Last night, the commissioners to the 222nd General Assembly made history in two ways. First, co-moderators were elected, something allowed for the first time this year after a change to the Book of Order in 2014. Second, two women were elected to lead us in that way, the first time that has happened for our denomination.
Today, history was made again, as the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee formally nominated J. Herbert Nelson as the next Stated Clerk. When the election takes place Friday morning, J. Herbert may become the first African American to hold the position of our highest ecclesiastical officer.
We are also anticipating history being made when the assembly votes on whether or not to add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions, making it part of the Constitution for our church. In 2014, that assembly voted in favor of inclusion, and then more than 2/3 of the Presbyteries also voted in favor. If this assembly returns the third required vote in favor, then this confession from the church in South Africa will be part of what we confess as followers of Jesus Christ in the PC(USA).
I find each of these things to be very exciting and worth celebrating. Each one breaks a different barrier, each one leads to a new level of inclusivity, each one challenges us to re-order our understanding of our denomination.
But what does this mean for us back at home, in the communities where God has planted us to be bearers of good news? It's a call to renew our own efforts of reconciliation within our churches and communities, using the lessons we've learned in visits and exchanges to heal wounds from racism, sexism, and intolerance. We have work to do, especially when some people living closest to our church buildings feel that walls and weapons are the best way to build a better world.
It's a call for us to be more conscious about our congregations reflecting what we celebrate when we gather around the Lord's table; people coming from east and west, north and south, and being welcomed to a joyful feast of love, mercy, and grace. How do we reflect, here and now, not just when God has the final word, the glorious vision of all nations and tongues being united in fellowship and love?
My hope and prayer, my fervent hope and prayer, is that the historic actions of this General Assembly will not remain at the highest levels of the church, but will be embodied in the places where we gather to worship and fellowship at home. If we can do that, then these actions, which are historic and exciting in their own right, will become the seeds of new mustard trees, the dusting of new manna on this wilderness journey, the beginning of a new age for our witness as followers of Jesus Christ.