Thoughts by New Jersey Presbyterians on the 221st General Assembly

Voting, Side by Side

As I write this, we’re well into the 3 day slog from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday morning that will establish the work of this GA. I am feeling pretty optimistic about things. I headed into this stretch after watching a great presentation, a breakfast with the NJ delegation, and some time with friends.

We’ve now approved a new Authoritative Intepretation on marriage, which will mean pastors in my presbytery (and many others) will be able to officiate at marriages of same-sex couples. This sounds pretty sterile, but today my facebook and twitter feed lit up, mostly with excitement by friends and classmates. I have friends who have been waiting for this for twenty years. For my generation of PCUSA pastors, this announcement has generally been greeted with joy. The GA also approved a revision to the Book of Order that would change the definition of marriage, but this must still be approved by two-thirds of presbyteries. 

At the same time, half of those sitting in my row voted against the motion, and likely feel the sort of frustration that often comes after these votes. I’m trying to balance my general enthusiasm with (1) the frustration of those voting the other way, (2) the challenges this poses for commissioners as they return home, and (3) real anxieties about what this change will mean for congregations in the US and for friends abroad. 

Strangely, I also feel grateful. There have been a lot of votes like this before, and it may well be that the enthusiasm felt here will fade as presbyteries take up their work. At the same time, to me it feels like something has shifted. I feel like I’ve really seen something happen. I *hope* that the enthusiasm I feel here continues, and that this strengthens our sense of vision and mission. It’s still early, but for now that’s the feeling I’ll try to stay with.

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