Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Message From Minister and President Sharon Watkins - General Assembly 2013

Movement. Wholeness. Welcome. Table.

The keys to our Disciples identity statement were all in evidence at the 2013 General Assembly in Orlando. At worship, we literally gathered around a table. In business we wrestled with what it means to be whole though of different opinions. In education, we were equipped for the mission of healing and wholeness God invites us to share.

Much has been said of our declining numbers – however, at GA 2013, Disciples celebrated the blessing and the mission God calls us to right now. The Sunday night Celebration of Mission (formerly known as State of the Church) was an invitation to ministry in the 21st century context. The 21st century is a time of increasing diversity, of technological revolution, and where our neighbors do not know the love of God. But this is where we are called to share God’s love. God has often made much of small numbers. The story of Gideon in Judges 6-7 comes to mind. At General Assembly we celebrated the mission of congregations and regional and general ministries – all working to manifest the wholeness of the reign of God at hand. We shined lights in the darkness and we noted: If we look to God’s future rather than our past, we face a bright horizon.

Our internal wholeness was tested at GA. Current events and a neighboring convention as well as currents within our own Church shaped the assembly in ways we could not have imagined. The movement of the Spirit seemed strong as the assembly considered two emergency resolutions and an Item for Reflection and Research – all dealing with controversial and painful issues around race and racial justice in the United States. True to our Disciples character, we do not hold a singular perspective about the events that led to the death of Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman verdict nor about the Supreme Court decisions regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – events that affected a collective gasp of despair among Black and Brown brothers and sisters just at the time we met. It seemed fortuitous, however, that the NAACP convention was right next to ours. It meant that we Disciples, as a movement for wholeness, had an opportunity to extend the ministry of presence with hurting brothers and sisters. It meant that members of the NAACP Religious Affairs committee could reciprocate and offer heartfelt greetings to us.

Welcoming all to an open table was a theme throughout, but especially as we approached resolution GA-1327
- Becoming a People of Grace and Welcome to All. It reaffirmed our core value that even in our differences of opinion and approach; we come together at the Lord’s Table. The discussions showed we are not all of one mind on nearly any issue, nevertheless, whether we identify as a conservative, moderate or liberal, God does not label us as anything but God’s beloved child. As hard as it may be, we Disciples strive to live into that welcoming posture shown so vividly in the life of Jesus.

We launched an identity initiative to help Disciples witness to our calling in Christ, based on the four key words of the identity statement. 

Movement: both of the Spirit and of our own Church communities; 
Wholeness: our struggle to be united but not uniform, diverse but not divided; 
Welcome: to all, though not necessarily affirming all points of view; 
Table: that place where the story of Jesus is enacted, where we meet the living Christ, become again the Body of Christ and are sent forth with the love of Christ to love our neighbor.

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one Body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us. At Orlando, we reaffirmed that the Table is broad and diverse, but there is room for all.

Toolboxes and Videos posted:

Handouts and presentations from many of the sessions as well as most of the videos - reports, worship, presentations - from General Assembly are posted online at www.disciples.org/ga

No comments:

Post a Comment