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A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia

September 2012

Grace and peace to you in the powerful name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Six days after the Mekane Yesus Seminary graduation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I flew to the United States to launch a packed schedule of commitments starting with my service as one of eight Mission Advisory Delegates (MADs) to the 220th General Assembly (GA) from June 29 to July 7 in Pittsburgh, Pa.  The MADs received special instruction the day before GA began; however, I missed it because thunderstorms delayed the flights of many traveling to GA by more than seven hours.

This year’s General Assembly was a historic one for Presbyterian World Mission because it was in 1837—175 years ago—that the Board of Foreign Missions was created by that year’s General Assembly held in Pittsburgh!  Over these many years the Presbyterian Church has responded to Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 by sending thousands of missionaries across the globe.

A remarkable luncheon hosted by World Mission commemorated those 175 years of mission-sending and pointed the international mission supporters attending toward the future.  Read more about that lunch by clicking this link or pasting it into your web browser:

A video shown during the luncheon noted that 94 million Christians around the world belong to churches that were founded by Presbyterian missionaries.

Some of the first business in the full plenary was the election of the General Assembly moderator to moderate the 220th GA and represent the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the U.S. and abroad for the next two years.  I was especially pleased to be present for this election since the general presbyter of my presbytery of membership was one of the candidates.  Rev. Sue Krummel was an outstanding and verbally adroit candidate for the position. She is seen here [PHOTO  1] candidating onstage at the Assembly. She was the runner-up to the top vote-getter, Rev. Dr. Neal Presa. [PHOTO 2]

Learning to manage my time was a challenge during the eight days of plenary sessions, committee meetings, worship, and special breakfasts, lunches, and dinners hosted by a variety of groups and seminaries.  There was little time for rest and reflection as the days began at 6:45 am and sometimes continued until 11 pm (or much later for the Young Adult Advisory Delegates and for the whole Assembly on the last night of plenary business actions).

Prayer and worship, however, were essential parts of all committee meetings and plenary sessions.  I was extremely blessed to close the afternoon plenary session July 6 with prayer and a litany. [PHOTO 3  and PHOTO  4]

I have always cherished our connectional church and this was affirmed from the outset.  From the moment I arrived, opportunities abounded to connect with many new friends and several old ones. [PHOTO 5] Sharing the joys and struggles of my students and the people of Ethiopia was one of the highlights of being a Mission Advisory Delegate. Whether in casual conversation in the Exhibit Hall or breaking bread together during mealtimes, God provided many opportunities to bless me and others by intentionally telling the old, old story.

Each commissioner and advisory delegate was assigned to work on a committee. I learned many things while serving on the Confessions Committee.  The importance of considering the Belhar Confession again was emphasized by three who addressed our committee: staff member Charles Wiley, former GA moderator Jack Rogers, and former GA stated clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick. [PHOTOS 6, 7, 8]  This is a key ecumenical document emphasizing the importance of working toward Christian unity in the church.  The Assembly agreed to begin a new study process for it again.

An important new thrust across the denomination is engaging young adults in exciting new ways—especially through a greatly enlarged Young Adult Volunteer program in World Mission, the 1001 New Worshipping Communities initiative, and a more intentional inclusion of young adults as appointments are made to a variety of committees that will consider important issues in the church.  It is exciting to witness the great energy, enthusiasm, and creativity that these young adults are bringing to the church.

The theme for this year’s Assembly was Walking, Running, Soaring in Hope (Isaiah 40:31). It was woven throughout every aspect of the Assembly and will continue to inspire the church in the years to come as the church’s priorities are redefined and challenges are faced. While this Assembly faced and dealt with many controversial issues of great importance, the commissioners delayed consideration of some in order to continue their study and gather wisdom over the coming two years.

Thank you for this unique opportunity to serve the church! Please continue your prayers for:

  • the persons and situations affected by many issues that the General Assembly considered and which continue to be studied
  • all who are affected by changes in the staffing design of Presbyterian World Mission
  • effective engagement of the three Critical Global Issues of World Mission: addressing root causes of poverty especially among women and children, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, and working for reconciliation among cultures of violence including our own

Faithfully serving Christ with you,

Carolyn Weber (Rev. Dr.)

 The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 95

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