Recently I attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ). The biennial General Assembly gathered on the grounds of Te Maungarongo, our national marae, in Ohope for the opening ceremony and worship then continued at Rotorua Boys’ High School from October 4th to 7th.
In my experience Assembly is always a paradox – I enjoy attending, I value the sense of being God’s church, I appreciate conversations (albeit brief) with old friends and listening to contrary opinions, I rejoice in the times of worship – especially when we are stilled.
Yet Assembly is also a place of stress and distress: long days (8:30am to about 10pm), protracted debates, broken relationships, entrenched positions, too few voices, hurried decisions, apathy. This, and more, is the paradox of Assembly, the paradox of being human. We are inconsistent beings – capable of profound love, humility, and insight: and profanity.
We weep – God weeps.
We weep – God swoops to our side and loves us.
This particular Assembly had it’s moments: both profound and profane, and some I am still pondering.
To stand and affirm the granting of Presbytery status to the Pacific Islands Synod was a moment of joyful grace; to hear the harsh words from the moderator of Te Aka Puaho (Maori Synod) shocked many, then only a short time later we were blessed by words of reconciliation, welcome, and hope from the same lips and we remembered whose we are.
While, in my opinion, it was good to affirm our traditional views on sexuality and leadership, and marriage, I was disappointed that we were polarised over these issues and seldom listened to one another. At least in breaks I was glad for the opportunity to talk with, listen to, agree and disagree with many deemed to be on the ‘other side’.
A very real encouragement this Assembly was the rising voices from the Pacific, Asia, and our Youth commissioners. Still too few voices – most sit silently while a tiny percentage rise to make their voices heard.
Amongst the good work was the affirmation of the Living Wage campaign; a commitment to advocate and care for vulnerable children; agreement to advocate for climate change refugees from the Pacific; the adoption of the Kupu Whakapono as a statement of faith, to sit beside the Westminster Confession of Faith.
I was encouraged and stilled by the sensitive and challenging worship leading provided by Malcolm Gordon, and I found myself anticipating the future as first our current Moderator, Ray Coster, and the incoming Moderator, Andrew Norton, painted for us a picture of what tomorrow can bring as we seek God’s leading and step forward in faith.
The Resurrection of Jesus – and all that this amazing event means – is the primary motivation for mission in the Church. It is the ‘why’ of mission. It is the story to be told. It was this, more than any other event in Jesus’ life that brought the Church into being and gave the Church its raison d’etre – its reason for being. If there had been no resurrection there would be no Church. Jesus would just have been another pretender sent to an early grave along with all the others.
This theme is developed in a short study booklet, downloadable from this link, I encourage people to take the time to study this, either individually or preferably as a group.
Assembly is over for another 2 years, now it is up to us all to listen to the words of Micah and “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. Micah 6:8