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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

GA Insider 6
June 22, 2018

On Thursday morning the Assembly nearly unanimously approved the Henry Highland Garnet memorial overture, which was introduced with words highlighting his role in founding Grace Memorial Church 150 years ago in Pittsburgh. Part of the overture directs the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation to publish an anniversary edition of “A Memorial Discourse,” a speech Garnet gave to the House of Representatives in Washington in 1865, with proceeds to benefit Grace Memorial, along with two other congregations he served as pastor.

Most business coming before the Assembly originates in overtures from presbyteries and synods that must be submitted months in advance of the General Assembly meeting. Agencies of the church can also submit referrals, which also must come in well ahead of the Assembly. However, commissioners to the Assembly have the privilege of submitting resolutions to the body as late as Sunday afternoon during the Assembly. One such resolution asked the Assembly to condemn the federal government’s policy of separating asylum-seekers from their children at U.S. borders. The Assembly approved the resolution overwhelmingly.

Thursday’s “main event” was the consideration of various proposals for restructuring the church’s national organization, funding, and mission patterns. Most of these overtures came from panels that over the past two years have been studying intensively the effectiveness of the church’s central operations. While these studies yielded recommendations that differed in some significant ways, the Assembly was able to navigate them deftly under the able leadership of Co-Moderator Cindy Kohlmann, reaching near unanimity in adopting what is being loosely called “The Way Forward.” Central to the core overture was the commitment to increase transparency and responsiveness in national church operations.

I do not recall an Assembly moving as smoothly as this one, due in large measure to the gifted leadership of Co-Moderators Cindy Kohlmann and Vilmarie Cintron-Olivieri. The evidence of God’s grace on them for this work is abundant. I have long known Cindy as a real friend in ministry, and I hope we can arrange for her to visit Pittsburgh Presbytery sometime during her moderatorial tenure.


Senior Vice-Moderator of Pittsburgh Presbytery, Rev. Steven Werth, on the “big screen” addressing the Assembly.

Yours in serving our Lord and his church,

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

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