and nations. The Church has much to offer, and has much to learn. Jesus was often found not only at the heart and centre of things but also on the fringes and the margins and that is where the Church must be.”

The articles says “he believes social inclusion is clearly a “gospel issue” and hopes to use his time as Moderator to highlight ongoing work carried out by churches that support people on the margins of society.”

The article also speaks briefly of his faith journey and how as he was feeling pulled in multiple directions upon completing college, including working for the BBC in London or for Shell Oil. But, he knew he had to address his spiritual pull first. The article says:

“I was in my early 20s when I felt a call not only to be a Christian, but to become a minister,” he said.

“For some people this is a gradual realisation, but for me it was a sudden awakening that I couldn’t put off until I had dealt with the questions it posed, and explored the possibility.

“My ministry afterwards has stuck with those two themes: dealing with questions and exploring possibilities.”

The announcement was widely covered in Scotland with articles by the BBC Scotland, The Glasgow South and Eastwood Extra, Herald Scotland, The East Lothian Courier, The Edinburgh Reporter, and The Courier.

I will conclude with my personal congratulations to him. I had the pleasure of spending a week in June sitting in from of him (and he has posted a picture on Twitter which clearly demonstrates that I do not improve the view). It was a pleasure to get to know him at the PC(USA) General Assembly that week and trade snarky insightful remarks. Commissioners to the Kirk General Assembly, be aware that he has a sharp and dry wit. I look forward to following the proceedings.

So best wishes to Dr. Browning as he takes on this new role. I have every confidence he will bring as much honor to the office as it will bring to him. And prayers for this time as he prepares for his moderatorial year.

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[Editorial notes: Pictures from Dr. Browning’s Twitter feed (@DerekBrowning2) or from the week he spent curating the Church Scotland Voices Twitter feed (@churchscovoices).

In addition, my apologies for the delay getting this posted as well as an overall lack of posting. I have taken on a major responsibility that has dominated my time and I am afraid blogging will be a lower priority for the next 10 months. I will try to do what I can.]

A Wrap-up To The First Day Of The General Assembly

Following the adjournment of the Assembly for the evening the new Co-Moderators got to meet the press…

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A couple of the burning questions were about “how do you do this co-moderator thing?” The short answer, we don’t know and we will have to figure it out. But Jan Edmiston added that the co-moderator position allows them to “model a new way to be church.” When asked to unpack that she talked about how when visiting presbyteries everyone wants the moderator as opposed to the vice-moderator. Now they will get a moderator, they will just have to figure out which one. It also models shared leadership within the denomination between very different people.

One of the prominent issues this week will be issues of race. They talked about hearing each other’s stories, a systematic program of understanding privilege, and how listening is not just waiting for your turn to talk. It is not just about the stories you remember or hear but those you don’t.

In a similar topic, Jan was talking about how the COGA survey reflected older, white and experienced Presbyterians. The denomination needs to have conversations about who was not responding and therefore not being heard in that survey.

And now to bed. Plenty of excitement tomorrow as I travel out to hear a pastor who was under care of our church preach in their church. Limited PC(USA) action tomorrow but I will be starting to look at some of the other GA’s that are going on.

Good night

Election Of The Co-Moderators Of The 222nd General Assembly Of The PC(USA) – Live Blogging

Good evening. I am comfortably seated in the press section and the house band is getting rolling and encouraging us to sing. Launching into Soon and Very Soon now.

The live blog system I was using had technical issues that may be related to the WiFi system here. Not sure but not troubleshooting for this particular session. So, sorry, but please hit refresh to stay current.

Opening Presentation

7:04 PM – And we come to order. Don Shaw and Linda-Jackson Shaw open us with their story about their work in creating diversity and racial justice. They read from a bit of the Confession of 67 (first appearance in business sessions of that) and conclude with the opening prayer.

Introduction of Ecumenical Delegates from the Caribbean and Latin America

7:15 PM – Introduction of delegates, greetings from the Guyana Presbyterian Church delegate, and prayer from the delegate from the Dominican Evangelical Church

Presentation on the Role of the Belhar and the Book of Confessions in the life of our church from the Presbyterian Historical Society

7:24 PM – In the UPCNA 1967 was a milestone as C67 was approved and the church adopted a Book of Confessions as its confessional guidance.

Election of the Co-Moderators

We have reached the Order of the Day

Taking a few moments to reset the platform for the election process.

7:35 PM – Margaret Elliott, Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, announces that the candidates expense reports have been checked and are in accordance with the Standing Rules.

Nominations

7:36 PM – The floor is open for nominations. Julia Hill makes the nomination of Adan Mairena and David Parker. Karen Sapio makes the nomination of Jan Edmiston and Denise Anderson.

Candidate speeches

7:40 PM – Candidate Speeches – Parker and Mairena go first and Adan Mairena speaks first.

Adan speaks of his parents coming to the US from Honderas and first his father and then his mother going to McCormick Seminary. The Presbyterian church supported them and helped them. The connectional nature is important and the ministry to the marginal.

David speaks briefly about his being a lawyer and “only a ruling elder.” [Sorry, there is no such thing as only a ruling elder.] He also speaks about his service as chairman of the NC state Democratic Party and his experience moderating conventions larger than this.

They conclude by tag teaming, at times finishing each others lines, and speaking about their differences and how the church must mirror very different people working together.

7:46 PM – Edmiston and Anderson are up. Denise begins speaking about how there are 104 weeks until the next General Assembly and they pledge to work throughout it to reflect the actions and decisions of this assembly.

Jan speaks about the uncertainty and changes in the PC(USA) this week and in the time ahead. But says it is out of times of chaos that the greatest opportunity arises.

Denise concludes talking about working together.

Questions to Candidates

Note: I will be using their initials – JE, DA, AM, and DP – to make my blogging speedier.

7:51 PM – Gradye tells the process. Importantly each team can decide who will answer each question for them.

Q1: If you had the opportunity to speak directly to pastors, elders and churches considering leaving the denominations.

DP: This is one of the few places you can speak directly and honestly. Please stay because you can not hear the will of God without a voice of disagreement.

AM: We are a people of relationships and we have to keep relationship going.

JE: One of the recently dismissed churches in Chicago is a Japanese American Church that has a strong history and was sheltered by Fourth Pres during the internment in WWII. Need to maintain relationship and maybe they will come together again.

DA: Sometimes congregations discern they have to go another way. The important thing is that Christ be glorified. We can dismiss and remain in relationship

Q2: Is Jesus Christ the only way to salvation?

DA: YES! (emphasis hers)

JE: It is what the Gospel of John says. But there is also a passage that says there are other flocks. The good news is that God gets to sort it out.

AM: Yes, Jesus is my Lord and Savior. But we live in a different time.

DP: I am a lawyer. I have a lot of clients that are Muslim. And a business partner is Jewish. I believe Jesus is the only way. But I have talked with Muslims who are sincere and it is a challenging conversation. We need to be respectful of reach other.

Q3: It is often in time of struggle that we learn the most. Tell us about a time you failed.

AM: As an intern at Bryn Mawr I learned a lot and had a great mentor. I then went to Kensington which is a place of scarcity. I went around in a suit and tie. My mistake was not being relevant to those to whom I wanted to minister.

DP: I can not tell you about my failings as a lawyer because of client confidentiality. What a convenient excuse. But with the Democratic Party I led change that was probably too rapid and tendered my resignation but it was not accepted.

JE: I have failed so many time. Scripture “You intended it for ill but God used it for good.” Was personnel chair for the presbytery and had to fire as many as eight people and did not do it well.

DA: Said so many things I regret. But biggest is I have failed myself.

JE (again): Did not show up for a wedding due to misunderstanding about date of wedding.

Q4: I struggle with patriarchal language of our church. How do you blane and how should we treat it going forward.

DA: In my life I appreciate the masculine language but God more often has appeared to me as the feminine. Need to alternate or use gender neutral.

JE: Need to understand scriptural feminine references but use language a church may be comfortable with.

AM: Fortunate to be in a family that did not have traditional gender roles. Need to understand God is neither and God is all.

DP: God has no gender but we can say God has every gender. God is all things. Need to preserve political gains women have made.

Q5: Why is the Belhar important to you

AM:  Written from a context of people of color were suffering. (That was all he said)

DP: Belhar is a compliment to C67. C67 says go out into your neighborhood and love your neighbor. Belhar goes beyond and says we need to forgive our neighbor.

DA: Wrote a piece one year ago related to Charleston shootings about people remaining silent afterwards. Belhar reinforces our commitment to stay in the fight so the playing field is level.

JE: Honored to be in a denomination that accepts Belhar. We need to remind ourselves that racism is systemic and needs to be dismantled.

Q6: How do we be a church that is welcoming and encouraging of all ages, particularly younger members

DA: We need to respect them. Youth ministry is not to be babysitting.

JE: Have to take each other seriously and listen to each other. Co-mentoring – learning from each other in relationship.

AM: Don’t treat them as empty cups where my teaching gets poured in. Need to read scripture together. Don’t just give them pizza. They are hungry for opportunity and relationship. Value them.

DP: I am 61 and in the younger half of our denomination. What everyone else has said is that it has to do with mutual respect. When we have mutual respect everyone does better. Need to address the question of who will remain behind and what will the church look like in 25 years.

End of questions.

Heath thanks them for “putting themselves out” for the call to this position. Standing ovation.

The candidates are dismissed.

[Personal note – it is a tough call after the speeches and questions but if I had to handicapped it I am leaning to Anderson and Edmiston as having made a better presentation.]

We move to voting:

Young adult advisory delegates: 115 to 26 favoring Anderson/Edmiston. If they are the predictor as they usually are we know the result.

The commissioners have voted. The result is: Anderson/Edmiston 432, Parker/Mairena 136

The election is declared

A bit of a wait before the Co-Mods are escorted back into the hall. Includes singing of the Doxology.

The Co-Moderators and their families are escorted back into the hall to a standing ovation. While they are being greeted at the platform Spirit of the Living God is sung spontaneously by the Assembly.

Installation of the Co-Moderators

8:45 PM – The installation service progresses with the regular liturgy and including the singing of Called As Partners In Christ’s Service, the recitation of the six Great Ends of the Church and the questions.

Prayer for the Co-Moderators by The Rev Fred C. Lyon II (husband of Jan Edmiston) and declaration of their installation.

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Passing of the signs of the office: There is only one moderator’s cross so handed to both. Each is given a moderator’s stole.

Microphone is passed to them and Denise says “We haven’t talked enough?”

Denise also points out that on this 60th anniversary of the ordination of women in the mainline Presbyterian church it is the first time that there has been a moderatorial team of two women.

Heath and Larissa are thanked and given mementos of the office.

And now Gradye is coaching the new Mods through the process.

Very brief announcements – just to leave the voting pads at the turn-in tables for recharging.

Denise closes the session with prayer. And we are adjourned.

Thanks for following along. I will probably live blog tomorrow afternoon again and then it will be articles related to the committee meetings for a few days.

Prelude To The Election Of The Moderator

For a variety of reasons I did not get my formal moderatoral candidate posts up this year. One reason is because there is a new process and I was a bit indecisive in trying to navigate it.

Specifically, this is the first year that that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has had the option to have Co-Moderators as well as a Moderator/Vice-Moderator team. Both teams have chosen to go the Co-Moderator route. In addition, since there are only two teams we will have a decision on the first ballot.

To help navigate the process I would first refer you to the Moderator Candidate Booklet on the OGA web site. I will add the editorial comment that I wish the Moderator Candidate Book was listed ahead of the Stated Clerk Candidate Book but that is my own preference based on a recognition that the Moderators are called out to give of their time and energy above and beyond their day jobs while the Stated Clerk is a career position in and of itself.

The first team listed in the book is Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston. Denise is a teaching elder in National Capital Presbytery and Jan is a teaching elder in Chicago Presbytery. Each of their presbyteries endorsed them as a co-moderator team. The book has their statements and answers to questions and we will hear more tonight. Both are very active bloggers and on Twitter. Jan blogs at A Church for Starving Artists and is on Twitter at @jledmiston. Denise’s blog is Soula Scriptura: To Be Young, Gifted and Reformed and she tweets at @thesoulstepford. They also have a moderatoral candidacy web site.

The second team is David Parker and Adan Mairena. David is a ruling elder from Salem Presbytery and Adan is a teaching elder in Philadelphia Presbytery. David is a lawyer by profession and a web site at Salem Presbytery offers more information about him. Adan does a lot of his ministry with the West Kensington Ministry and the book points us to his staff page at the ministry web site. It is interesting that the endorsement letter for David only lists him as a moderator candidate and Adan was endorsed relatively recently (18 May) for Co-Moderator with David. David has a Twitter account with limited activity at @DavidPParker. Adan has a very active Twitter presence at @elburque.

So let’s get ready in the Assembly hall for this precedent setting election process. I will be live blogging but with the old technology so you will have to do refreshes of the screen. And you can follow the live stream with the viewer on the GA 222 home page.

222nd General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

It is safe to say that in the coming week most American Presbyterians will have their General Assembly in session. Pardon the alphabet soup, but this next week will see the General Assemblies of the PC(USA), a concurrent GA by the CPC and CPCA, then the PCA, the EPC, and the RPCNA. (Technically that last one is a General Synod.) There is also the distinct likelihood that there will be three live streams going at once so figure out your viewing schedule now.

logo+pcusaFirst up is the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Portland which begins on Saturday 18 June and finishes a week later on Saturday 25 June. There is no question that this will be a momentous and memorable meeting. Even before a single vote is taken we know that the denomination will come out of the meeting with their first Co-Moderators, a new Stated Clerk, and a road map – if not solid decisions – related to reorganizing the national offices to reflect the changing reality of the church in these current times. In addition, it is anticipated that the Belhar Confession will be added to the Book of Confessions and the celebration will begin for the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Confession of 1967. And that does not even begin to scratch the surface of all the other business that is out there.

The source for information on all this business is, as usual, the on-line PC-Biz system. However, it has been given a new look and a bunch of us have been putting it through its paces and helping to squash bugs. (You are welcome.) And the tech wizards behind it have been very responsive to our reports. Now we will see if it can handle a couple thousand simultaneous users.  And the PC(USA) event guide for the Guidebook App  is back as well. There are Android and iOS apps and it can be viewed in a web browser.

There is a docket posted and you can also find the schedule, reports overtures/business items on PC-Biz as well as all the Constitutional documents, the Manual of the General Assembly, and other useful items on the PC-Biz Resources tab.

ga222-circle-colors-vector-fin_small150The Assembly will begin with the usual formalities on Saturday, but this year in the morning. The opening worship with celebration of the Lord’s Supper is scheduled for 11 AM local time and will be live streamed. Congregations are encouraged to gather in their churches and join in the worship. Formal business will begin at 2 PM in the afternoon followed by the election of the Moderator Saturday evening. Sunday is worship in churches throughout the Portland area and a plenary session and receptions in the afternoon. Committee work begins in that evening and it will run through Tuesday evening. During that time PC-Biz is the place to find out what the committees are doing with the pieces of business near and dear to you.

The meeting moves back to plenary on Wednesday afternoon and then it is a mad push to get all the business done by Friday night or in the wee hours of Saturday morning. But one of the realities is that there is no real schedule of when particular committees report until later in the week when committees have finished their business and they are assembled on the docket like a jigsaw puzzle. The final Saturday morning session is highlighted by worship and the closing business formalities.

Opening worship and plenary sessions should be live streamed and the viewer can be found embedded in the GA 222 Home Page.

The tracking utility on PC-Biz is the best place to follow business. While the PC(USA) does have a general Twitter account (@Presbyterian), the General Assembly feed (@presbyGA) usually provides more play-by-play. There is also the Presbyterian News Service on Twitter (@PresbyNews). The hashtag for the meeting is #ga222.

News items will also appear on the GA222 web page as well as the Presbyterian News Service feed. There is also a Facebook page, and the daily news sheet is now electronic.

There are numerous entities of the PC(USA) that have Twitter accounts and you might want to watch the hashtag or check the list I compiled in a post a while back.

For individuals of note let me start with the two Co-Moderator teams: Jan Edmiston (@jledmiston) and Denise Anderson (@thesoulstepford), and David P. Parker (@DavidPParker) and Adan Mairena (@elburque). The other office to be decided is for Stated Clerk and you can follow J. Herbert Nelson (@jherbertnelson). The other candidate is the Rev. David Baker and while he promotes himself as strong in social media in his LinkedIn profile, I can not find a Twitter account for him. I will keep looking. Moving on to Moderators of previous assemblies we can begin with Bruce Reyes-Chow who tweets at @breyeschow and @brc_live. The immediate past Moderator, Neal Presa, can be followed at @NealPresa. And the Moderator finishing up his term, Heath Rada (@heathrada), is there as well. And the current Vice-Moderator, Larissa Kwong Abazia can be found at @LarissaLKA, and a previous Vice-Mod, Landon Whitsitt (@LandonWhitsitt) would definitely make the list. And not to be overlooked is the Executive Director of PMA Tony De La Rosa (@tonydlr). In this list of individuals let me throw in the Director of Operations, Thomas Hay (@DirOfOp) and also a true GA Junkie in his own right, Andy James (@andyjames). And fair warning that both of them are heavily involved in the Assembly so it is entirely possible their time will be spent on things other than tweeting. Finally, the Church of Scotland ecumenical delegate is the Rev. Derek Browning (@DerekBrowning2) who, besides being a parish minister, is also their General Assembly’s Business Convener – something like an associate stated clerk – and therefore a polity wonk in his own right. I am looking forward to his insight and dry wit. He will also be tweeting at the curated account @churchscovoices.

UPDATE: For live tweeting you might want to check out L3 UMD. For color with a degree of snark (yes, some of us need this during the meeting) you can follow Jodi Craiglow.

Out in the press corps, keep an eye on the Presbyterian Outlook on their website (pres-outlook.org) and Twitter (@presoutlook) as well as their special correspondent Leslie Scanlon (@lscanlon).

I will be at the meeting as well. I plan to live blog the plenary sessions here as well as posting more information about specific areas of business. The Outlook has posted three articles I wrote for them on business coming to the Assembly related to Elders and Councils, Non-geographic Presbyteries, and Synods. I do plan to tweet extensively but not completely during the Assembly. So here is my plan: My regular Twitter handle – @ga_junkie – will be used to cover major events at all the Assemblies and the Synod that will be under way. So read carefully as to which meeting the hashtag is for. I will use my secondary, and confusingly named @gajunkie handle (note – no underscore) to cover the PC(USA) exclusively. And if someone is planning to live tweet the Assembly let me know and I will point people in your direction.

button222Finally, my bit of levity. First, I will once again be passing out my “I’m A GA Junkie” buttons. Find me if you want one. Also, the Bingo Card is available for the meeting. In addition, I have targeted four concepts that I will keep a score board on how often they are mentioned in plenary. While giving away the phrases and concepts might bias the results and/or encourage people to use them, I will put them out anyway. They are:

  1. Any reference to the Rev. Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers
  2. Misquoting the recent When We Gather At The Table Report. (You can see my caution in the related blog post.)
  3. References to the membership decline in the denomination.
  4. Comments about a certain presidential candidate as a Presbyterian, or not.

And so I am looking forward to an exciting week in Portland but wishing the important action around American Presbyterian branches got spaced out a bit more.

So time to finish packing and see you in Portlandia in a few hours.

2016 General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Ireland

bushThe Assembly meeting in Canada has adjourned a few minutes ago and there is plenty to chew on from that meeting, but there is not time for that now. This week the meeting schedule has us drinking from a fire hose and we have to move on to the next one.

About the time I will be posting this the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will be convening their 2016 General Assembly with what is usually an exceptional worship service and the installation of the new Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Frank Sellar. The Assembly runs through Friday 10 June. As the meeting gets going here is some info to help follow along:

  • The live stream is embedded in the main Assembly event page and below it the programme of streaming highlights for the week.
  • The special Wednesday evening program is themed “A Community of Global Concern” and will be live streamed. In addition, following the Assembly’s adjournment there will be the traditional Youth Night on Saturday evening, which will also be live streamed.
  • More background for the Assembly can be found on the Assembly Resources page but I do not yet see the Reports or the full Order of Business posted there yet. Update: The Assembly reports page has gone live now.
  • The polity documents include the main document, The Code, as well as the helpful A Guide to Assembly Procedure.
  • The News page will carry official press releases and news items including the pre-Assembly press release which contains a rundown of the major moments and business at the Assembly this year.

There are plenty of social media contact points for the Assembly, beginning with the official Twitter account @PCIAssembly which in the past has provided a very helpful and comprehensive news feed on the actions of the Assembly. The official moderator’s feed at @PCIModerator has become a great source as well. We will see if Rev. Sellar tweets during GA and how much he shares in his moderatorial year. The official hashtag for the Assembly is #pciga16.

Other ministries of the church that have Twitter accounts are Presbyterian Women (@PWinIreland), Mission Ireland (@MissionIreland) and PCI Global Missions (@PCIOverseas). Fair warning that the latter two don’t seem to have seen much action in a which, similar to another account, Life in PCI (@lifeinpci), that seems to have gone dormant.  We will see if any of these might come to life again for this Assembly.

The other set of social media contacts to keep an eye on are those related to the Youth Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. They can be followed at a couple of different Twitter handles including the Youth Assembly account for PCI SPUD (@pcispud), and the Youth and Children’s Ministry account @PCIYAC. They have previously hosted Fringe Events and you can watch their Facebook page to see what they might be up to this year.

The list of others to watch for interesting and useful updates must start with prolific reporter and insightful commentator Alan in Belfast (@alaninbelfast). For those active in leadership in the church I would point to former Moderator Rob Craig (@RobCraig54) and Cheryl Meban (@cherylmeban) who is active with WCRC and PCI board leadership. So far there seems to be potential from Stuart Morrow (@stuart_morrow) and John Hamilton (@john_nornirn). Will update with others as appropriate.

Certainly have a look at the preview piece for a brief summary of the many topics before the Assembly this year. A report from an Abortion Task Force is getting some press coverage for its recommendation that the church only condone abortion if the life of the mother is at stake. One of the issues that has surfaced at most GA’s in recent years has been that of church officers in same-sex relationships and same-sex weddings in the church. The PCI has consistently stood against these but the passage of same-sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland – which has PCI congregations – has made it advisable for the General Assembly to consider their policies and practices in this regard. There are also a couple of important anniversaries this year related to events that shaped Ireland. This includes the Battle of the Somme in WWI and the events of 1916 in Ireland.

As always, our prayers are with the Assembly and their discernment and guidance by the Holy Spirit. We look forward to following their work.

But be warned, they may be the only one live streamed this week, but other Assemblies are out there as well. More on that shortly.

Nominee For The Moderator Of The 142nd General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Canada

It is the first day of April and one of the more serious items we can look forward to on this day each year is the counting of the votes for the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Well the votes are in and this morning the Principal Clerk announced that the sole nominee to be placed before the 142nd General Assembly to serve as Moderator will be the Rev. Douglas H. Rollwage.

Douglas-Rollwage-300x349Rev. Rollwage currently serves as the pastor of Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown, P.E.I., where he as been for 11 years. His ministry began at Strathcona Park Presbyterian Church in Kingston, Ont,. where he had grown up. Between there and Charlottetown he was the pastor at Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church in Scarborough in the Toronto Metro Area.

He holds a B.Th. from Queen’s Theological College (now Queen’s School of Religion) and an M.Div. from Knox College.

In his interview in the Presbyterian Record he shares some interesting glimpses into his faith journey. While coming to faith in a Pentecostal church and beginning his pastoral training in that direction he says “it soon became evident that the Pentecostals and I were not a great match for each other and to our mutual relief we parted ways.”

He goes on to talk about why:

“I’d say what brought me out [of the Pentecostal Church and into the Presbyterian Church] was as much a matter of my growing interest and awareness of church history, which within the Pentecostal church kinda ends with the end of the book of Acts and begins again in 1910. But for me the history of the church and our place within that history is deeply important in our identification as Christians. And so a tradition which was rooted in that history and respected that history was for me very important and that ultimately lead me to the Reformed faith, both in the teachings of Luther and the writings of Calvin.”

Since then Church History has been one of his passions and it is one he shares with others, particularly as he leads trips to Greece, Israel and Turkey, which is highlighted on his Facebook page.

These study tours have a significant synergy with another of his passions – Bible study. In the interview he talks about the importance of scripture and studying it.

“Presbyterians used to be famous for being rooted in the scriptures.” But, he says, “I think that we have moved away from what we once took for granted.”

“How many people in churches go to Bible study anymore?” he asks. “For me Bible study is more important than Sunday morning. Because on Sunday morning we’ve got, what, 20 minutes to give a sermon, to try and inspire and teach and comfort and lead and direct. In Bible study you’ve got an hour and half. You’ve got so much more time to do that plus you’ve got a level of interaction that you just can’t have on a Sunday morning.

“When I look at the leadership of my congregation, session members, board members, committee leaders—these are all people who have had their faith energized and strengthened through their participation in Bible study. That’s where the leadership is drawn from.”

And in what looks like foreshadowing his work as Moderator he continues:

“For us to move forward with credibility and with true spiritual relevance, I think we need to recapture our love for the Bible. It sounds very old fashioned. But I also think that the Bible is more relevant now than it was a generation ago.”

He has served the church locally as a presbytery moderator and nationally as a member of multiple committees including his current service on the Ecumenical and Interfaith Committee. He also serves as a resource person for the Assembly Office. He and his church are active with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank that provides food to those in need around the globe.

He and his wife Dana, a public school teacher, have two children, one a recent college graduate and the other still in college.

He will be formally elected and installed on June 3 as the Assembly convenes at York University in Toronto.

So our congratulations and prayers for Rev. Rollwage for the work ahead. May you have the time to prepare for the Assembly, wisdom and discernment at you lead it and blessings and strength so that your moderatorial year may be a true extension of your ministry.

Church Of England General Synod Discusses The Columba Declaration Tomorrow

The General Synod of the Church of England began meeting today. While that fact alone may be of interest to polity wonks, for the GA Junkies this Synod meeting holds particular interest as they take up the matter of the Columba Declaration, a joint agreement with the Church of Scotland.

According to the agenda for the Synod the Report of the Church of England-Church of Scotland Joint Study Group will begin at 2:30 PM BST tomorrow, 16 February 2016. If you wish to follow along there is a livestream and there are Twitter accounts @c_of_e for the church and @synod for the Synod meeting itself. There is a #Synod hashtag to follow as well.

Of particular note is the address to the Synod by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Angus Morrison early on in the report. According to the Church of Scotland news article it is believed this is the first time a currently serving moderator has ever been given this privilege. In addition, Rt. Rev. and Mrs. Morrison will be the guests of Archbishop and Mrs. Welby at Lambeth Palace during their stay in London.

The action before the Synod has three parts: To welcome the report as a significant development between the two churches; To approve the Columba Declaration; And to request the Council for Christian Unity to oversee the implementation.

We will see how this goes tomorrow in London and we can expect to see reciprocal action at the Church of Scotland General Assembly in Edinburgh in May.

Moderator Designate For The 2016 General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Ireland

In their own unique approach to choosing the Moderator of the next General Assembly, all the the presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland meet simultaneously on the first Tuesday Rev-Frank-Sellarof February and chose their candidate from those on the official ballot. And so, having waited for the report from Church House in Belfast, we now know that The Rev. Frank Sellar will be the 177th Moderator of the General Assembly. And unlike the last few years, this vote was not even close with 18 of the 19 presbyteries endorsing Rev. Sellar.

In a post-election quote he says:

“It has been a huge privilege to have been involved in a lifetime of leadership in local congregations, south and north. I’m humbled that the wider church has trusted me with this responsibility, granting fresh opportunities of mission, which this year as Moderator of the General Assembly will bring, not only serving the wider church, but society throughout the whole of Ireland and further afield.”

Rev. Sellar is currently the pastor at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in East Belfast. A Belfast News Letter article last week described his theological leanings saying he is “an evangelical conservative.”

At this time I will note that one of his distinctions is that he has ministered in both the Republic of Ireland (“the south”) and in Northern Ireland – twenty years in the former and eleven years in the latter. And on a personal note I found it encouraging that his wife is an occupational therapist as I seem to accumulate physical and occupational therapists in my family.

I will write more tomorrow after the traditional statement and press conference as well as the local press reaction.

But, we do extend to Rev. Sellar our congratulations and prayers as he prepares to moderate the upcoming General Assembly as well as for his whole moderatorial year.