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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

GA Insider 5
June 21, 2018

Wednesday was the General Assembly’s first day of plenary consideration of committee recommendations. As is customary, more controversial items were deferred until later in the week. One of the first things that came before the body was a report on financial implications of all the business being proposed to the Assembly. We learned that, should all of the business being recommended to the Assembly be approved, it will add $0.52 to GA per capita in 2019, and another $0.44 in 2020. This has given pause to the Assembly as it considers proposals with financial implications, but so far all requests for action with per capita financial implications have been adopted.

Meanwhile, the full Assembly also approved today the overture, with which our presbytery concurred, on establishing a special task force to study the per capita system. Somewhat ironically, convening that task force will add a little more than $.025 to per capita in 2019 and again in 2020.

Only one item of business on Wednesday received a significantly divided vote – a proposal to launch a study of the merits of including Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail in our Book of Confessions. After extended debate, the Assembly voted 352-160 to move forward with the study. The earliest it could be included would be 2022, should the panel investigating this possibility recommend to the next General Assembly its adoption into the Book of Confessions.

Before each plenary session of the Assembly convenes, hymns are led from the platform for the commissioners to sing as they gather. I am privileged to play piano for most of those brief songfests. Wednesday evening Pittsburgh commissioner Hill Jordan joined our little band and brought down the house playing his soprano trombone!

Hill returned to the dais later in the evening to report briefly to the Assembly what has transpired with Freedom Rising over the two years since the Assembly directed us to develop that initiative. On Tuesday, Rev. Johnnie Monroe gave a lengthier report on Freedom Rising to the Committee on Mission Coordination.

Many of the Pittsburgh contingent were blessed in body and spirit at Wednesday’s wonderful luncheon sponsored by Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. All the logistics were managed beautifully by Rev. Carolyn Cranston, and Rev. Dr. Hunter Farrell gave a terrific presentation on the rich history and enduring significance of PTS’s commitment to missional engagement. One of the emerging thrusts he reported is that the seminary’s two mission institutes, the World Mission Initiative and Metro-Urban Institute, are working to coordinate their work more closely to demonstrate their conviction that mission across the street and around the world are essentially one thing, not two.

Wednesday evening concluded with the full assembly confirming the Rev. Diane Moffett’s call as Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. She began her remarks by quoting a hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus…On Christ the solid rock I stand.” The Assembly affirmed her election with a SHOUT of joy followed by a standing ovation. Thanks be to God!

Yours in shared service of our Lord and Savior,

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

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