It has been a historic gathering of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in more ways than I can summarize here. This morning brought us another significant moment when the assembly elected the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson as the next Stated Clerk of our denomination, the first African-American man to hold that post. In his comments, J. Herbert said that, as a child growing up in South Carolina, he never would have dared to dream that he could one day be standing in such a place celebrating the challenge of such a role.
Yesterday, the assembly created both a 2020 Vision Team to "develop a guiding statement for the denomination and make a plan for its implementation with all deliberate speed," and a Way Forward Commission to "study and identify a vision for the structure and function of the General Assembly agencies." These actions, brought to the assembly as new business and an alternate resolution proposed by two YAADs respectively, call us to look forward and discern the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
My experience of past General Assemblies was affirmed at this one. There are amazing leaders in our midst who are between the ages of 18-25, leaders who are passionate about their church, passionate about justice and evangelism, passionate about having a voice at the table. These leaders prayed for us, argued with us, and often led us in deliberations. Today the official picture of the YAADs was posted to social media, and I share it here.
As you look at this picture, I want you to especially celebrate that the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England sent YAADs to speak for us who were born in Africa and came to us because of Presbyterian mission work in their countries. If you look closely, you will see that they are two of only a handful of black faces.
I am so proud of the work we are doing in our churches that have led to immigrants from around the world being welcomed and included. I am thrilled that, when the PC(USA) adopted the Belhar Confession from South Africa, we had two people representing us from the continent where that confession originated, something only a few of the 171 Presbyteries of the denomination could also claim. Our work is far from done, and we all have lessons to learn about cultural, racial, gender, orientation, and ethnic sensitivity and understanding, but I celebrate where we have come from and where we are now.
Photo credit: Michael Whitman