The Beloved Community

by Commissioned Pastor (CP) John Robson, Presbytery of Cincinnati Commissioner to GA 225

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.                                                                                                                                                        Colossians 3:23-24

The Presbytery invested a portion of responsibility and education in selecting me — a “retired” CRE — to join a handful of others as commissioners on the Ministry Committee.  Looking through the agenda some weeks back, I saw much that was important, yet to my eyes mostly pro forma.  What I encountered in joining three dozen other commissioners from across the Nation was that little is pro forma and that all issues need discussion.  I saw and heard through my earplugs — highly recommended even though the room was smallish — was a diversity of thought and intellect.  The commissioners dove deeply into each issue— though the Teaching Elders were often deeper divers than we Ruling Elders.  We would dissect the language, reference past traditions, and call on staff members for background and research.

And each matter — just like for our Presbytery and each and every one of our congregations — must be considered with a feel for the financial implications.  I was gratified that the tension in each of our congregations to balance the budget and evangelize within and without the church was also very much present at the National level.  Some issues drew great support (though when the votes were tallied most issues had 10-20% in opposition) and others serious division and debate.  Again, I saw and was pleased that what affects the Session meetings of our congregations affects the National.  I saw the per capita that our congregations remit is held in trust and not taken for granted.

The topics that most aroused folks were ones of advocacy in 2022.  Again, our national theme of Lament and Hope was reflected in advocacy.  What groups have the PC(USA) marginalized and why?  Is the marginalization new or stretching back decades and decades, perhaps to the 18th century?  Were we as Presbyterian blind to some or did leadership know but decide there were more pressing matters?

In our group were those of Native American descent — perhaps the earliest of “others” for society and for Presbyterians.  Do we lament our actions and policies?  Others of different pigmentation spoke of their histories and each of their hopes.  And the changing definition of ‘family’ was front and center.  The LGBTQIA+ Equity — who or what advocacy committee and staff member speaks for them?  Can existing staff have a re-architected job description, or have we as a denomination reached a point where a new staff position is required?

And I was all ears, both in meetings and during breaks and luncheons.  I could ask questions and I could offer my experiences which mostly reflected rural churches.  And all others took that same position (well some TE Commissioners knew it all, but just some) wanting to learn and to make their votes reflect faith and discipleship.

Side note:  our committee leadership had to several times chastise folks for side conversations that distracted the work of the whole.  I thanked leadership for not losing track of the purpose and keeping us focused for the sake of all. 

I thank the Presbytery for placing me onto this committee.  I have heightened respect for the organization of PC(USA) and how dedicated the staff are.  They are stewards of much and take their roles as disciples into all the work.