Working Together as Brothers and Sisters: Moderator’s Message April 2014

John vest headshot formalBy Rev. John Vest, 2014 Moderator of the Chicago Presbytery Assembly

I remember well my first General Assembly. I was shell-shocked by the bitterly divisive debates in the committee meetings I attended. Sure, I was most interested in the more contentious issues so it shouldn’t have come as a total surprise, but I was amazed at how ugly things got in those deliberations.

About midweek, I found myself at lunch with some of our church’s most well respected veteran leaders, including a former General Assembly moderator. I asked them quite earnestly to help me make sense of what I was experiencing as I was having trouble finding God in the partisan arguments I had been witnessing. I couldn’t quite figure out, how what we were doing, honored God or in any way fulfilled Christ’s call to bear witness to the Gospel. I was discouraged to discover that they didn’t have a whole lot of easy answers for me.

It wasn’t until the plenary sessions of the General Assembly that I began to see things differently. With the help of a great moderator, something I then realized was missing from those committee meetings, I witnessed the church at work. People from around the country, with very different experiences and perspectives and varying degrees of theological education were coming together to discern the will of God with respect and civility. Presbyterianism suddenly made sense to me. This is how theology is done in a shared and democratic way. It wasn’t always perfect, but it was certainly faithful, open, and fair.

I wouldn’t wish upon anyone having to moderate a debate as emotional as the sale of a beloved camp just minutes after being installed as moderator. Yet in that debate and vote, as difficult and painful as it was, I once again witnessed Presbyterianism working well. Though people had very different opinions and no one was really happy with the outcome, together we did our best to discern God’s will for our community and to move forward with faith and integrity. In that moment our presbytery was civil, gracious, and loving. Even in our differences and disappointments, we lived with each other as sisters and brothers.

As we seek to turn the page from a run of troubling years in our life together, the future is wide open for our presbytery. Based on what I witnessed at our February assembly, I am more confident than ever that God will use the gifts of our people to do something remarkable in Chicago and beyond. We have so much potential. I pray that we will allow God to let it loose.

Read Bob Reynold’s April 2014 Presbyter’s Pen

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