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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

General Assembly
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mondays at General Assembly are relatively quiet yet critical days – committees hear a myriad of presentations on overtures set before them. Yesterday committees heard fervent testimony from people on competing sides of controversial issues. Today and tomorrow morning commissioners will vote on whether to recommend that GA pass the overtures they have been considering.

I am reminded of a scene early in “Fiddler on the Roof” where two men are engaged in a heated debate about whether it’s important to keep current with the outside world. After hearing the first one’s reasoning, Tevye responds, “He’s right!” Then the second fellow gives an impassioned opposite plea, prompting Tevye to answer, “He is right.” Whereupon a third guy challenges Tevye, “Wait a minute! They can’t both be right!” Tevye looks the third guy straight in the eye and says, “You are also right!”

Church debates sometimes work like that – the person who spoke last, or most persuasively, is considered right at the moment. Alas, sometimes in that moment a vote is taken that may prove quite different from a vote taken after all the dust has settled.

As committees hear the counsel and passion of people from opposite sides of highly contested issues, let us hold them in prayer that they would be able to rise above the pressures or enthusiasms of the moment, to make clear-sighted judgments on difficult questions.

When we hear news reports of vote tallies coming from committees, or even from the full assembly, let us remember that these are just provisional outcomes in many cases. Controversial actions still need to be ratified by the larger body, or by the whole church.

One might think from some news reports that the only thing going on at GA is debate about controversial matters. Most of the folk at GA find far more significant the joy of grand worship, the sharing of hearts in prayer, fellowship around tables, and the consistent quest on the part of hundreds of faithful commissioners to discern the mind of Christ faithfully. Are there controversial matters before us? Without a doubt. But the bigger story by far for most folk at the convention center this week is the joy of being God’s people gathered together to motivate one another better to honor and serve the Lord. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Finally, I want to give a shout-out to the remarkable presentation on local Presbyterian history given last night to a crowd of 250 or so at the Heinz Museum. While the lecture was a one-time event, the exhibit will continue on display through the end of August, so do make sure you get to the Heinz to see it, if you are able.

Yours in Christ,



The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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