217th Assembly of Presbyterians

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Creating a Safe Space

Three hours have passed since my first session with the Ecclesiology Committee. It was a long one, starting at 3:00 p.m., breaking for dinner at 5:30 p.m., and then resuming for another session lasting until about 9:00 p.m. It was a good series of ice breakers, of acknowledging our personal baggage, and of creating a safe space with which to discuss one of the most controversial issues facing us.

The committee is composed of a good mix of presbyteries, of age groups, of gender -- but not of ethnicity. Of the 66 or so members, there were only four Asian Americans, two African Americans, and I think one Native American and one Arab American. As a denomination, we have to do better than this.

Judging from all that I heard about our hopes, fears, and ourselves, this committee represents a broad range of views. There is an overwhelming desire to discern God's will on what to do with the Taskforce Report and a general distaste for the deluge of letters, books, and DVDs that were sent before the assembly. There is also an overwhelming desire to resolve this issue once and for all so that we can focus on the other important issues we are facing -- like mission and evangelism.

It was also clear that there are those who will use parliamentary tricks to obfuscate the issue or delay the discussions. Even one lobbyist was overheard complaining that the executive session that followed the dinner was illegal since there was no motion for the committee to convene in executive session. Thank goodness he has no vote -- but his friends in the committee have.

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