Over 1,000 pieces of business went before the GA. Some of it was routine. Some of it dealt with important matters, such as electing the moderator, publicly supporting a two state solution for Israel/Palestine or nailing down details regarding the use of restricted endowment funds by the denomination, that will have little bearing on our life together as a congregation.
In a few cases the assembly's inaction mattered more than their action. The Assembly voted down a fifth denominational offering in support of international mission (I think they should have replaced the Pentecost or Peacemaking offering with the mission offering; I think a mission offering would greatly benefited our congregations and our denomination.), they sent a major revision of the Book of Order back for continued discussion, and they overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to change the definition of marriage from "man & woman" to "two people."
If we choose to take it seriously, the one thing that could affect our congregation more than anything else is the denomination's new two-year evangelism emphasis called "Grow the Church Deep and Wide." This emphasis calls for all congregations to adopt a three-pronged approach to church growth - numerical growth, growth in Christian discipleship and growth in congregational diversity. It sounds wonderful, it may even sound like "that's what we've been doing all along" but to take it seriously would require us to redefine how we do church. To take it seriously would require us to:
- Move beyond Sunday morning Christianity, engaging as a congregation in individual and group Bible studies, mission projects and outreach efforts so that we grow as Christians, deepen our faith and have more opportunities to invite our neighbors.
- Actively evaluate our congregation's relationship with our neighborhood asking: who are our neighbors? how can we best communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them? how can we serve or minister to them? how can we welcome them into our community? And then make changes based on what we learn.
- Experience the demographic changes around us as opportunities for ministry rather than reasons for fear and be willing to make changes in how we worship and fellowship to better include those who speak different languages or have different cultural backgrounds.
- We would have to turn some of our congregational investment outward even though it feels like we don't even have enough resources to survive.
More on Grow Deep and Wide
More on the General Assembly Meeting
Previous post on the "fidelity and chastity" debate
Previous post about the new moderator
The official summaries are not yet online. I'll post a link when they go up.