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June 24, 2008: The Day of Despair

Tuesday of Assembly week is often the day of despair. "How can people who love Jesus vote that way?!" I am not trying to minimize the spiritual impact of seeing a deeply held conviction voted down by people in the church; rather, I am pointing out what happens every Assembly when we start making decisions.

I am writing this before most of the reports come in about recommendations of the various committees -- so I am not referring to any one committee here, just the phenomenon that occurs at this point in every Assembly. The novelty of being here has worn off, the energy of the moderator election seems a long time ago, and all the good feelings from worship are a memory. You feel like you have gone from Palm Sunday to betrayal very quickly. I have engaged in this several times over the years. The conclusion of committees usually coincides with a collective exhale from everyone involved: sometimes exhaustion, sometimes exasperation, sometimes it feels like a punch in the gut.

When you consider the kinds of issues that are being debated, it is no wonder that any given decision will cause spiritual crisis for at least some one. We do not spend much time on the things about which we agree. The majority of the debate time is spent on things that matter to people and on which there is not agreement. Yes, I know, that's a "forest for the trees" kind of observation. However, our normal lives are not often punctuated with multiple decisions regarding a number of issues on the same day. If you have a friend with whom you disagree about an issue, it can have no impact on your friendship for years as long as it does not come up. But if that issue comes to place of a decision between you, how does that impact your friendship? The same goes for the Assembly.

What kinds of issues are going to have recommendations today? Well, here's a quick incomplete list:

Committee 4: Marriage
Committee 5: Ordination Standards, authoritative interpretations and PUP
Committee 6: nFoG
Committee 7: Do Muslims, Jews and Christians pray to the same God?
Committee 8: GAC and the Foundation
Committee 9: Gun control, public education, homelessness, equal rights, social creed, election reform, immigration, labor relations
Committee 10: Abortion
Committee 11: Israel/Palestine (including divestment issues), Iraq, Colombia
Committee 12: Sexuality curriculum
Committee 13: Heidelberg and Belhar confessions, Trinity
and who knows what is coming from Committees 16 and 17?

The halls around the Assembly rooms will sound like popcorn as the decisions begin to be reported out. If you were to stand next to the wall, you could watch the "whisper down the lane" in action. You can actually see the news move from one end to the other.

It is at this time during the Assembly that I am grateful for Sunday School teachers who required us to memorize Scripture:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Would you take a few moments to pray for commissioners and advisory delegates here, that we would experience the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding our heartsand minds in Christ Jesus.

More later.