GA220: Mid-Council Commissions (what?)

On the floor of General Assembly I spoke against non-geographic presbyteries.  For you non-Presbyterians, we tend to order our organizational life around connections made via geographic proximity.  This means that congregations with different values (read politics and theology) interact with each other on a fairly regular basis.  In addition, these un-likeminded worshipping communities and leaders are called to work together to resource and support one another in ministry.  In theory, non-geographic presbyteries would provide a way for like-minded congregations to link together beyond geographically established borders to form their own organization.  There are many reasons I think this is not our best idea.  Here’s the full text of my 2 minute speech which allowed me to expand on one of my concerns:
Thank you moderator.  My name is Debra Avery, teaching elder from Presbytery of the Grand Canyon.  I urge the Assembly to support the committee’s recommendation to disapprove recommendation #6 regarding non-geographic presbyteries.  I am speaking from my experience in and around small vibrantly creative and tenaciously faithful churches.

Small church pastors are paid at  presbytery minimum.  We often have just enough continuing education money to travel to one, maybe two events or conferences a year. For some of us, even traveling for regular meetings from one end of the presbytery  to another can be a hardship.  And many of us wonder if our congregations will have the financial wherewithal to make it from one year to the next.

But most days, we do something pretty well.  We testify to what it is to live hopefully as one body made of diverse parts, gathered around one table to share the one life we have in Christ Jesus.  Those of us in small churches know we are better together, stronger together than we are apart. We know that we need each other. We need to gather together each week even in our differences, all the more because we live in a very polarized society where it is more and more the norm for neighbors to divide into like-minded camps and demonize each other.

We have an important witness to make in our fractured contexts.  Many of us here know that it is not only possible for diverse people to live together with their differences, but the work it takes to do that is life-giving. I believe nongeographic presbyteries undermine that witness and ignore the realities within which small churches strive to follow Christ.

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