Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Presbytery meeting--long, hot, and cranky
The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area gathered for its September meeting yesterday at the Presbyterian church in Shakopee. Mary Ann Archer, a leader at Chain of Lakes New Church, rode down with me. We arrived at 3:00 to finish up some business with the Property Purchase Task Force. I ended up spending my time at a table distributing newsletters from our new church and rocks from our new property. We distributed these rocks at the Property Dedication service on August 22. It was wonderful talking to people at the table and sharing these important mementos from this important event.
Unfortunately the Presbyterian church building in Shakopee is not air conditioned—and the temperature yesterday rose into the 90’s. The sanctuary was warm and somehow I think this affected the mood of the body. People came ready to argue.
And we did—a resolution was brought to oppose the proposed Minnesota state constitutional amendment on marriage. The resolution can be found at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/presbyterytwincities/Presbytery+Packets/September2012/Marriage+Amendment+Resolution.pdf
Those against the amendment argued that taking this position won’t make any difference in the world; that this action takes the Presbytery away from the important mission of making disciples; that the position is not consistent with the Scriptures; and that it won’t further the peace and unity of the church.
Those in favor of the amendment argued that other denominations have taken a position, particular the local Catholic Diocese, that Jesus would be in favor of this position, and not to take a stand on the issue is divisive.
I thought the debate was thoughtful and respectful—and even cut short a bit when the question was called.
The vote was taken by secret ballot. The vote was 99 yes, 39 no, with 4 abstentions.
We then proceeded to the longest Committee on Ministry report I can ever remember. We voted on requests for pastoral changes from Edgcumbe, Buffalo, Church of the Master and Spirit of Life along with two requests for validation for ministry and ordination. These six items took an interminable amount of time to cover.
I was disappointed that John Gay, the pastor whom Presbyterian Church of the Master (PCOM) brought to the Presbytery, was asked if he would take the congregation out of the denomination. PCOM is certainly on the conservative edge of our denomination and many people have wondered if they will stay with the PC(USA). However I don’t think the Presbytery made any friends among the people at PCOM by asking this question in public and then nitpicking about the number of women the Pastoral Nominating Committee interviewed.
Ultimately I think the question is appropriate--as I hope that a pastor won't lead a congregation out of the PC(USA). However I didn't think the timing of the question was appropriate. Feelings in the Presbytery are raw right now in the context of the Presbytery passing its Gracious Separation Policy in June.
We adjourned for a break and were treated to the best meal a local congregation has served at a Presbytery meeting in a very long time.
The speed of the meeting didn’t pick up after dinner. We worshipped together and celebrated Communion and then heard a very long report about General Assembly. We then went back to the Committee on Ministry report—which wasn’t done yet! We listened as another candidate for ordination read a Statement of Faith and then was questioned.
At this point I went into the lobby to find a comfortable chair and sit by a door that had a breeze. I wish I hadn’t as Margaret Thomas made a common-sense motion to streamline Committee on Ministry reports to the Presbytery. Unfortunately this did not pass.
At this point the Presbytery started clapping when speakers said their reports were short. I was the very last speaker and spoke for two minutes about the progress of Chain of Lakes New Church and the property dedication we held last month.
We adjourned about 9:30 and staggered out of the hot building.
During the meeting the comment was made about the importance of empowering young people in our congregations and the Presbytery. If we’re really serious about this we will change the way we do business. Not too many young people want to sit in a warm building for five and a half hours while their kids are home. My wife and daughter went to a music concert last night to commemorate September 11. I wish I could have been with them.