Tuesday, July 6, 2010

219th GA: Exhibitor Booths in the Exhibit Hall

There are numerous exhibitor “booths” in the General Assembly Exhibit Hall. The booths belong to various entities and or organizations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), not-for-profit organizations of Presbyterians, and companies and business which cater to churches. The not-for-profit organizations run the full range of the theological spectrum, from the progressive to the conservative.
I am registered as an Exhibitor for Presbyterians Voices for Justice. Our booth (photo right), which is actually a double booth, is located, this year, near the main entrance of the Exhibit Hall. Our location is only fair because two years ago, at the GA in San Jose, our booth was located in the back of the exhibit hall. Because the exhibit hall in San Jose was much smaller than this year’s hall, we were also limited two years ago to a single booth even though we were willing to pay for a double booth.
Across the aisle from us is one of our “friendlies”, that is a not-for-profit organization that embraces a similar commitment to justice, even if their commitment is more focused and less inclusive than PVJ’s broad focus. That group across the aisle is the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. The Covenant Network (Cov-Net) was formed in (year) by several tall steeple preachers in response to the constitution being amended to prohibit the ordination and installation of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered persons. I regularly contribute to Cov-Net and participate in its programs but do not consider myself a member of the Cov-Net because the Cov-Net is not really a “Membership” organization. Cov-Net appears to me to be highly organized and generally well polished, although sometimes a little regimented and tending to take a safer and less controversial approach than other groups. Their most recognizable staff are Pam Byers (photographed in the booth, right) and Tricia Dykers-Koeneg.
On the other side of the curtain which is the back wall of Cov-Net’s booth is the booth of More Light Presbyterians (MLP)(photo right). In the words of my young friend Charlie, these are “the rainbow people”, the people who at GA distribute rainbow colored scarves for commissioners and others to wear as a witness to their commitment to a fully inclusive church. MLP has been engaged in the struggle for the full inclusion of LGBTs in the life of the church, including removing impediments to their ordination, and advocating for their right to marry people of the same sex, longer than any other group in the Presbyterian Church. MLP has often taken a more controversial and “in your face” approach than Cov-Net. MLP also knows how to have fun in worship and to be prophetic without apology or compromise. Among them are some of the most loving, compassionate, and pastoral people I know. Like Cov-Net, I regularly contribute to MLP and participate in its programs. Their Executive Director is Michael Adee.
Across the aisle from MLP is the booth (photo right) of That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS), another pro LGBT organization that in my mind spun off from MLP and is perhaps more focused on the ordination issue rather than the acceptance and rights of all LGBT Presbyterians. Their booth is designed to look like the booth in a diner, which symbolizes that they desire the church to be “open” all the time, like a diner, and that God invites all people to the table of the Lord. Their Executive Director is Lisa Largess.
At the other end of the exhibit hall are the booths of other groups I share an affinity with. One of these groups is the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) (photo right), the peacemaking peaceniks of the Presbyterian Church who more faithfully follow Peacemaking: The Believers Calling than most of us and who seek to live lives of radical peacemaking. They number around 3,000, which by some standards might seem small, but their spirit is great and their witness without parallel. Their Executive Director is former General Assembly Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase.
Next to the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship booth is the booth of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (photo right), a not-for-profit organization which advocates for passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill, which, when enacted “would restore the rights of citizens whose conscience does not permit physical or financial participation in all war, Federal taxes of designated conscientious objectors would be placed in a non-military trust fund, enabling these citizens to be free from spiritual bondage, increasing federal revenue, and restoring the balance of government between collective security and non-interference in an individual’s free exercise of belief.” The newly elected Chairman of the Campaign, whom I just recently met, is Rick Woodard. Their Executive Director is Bethany Criss.
Not far down the aisle from the booth of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax and the booth of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is the booth of Presbyterians for Earth Care (photo right), “the green people”. This organization used to be known as Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, of which I was a charter member. Many of its founding members were, at the time of its founding, as I was, also members of the Witherspoon Society. Of all the advocacy groups in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), this is the only group that advocates for nothing else other than environmental stewardship. It shares its booth with Warren Wilson College, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) related college that is, without a doubt, the greenest Presbyterian College in the country.
There are many more exhibitors with booths in the Exhibit Hall, even some other “friendlies” , but these are some of the ones I, with a commitment to social justice, the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the church, peacemaking, and environmental stewardship, am most drawn to.

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