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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

GA Insider 8
June 24, 2018

On Saturday morning, the Assembly finally passed the national church budget for 2019-2020. It includes several new initiatives and studies that carry financial costs. The Assembly was mindful that many of these new things increase per capita, yet it pressed forward with the work it believed the Lord is calling our church to do. This includes a thorough review of how we fund, staff, and carry out our shared mission nationally and internationally, and a top-to-bottom reconsideration of how we do General Assembly.

In the end, the Assembly adopted by a 90% vote an increase in per capita of $1.22 in 2019, a 16% increase from the current $7.73 to $8.95. There will be no further increase in 2020. This increase of 16% over two years is substantially less than the Stated Clerk’s original request for a 48% increase over two years, and also less than the revised request that he brought to GA of 21% over two years. But it is higher than the 10% the GA Committee on Assembly Procedures originally proposed, reflecting the extra work that the GA subsequently adopted.

This GA had its fair share of procedural glitches along the way, just like most Assemblies. It ran long into the night on Friday. Most attendees were exhausted by week’s end. Yet I heard few complaints. To put it in revival terms, there was “a good spirit in the house” throughout the week, even when people had real differences of opinion. The Co-Moderators helped nurture that with their own consistently good spirits, deft leadership, and winsome humility. But credit the Holy Spirit for doing the heavy lifting.

The theme for this Assembly contained a deliberate piece of wordplay: “Kindom building for the 21st Century.” We have heard much about the “kingdom” of God over the years, but this Assembly stressed that when the Lord fully reigns among us, we embrace our identity as “kin” with each other and with our neighbors. Can we continue nurturing our kinship with each other and with our neighbors back home, just as we did with our GA family and people unjustly incarcerated in St. Louis? Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson reminded us, “The world is watching. The world is watching whether we love one another, whether we will extend ourselves sacrificially for the sake of one another and for the world around us.” Jesus made it clear that the world knows that we are his disciples only to the extent that we love each other, that we nourish our kinship in fellowship and ministry.

We returned home from GA freshly challenged to practice kinship back in Pittsburgh. While we were away, yet another unarmed young black man was shot dead by a white police officer. What does it mean for us to be “kindom” people in such a situation as this? May our Lord help us to make a difference, not just within the walls and lives of our congregations, but also in the community around us.

Yours in God’s kindom,

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

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