Monday, July 5, 2010

219th GA: The Covenant Network of Presbyterians Luncheon

About 300 people gathered in Ballroom D of the Minneapolis Hilton for the Covenant Network (Cov-Net) Luncheon. Luncheon guests were greeted by the Reverend David Van Dyke, Cov-Net Co-Moderator, who also recognized and thanked out going Co-Moderator the Reverend Deborah Block and introduced in coming Co-Moderator the Reverend Mary Lynn Tobin. Tobin then offered an Invocation followed by the luncheon crowd heartily singing Harry Emerson Fosdick’s progressive hymn, God of Grace and God of Glory, one of my favorite hymns.
As soon as we concluded singing we were invited to welcome General Assembly Moderator Cindy Bolbach. Bolbach has a long history in the struggle for justice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered persons in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), having been one of the original National Capitol Presbytery Stonecatchers, who organized as a response to G-6.0106b. She was given a standing ovation as she approached the dais.
Following the Moderator’s brief remarks, Pam Byers introduced many others in attendance, including Sharon Groves, who addressed the work of the Human Rights Campaign Clergy Call For Justice and Equality, May 22-24, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Deborah Block introduced the keynote speaker, Gustav Niebuhr, the grandson of H. Richard Niebuhr and the author of Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America. I had heard Gustav earlier in the morning when he testified before the Middle East Peacemaking Issues Committee during open testimony. Hearing him speak again during the Cov-Net luncheon was somewhat of a treat. I read some of his grandfather’s work and some of his great uncle’s work when in college and seminary.
After Niebuhr’s speech, Dave Colby and Tricia Dykers Koenig shared Cov-Net’s hopes for this General Assembly. Afterward, Tricia was recognized for her first ten years of work with the Covenant Network. Let us hope and pray that we will not need to recognize her second ten years with Cov-Net because the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be a fully inclusive church within the next ten years and no longer in need of the witness of the Covenant Network.
Tricia being properly honored, Tim Hart-Anderson made the usual pitch for financial support that one hears at such meal gatherings. He noted that Cov-Net has an annual budget of about $300,000, a third of which coming from congregations and two thirds coming from individuals.
Deborah Block dismissed the luncheon crowd with a Benediction.
When I sit down at one of these General Assembly Luncheons or dinners I never know who else might end sitting at the same table. Most tables sit eight. With one empty chair at my table, I ate lunch with six others. I knew one table mate well, the Reverend Trina Zelle, Minister Commissioner from Grand Canyon Presbytery and a former Co-Moderator of the Witherspoon Society (now Presbyterian Voices for Justice).
I knew by reputation Julie Lehman, an exhibitor with Presbyterians for Earth Care and Warren Wilson College. After the benediction, Julie introduced herself and we talked about the good work of Presbyterians for Earth Care, formerly Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, and also the good work of Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. I was a charter member of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation and was trained as a Restoring Creation Enable in a week’s training at Ghost Ranch just before the Albuquerque General Assembly, so I am keenly interested in the work of Presbyterians for earth Care and appreciated meeting Julie.
I also knew by reputation Leslie Scanlon, a reporter for The Presbyterian Outlook. Scanlon’s presence in the seat to my left caused a bit of anxiety as I thought “Here I am, a mere amateur blogger with little if any journalistic training or experience, sharing his reflections of the General Assembly, sitting next to a professional reporter whose primary beat is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and whose secondary beat is the Church at large.

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