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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

GA Insider 4
June 20, 2018

Committee work at GA concluded on Tuesday, though some committees finished much earlier than others. A couple of the committees needed to work into the evening to get everything done in time for inclusion on the docket for plenary session, which begins Wednesday. Two of our commissioners were unable to join our presbytery commissioners’ and advocates’ Tuesday evening dinner because their committees were still at work. Tuesday’s mid-GA Pittsburgh-contingent dinner is a wonderful opportunity to check in and catch up with each other, since our committee assignments take us all in different directions.

After the glowing description of the candidate presented by the search committee chair, it seemed anti-climactic when the Mission Coordination Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the Rev. Diane Moffett be confirmed as Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. It has been three years since former Executive Director Linda Valentine resigned, and the Agency is more than ready for a good and steady hand at the helm. Rev. Moffett brings a lengthy career in pastoral ministry, community service, and executive non-profit leadership to this work, and lights up the room wherever she goes. Every speech I have heard her give begins with Jesus, then leads quickly to underscore our calling to continue his work of proclaiming good news to the poor, liberty to captives, provision to the destitute, peace to those in strife, and the clarion word that the reign of God is near.

Tuesday’s most memorable event may well be the Presbyterian march from the Convention Center to the city’s Justice Center, a jail incarcerating many people who have been charged with minor offenses and cannot afford the nominal bail charge stipulated for gaining release. That fee compounds the longer they remain in jail, unable to post bail. It is sometimes called a “debtor’s prison,” and it stands across the street from City Hall. The offering from GA opening worship was given in its entirety to a fund that pays bail for those who have been jailed with misdemeanors. Most GA committees suspended business at 3:00 p.m. to permit commissioners to join assembly observers in marching with local clergy and community members for the cause of justice in the name of Jesus. On the steps of the Justice Center, Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson presented a check for the offering’s full proceeds of more than $47,000 to a local agency that assists inmates who deserve release but cannot afford bail. It made abundantly worthwhile the nearly two-mile march by hundreds of Presbyterians in 94-degree heat.

I took these photos facing forward and backward from my place in the middle of the march.

This much we can say for sure – more people who live in St. Louis know that Presbyterians were in town than would have known so otherwise. If they didn’t see it on local news, they may have run into the street blockades in front of City Hall. More significantly, we put our feet and resources to the words we declare when we claim that we are engaged in the mission of Jesus Christ for the sake of the healing of the world. Because we were in St. Louis, people’s lives were changed in this city. Would that the same be said for all the places Presbyterians live, work, and worship!

Yours in Christ’s mission,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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