To Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In a letter to you on June 28, we began to tell the story of our 218th General Assembly. Our goal was to provide you a timely summary and perspective on issues that we sensed would draw the greatest immediate attention. In that first letter, we outlined the assembly’s actions and our church’s next steps in a continuing story, the outcome of which is known only to God. Most importantly, we infused our letter with our strong and abiding hope for the future ministry and witness of our Presbyterian Church (USA), because we are a Good News people.
We hope that you will share with us a bold and unabashed hope, firmly grounded in the solid foundation of our faith, that is daily confirmed for us in seeing how God is at work in and through our PC(USA). Every day, we hear story after story of new churches and fellowships, of immigrant and multicultural ministries, of large churches joining with smaller ones to support and encourage each other. Everywhere there is a new and growing hunger to hear and to tell the Good News. The commitment to “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide” – overwhelmingly approved by the assembly – grew out of that very hunger to say “no” to a climate of decline and say “yes” to declaring a church wide commitment to participate in God’s activity in transforming the PC(USA).
With this letter, we invite you to continue to celebrate with us good news of our General Assembly and of our Presbyterian Church. We ask you to join us in giving collective voice to the hope, the passion, and the future that has the power to unite us as Presbyterian Christians:
- As noted, the assembly overwhelmingly adopted a churchwide commitment to “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide,” encouraging synods, presbyteries, sessions, and all agencies, entities, and networks of the PC(USA) to foster the growth of Christ’s Church in the areas of evangelism, discipleship, servanthood, and diversity. This commitment builds on the many initiatives that are already under way in so many places – and calls on all parts of the church to start new congregations and transform existing ones; to nurture immigrant, racial ethnic and multicultural fellowships and congregations; to reach out through mission; and to deepen discipleship.
- In a related action, the assembly also enthusiastically approved a strategy for church growth for African American congregations. We see this as a call to action, and, more importantly, to collaboration. With the previous initiative, this comprehensive strategy invites us all to partner together in growing Christ’s Church Deep and Wide in the many ways we are called to achieve great things for God.
- The “Invitation to Expanding Partnership in God’s Mission,” an historic document which emerged from the Worldwide Mission Consultation held earlier this year in Dallas, was boldly affirmed by the assembly. Covenanting to live and serve together, committing to working cooperatively, celebrating diverse Presbyterian approaches to mission, sharing responsibility for educating and preparation of all Presbyterians for mission and seeking and supporting more mission personnel, are among the statements in the invitation. Nearly 200 individuals and groups had endorsed this covenant before it was brought to the assembly and adopted. The committee that recommended it to the assembly read the text of the invitation aloud, making it a statement of faith, a powerful affirmation of our Presbyterian commitment to mission. We encourage you to do likewise.
- For the first time in 50 years, the assembly voted to increase the number of mission personnel serving as the hands and feet of Christ around the world. The good news is that those who are called to serve will be “saving lives” not just by providing urgent medical care or implementing holistic ministries, but by preaching the gospel, often in places where it has never been heard. With the support of Presbyterians, this commitment will extend our collective outreach in mission around the world.
- Realizing that worship is our response to God’s love for us and that we pray for God to “put a new and right spirit within [us]” (Ps. 51:10), Presbyterians also covenanted at this assembly to gather in Solemn Assemblies over the coming years, worshiping God and seeking God’s healing for the church.
- Called by Jesus Christ to be peacemakers, the assembly continued to boldly affirm that stance around the world. The assembly called for “responsibly” bringing the troops home from Iraq, continuing peacemaking with Israelis and Palestinians, and supporting human rights in Zimbabwe, the Philippines, North Korea and Colombia.
- 752 commissioners and nearly 3000 other participants in San Jose were joined by more than 13,000 people who logged in and watched on line – a 21st century General Assembly!
As God’s story, entwined with ours, continues to unfold following this General Assembly, we find ourselves newly energized for the work to be done in the weeks and months ahead. The Good News, which we received, in which we stand, and by which we are saved, calls us to immediate action. Empowered by the Spirit, we invite you to answer the carry out the work called for by Christ’s commands and the Church’s actions:
- Recommend gifted people to serve as mission co-workers. We need your wisdom and your help in identifying qualified. [www.pcusa.org/msr]
- Hold Solemn Assemblies in your congregation or presbytery. A website with resources will be available soon through the General Assembly Council’s Office of Theology and Worship.
- Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide. Visit [www.deepandwide.net] and [www.presbygrow.net] to find ideas for growing the church and contribute your own.
- Support the work of mission around the world. There are countless opportunities for Presbyterians to invest in and pray for the good work the church is doing. [www.pcusa.org/mission]
With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And isn’t that Good News?
The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow
Moderator of the 218th General Assembly
Elder Linda Bryant Valentine [BLOG]
Executive Director, General Assembly Council
The Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly