Another General Assembly has come and gone. This year the energy of the event was even higher than in the last few with the focus on electing Teresa Hord Owen as the newest General Minister and President. This was accomplished during the Sunday night worship service. For the first time, the Assembly opened its business session in the middle of worship. We approved the order of business and held the election of the new GMP.
All the sermons were excellent, including during the Sunday night service when the sermon was divided between three people, Henry Brewer-Calvert (son of James and Betty Brewer-Calvert of Decatur, GA and candidate for ministry), Rev. Jae Young Rhee, the pastor of the Ghent, OH congregation, and Rev. Mary Lou Kegler, Regional Minister of Canada (talk about a large region).
The general theme of all the messages was the Assembly theme of ONE. It was recognized that this theme was not about total agreement in all matters but rather calling all of us back to the unifying reason we exist as a church. We were reminded of one of the original themes of Disciples, found at #521 in the Chalice Hymnal, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” This is attributed to Rupertus Meldenius. Rupertus was a 16th Century Lutheran pastor in Germany, yet his words became a powerful call for Disciples.
This statement acknowledges that we will never really achieve total agreement. Yet, it calls us to be unified in our core, that we are students or more accurately, Disciples of Jesus. We are to follow his teachings and actions as the core of our religious practice. The interpretations and theologies that developed of the course of centuries fall into the liberty area and along with the rest of life today is in the charity area.
Love God with all we are. Love each other, not only in words but in actions and attitudes. Seek justice, do kindness, and walk humbly with God – God is the judge, not humanity. This should be our core of unity. We can differ in how that is played out on a day by day basis. As individuals, we are at liberty to decide how best we live into this core accepting that we may not always choose the same methods, and understanding that differences are not divisions, but only the rich diversity that inspires others to follow the essential core.
During the Assembly, we recalled and repented from the actions of the past that assumed European superiority over the “savages” of the New World and denied them recognition as another civilized culture. We repented from the denial of welcoming to other branches of humanity merely because of degrees of melatonin in their skin. We repented our converting our role in God’s Creation from stewards into owners. We repented from reversing the order of Meldenius’ statement and making absolute agreement as the only essential.
For our congregation in Warner Robins, we need to look at this and discover how we live and act in our essentials and make use of the variety of ways we can turn them into actions that will bring in the diversity of our community into a core who love God with all that they are, and seek to show love to all of humanity.