What happened at General Assembly?

My last newsletter article was a preview of what was scheduled to happen at General Assembly. Since our denomination gathered in Columbus, and the business items of the session were presented and voted upon, I thought it might be helpful to give you a recap of a few of the items that piqued my interest, and show how important it is for us to be a welcoming people. In addition to the resolutions I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there were three emergency resolutions that came before the assembly. Emergency resolutions are intended to deal with issues that have come to light within the last few months.

One of those resolutions, in response to the church shooting in Charleston and the burning of black churches, garnered quite a bit of debate. The resolution was co-authored by a friend and seminary classmate of mine from Oklahoma, Rev. Jesse Jackson. (No, not the more notable one…) As the assembly began, I had several opportunities to communicate with Jesse about this resolution which calls for us to continue the work of racial and ethnic reconciliation and to denounce the killing and intimidation of our brothers and sisters.

The resolution was sent to a committee, called Reference and Council, for some changes and adaptations during the first business session, when it came to the floor. Some asked for the inclusion of the names of the nine members of Emanuel AME in Charleston, while others asked for some changes in the wording to give tangible responses to the resolution. I had a moment to talk with Jesse after the changes had been made, and he said that although he was initially hurt by referring the resolution, that it was a stronger statement as it came back to the assembly for a vote. In the end, the revised version of the resolution was passed. The whole text can be found at the denomination’s website, or I will gladly print you a copy!

I have been thinking, for some time, about what kind of response to racism we can make at Marshfield Christian Church. It is my prayer that this resolution, and my renewed and deepened friendship with Jesse will open the door for some exciting and meaningful dialog and action here at the church. I hope that someday soon, we can invite Jesse to join us to talk about issues of racism. And that I can introduce you all to my friend!

The other issue that garnered a lot of attention was the resolution on Gun violence. There were actually two resolutions submitted on the topic and the General Board synthesized them into one “substitute” resolution. This also went to the Committee on Reference and Council. The major issues had to do, again, with a lack of actionable items in the resolution. There was also a call for language about the use of firearms in suicides.

Unfortunately, from my perspective, the resolution that came back to the assembly wasn’t something I could support. Specifically, there was language with which I am uncomfortable. The revised resolution calls on Disciples to “demand” the enactment of gun safety laws from their elected officials. It also included suggestions of “an assault weapon ban,” “a ban on high capacity magazines, and requiring federally enforced safe firearm storage.”

First off, I am certainly in favor of finding ways to eliminate the use of firearms in committing crimes. I am in favor of gun safety, and could have supported the original resolution. However, this new wording made me cringe, for several reasons. First, the definition of an “assault weapon” is ever-changing and vague. Second, I understand that the more ammunition that can be stored in a firearm means more potential death and destruction. However, I am also convinced that a single shot firearm could be used to deal quite a lot of damage. And, I’m not sure I really want federal guidelines on what constitutes “safe firearm storage.” Early on in the debate, it was apparent that the revisions would be accepted, and the resolution passed. However, at least the dissenting opinions were voiced. And I like to believe that they were heard by a few in the assembly.

This is one of those instances where I am glad that the General Assembly speaks TO not FOR the local congregation. There is nothing that REQUIRES us to act on this resolution. However, with the surge in mass shootings, it is important that we advocate for safe and responsible firearm ownership. The church does have to respond to what seems like the ever-increasing cycle of violence. However, I feel this resolution missed the mark. Especially for those of us in rural America, where owning firearms is commonplace.

As much as I may disagree with some of the decisions made during the assembly, and as much as I applaud others, I come away with a deep appreciation for what we strive to be as a larger community of faith. Our ideals of welcome and diversity are woven into the very DNA of our denomination. That gives me hope. Hope for our denomination, and hope for the world.

What’s happening at General Assembly?

As I mentioned in church on Sunday, I’ll be traveling late this week to Columbus, Ohio to participate in our bi-annual gathering of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) known as the General Assembly. In addition to being able to worship with friends and colleagues from around the country (and world), hearing some great speakers, learning more about a variety of aspects of ministry, and just generally having a good time; there is quite a bit of business that takes place.

Each time we gather for a General Assembly, I try to take a few moments and inform you about some of the more interesting, and potentially controversial business items on the docket. This year, there are not many which I expect to be too controversial. Resolutions 26 – 37 are mostly procedural in nature, changing a couple of regional boundaries, setting the place for future assemblies, etc. So that leaves resolutions 18-25 for the real debate.

Here are some synopses of those resolutions. While I won’t make any final decisions until I hear the debate on the floor, if you’d like to talk more about any of these, please call me this week!

GA-1518 Black Lives Matter: A Movement for All: If adopted, this resolution would be a call from the General Assembly to all expressions of the Church to consider being a safe haven for conversations about race, a place of prayer and sanctuary for those working peacefully for reconciliation.

GA-1521 Substitute Resolution from the General Board on Gun Violence: If adopted, this resolution would be a call to all expressions of the Church to promote dialogue, cooperation, advocacy, and action that moves toward a reduction of gun violence through methods such as non-violent conflict resolution and reconciliation across cultural divides.

GA-1522 A Call for Peace, Justice and Reunification in the Korean Peninsula: If adopted, the General Assembly would ask the General Minister and President and other leaders of the church to notify the U.S. and Canadian governments that Korean reunification is a priority and would also institute a Sunday of Prayer for reunification on or around Aug. 15.

GA-1523 Becoming a People of Welcome and Support to People with Mental Illness and/or Mental Health Issues: If adopted, this resolution would call all expressions of the Church to be supportive of individuals who struggle with mental health challenges, as well as their loved ones and caregivers. It would also call on Disciples Home Missions to provide information to help regional and congregational leaders create a place of welcome.

GA-1525 A Call to End Solitary Confinement: If adopted, Item for Reflection and Research calls on the Administrative Committee of the General Board to explore ways for all the expressions of the Church to study the effects of solitary confinement on incarcerated individuals and help find alternatives to the practice.

Out of these resolutions, I think 1523 will have the greatest impact on us as a local community of faith, and expect that 1521 and 1525 will cause the most debate on the floor of the assembly. I have talked about being a welcoming community to my friend with autism, and feel that more discussion and information about providing a welcoming environment for him and others who have mental health issues is essential to our desire to be a diverse and welcoming community.

I will continue to hold each of you in my thoughts and prayers as I travel and as I make my decisions and cast my votes during the assembly. I would also ask for your thoughts and prayers so that my decisions may be wise, and follow the heart of God. I am excited to learn and fellowship, but will miss you all while I’m away.

The Story Materials Order

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Our journey through The Story begins on August 16, so now is the time to let us know what resources your family would like to have, there are books for all ages, and a participants guide for the adult Sunday school/small group studies.

A suggested donation is listed to the side.

Please note that The Story consists of selected readings from the Bible, and we will be publishing a reading guide as well, so these items are entirely optional. Samples are also available for you in the church office.

Please email and indicate how many of each item you would like.

The Story for Little Ones (picturebook) – $18
The Story for Children (storybook) – $20
The Story for Kids – $10
The Story: Teen Edition – $15
The Story – $20

The Story, Adult Participant’s Guide – $11

 

Outback Rock VBS Sign-up

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August 1, 2015

9:00 am—2:45pm

Will you join us as we travel to Outback Rock? You’ll have lots of fun with games and exciting projects. You’ll enjoy songs, games, crafts, and food! Please come with us, and invite your friends! We will have a Preschool Crew and an Elementary Crew, and some teen and pre-teen helpers.

If your child(ren) are planning on being a part of Outback Rock, please email us with their name(s), and which group (Pre-K, Elementary, or Helper) they will be a part of. Also, if you are able to stay around and help we’d appreciate it! Please let us know that in the e-mail as well!