Paralyzed

One Young Adult’s Reflection on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 220th General Assembly

By Rachel Helgeson
 
PC(USA) 220th General Assembly
PC(USA) 220th General Assembly

When asked to write for this journal, I was excited about the prospects of what I would see and report at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 220th General Assembly. I was excited about what Presbyterians might do and say. I looked forward to witnessing our work together as the body of Christ.

After a little over a week at General Assembly, my enthusiasm has waned and I have found myself paralyzed. I can’t find the words to write. It’s like the air has been knocked out of me. Like the paralytic lowered through the roof of a house in Capernaum (a biblical story used in worship at GA), I find myself waiting for someone tear open the roof… waiting for a word from Jesus. I have struggled to find my voice in a sea of varying ideological and theological voices. I have witnessed tears of sadness and sighs of relief over various votes. I have seen sincere Christians struggle to treat each other as their sisters and brothers amidst their disagreements.

___________________________________________

Are we as a denom­i­na­tion show­ing Christ’s love to the world in our actions and words? Or are we sim­ply try­ing to drown each other out by being the loud­est voice in the room?
___________________________________________

Despite this, it seems like we all are just talking at each other, instead of to each other. We are set on our personal belief systems and unwilling to listen to others. During a mid-council committee meeting session, a Native American man said that, as a Presbyterian who belongs to a non-geographic Native American presbytery, he felt hurt by the negative remarks made at him concerning non-geographic presbyteries. Then a rural Kentucky woman spoke on behalf of her community, voicing that too much change too quickly could tear her community apart. Both were eloquent in their speaking but neither was given a warm reception. No real conversation happened. The plenary session felt even more alienating with General Assembly commissioners ignoring the work committees had toiled over and using the system to slow the process down instead of listening to God’s call. Commissioner was pitted against commissioner on issues ranging from Middle East Relations to the spanking of children. Many voices were raised but few, I felt, were respectfully heard as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Social justice begins with how we treat each other and recognize that we are all are children of God. God calls us to live beyond our own political or theological boxes and, instead, into the light of Jesus Christ.

We must stop threatening to join a more conservative or liberal denomination. We need each other. God has called us into this ministry together. The Holy Spirit speaks through our differences. It allows us to be a body both reformed and always reforming.

___________________________________________

I know that Jesus will heal this paralysis. But will the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) be the
disciples who opened the roof, reckless in their faith, or the scribes who would rather debate authority and parse the limits of grace, than witness healing?

___________________________________________

Are we as a denomination showing Christ’s love to the world in our actions and words? Or are we simply trying to drown each other out by being the loudest voice in the room?

Are we paralyzing our church and, consequently, voices like mine, struggling to find the words to speak in such a time as this?

I know that God can use us in our brokenness. I know that Jesus will heal this paralysis. But will the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) be the disciples who opened the roof, reckless in their faith, or the scribes who would rather debate authority and parse the limits of grace, than witness healing?

 

rachel helgeson
Rachel Helgeson performing in the play, "My Town"


 
 
 
 
 
Rachel Helgeson is a recent 2012 Masters of Divinity graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. During her tenure at LPTS, she served as the student body president and recently as a student assistant at General Assembly. Rachel will begin her first call as the Lilly Pastoral Resident at First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, in August 2012.
Rae Abileah and Ariel Vegosen
Previous Story

Next Steps for Boycott: An Open Letter to Presbyterian Clergy

presbyterian peace fellowship interns
Next Story

Gears, Forks, and Grease: Conspiring in the Spirit with Church Polity

Latest from Uncategorized