"This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. " - Acts 15:2-4
In this story, there is a dispute in the church regarding the importance of circumcision. Representatives are sent to discuss this topic so that a decision may be made to address the argument, before word is sent among the followers. Like the church of Paul and Barnabas, our denomination understands that there are many different ways that people interpret the Bible and even more ways that people think we should use our biblical texts to guide our social, economic, and spiritual actions. Because of this vast diversity of experiences and knowledge, our church makes major decisions as a group. We give time and space to hear opinions and stories and statistics as we strive to use our resources of time, energy, and finances to do the most good for the most people.
If you haven't heard, this is a General Assembly year for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). General Assembly is that big conference that helps make the plans for our denomination. We meet in June every two years. This year, we were meant to convene in Baltimore, but a global pandemic will throw a wrench into even the best-laid plans. In a new online format, representatives from presbyteries all over the country are meeting to discuss important issues affecting our denomination and our world. Our process is similar to that found in this passage from Acts.
In honor of this strange experience I’m sharing, as a devotion of sorts, a video made to explain our Presbyterian process. I first saw it during the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s virtual Peace Breakfast on Wednesday. Published widely last week, this is a fun 4-minute musical video in the style of Schoolhouse Rock meets Hamilton the Musical. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGLmgCc9dG0
Even if you don’t enjoy Hamilton or Schoolhouse Rock or Presbyterian polity as much I do, I hope that you will join me today and every day in prayer for the leaders of our denomination as they do the hard work of discernment for our church.