Yesterday was a historic day for our denomination. In a very moving moment, we voted to accept the Belhar Confession and added it to our Book of Confessions. This is historic in that it is extremely difficult to amend the Book of Confessions, far more difficult than to amend the Book of Order. It takes the action of 3 different General Assemblies and also the approval of 2/3 (not simple majority) of the presbyteries. It happens maybe once every generation, if that. This was the final step of the process. It is also historic in that it was 50 years ago that the GA met here in Portland to adopt the Confession of 1967 which deals in part with the issue of racial issues in our society and the theme of reconciliation. Belhar was a response to apartheid in South Africa, and has three main themes of unity, reconciliation, and justice. It has much to say to the church now as we gather grapple with issues of race in the wake of the massacre in Orlando and the 1 year anniversary of the shootings of African American church members in Charlotte.
We also approved a revised Directory for Worship (the middle section of our Book of Order) to be sent to the presbyteries for approval.
To read more about this and what else we did yesterday, see the link:
Remember you can also live stream (watch the Assembly from your home) at:
I don't think you'll be able to see me, fortunately, my spot is not in line with the cameras!
Belhar has much to say to the church now as we gather grapple with issues of race in the wake of the massacre in Orlando and the 1 year anniversary of the shootings of African American church members in Charlotte.
If you are not sure about how this works, please know there are several ways we do business in General Assemblies:
- adopt resolutions
- vote on constitutional changes that are then sent to presbyteries for approval. The constitution is NOT changed until the proposal is approved by a majority of presbyteries by June of next year. Most of these deal with proposed revisions to the Book of Order (Book of Confessions is a longer, different process)
- issue authoritative interpretations (much like courts issue rulings on existing constitution)
And importantly, the General Assembly is made up of people like you and me, commissioners sent from presbyteries from all over the nation and Puerto Rico. It is not a separate entity. And the Office of the General Assembly (in Louisville, KY) can only do things that are decided at GA like this one. The church is us!
"I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ." Phi. 1:6 NRSV