Around 1300 teaching and ruling elders have now arrived in Tennessee, and with them, more seersucker than the recommended daily allowance.
Oh, yes, and bowties. So it could be worse.
This morning the work of the Overtures Committee continued its deliberations. The overture out of the North Texas Presbytery I referenced yesterday was, as they say, answered “in the negative” by the Committee. In other words it failed to garner sufficient support from the Committee for it to commend it to the whole Assembly. To review, Overture 2 (and its complement, Overture 9) petitioned the denomination to create a study committee that could bring further clarity to the nature of Sabbath observance. The Committee had no appetite to create such a committee and moreover felt the premise upon with the Overture was based to be more problematic in what it might end up expunging from the Confession than whatever ambiguity might remain within it.
In an ironic twist that would’ve made Eric Liddell smile, a teaching elder hailing originally from Northern Ireland made an impassioned plea for the Committee to forestall this overture’s intent. For all the concern the Overture raised concerning coherence between what the Confession outlines and what the Scriptures teach, the spirit behind the Confession’s concern about trivializing the day set aside for worship and prayer, so intoned the elder from the Emerald Isle, is worth preserving, notwithstanding the need for clarity on what the Scriptures teach about Sabbath.
The afternoon began with a number of seminars on a variety of topics. I visited one on the subject of ministry to inmates. A representative from Metanoia Ministries, a man who’d served time for a violent offense decades ago but now gives leadership to this ministry, spoke at length, and with passion, for the church’s involvement in corresponding with and mentoring current inmates, and helping to re-integrate into the community released inmates. Jesus’ admonition to remember those in prison grounds our collective mandate to treat even convicted criminals with dignity and grace. Half of Paul’s letters were written in chains. Those imprisoned offer their own unique metaphor to the spiritual condition of us all: apart from the grace offered us in Christ we all would find ourselves imprisoned “under sin,” and unable to exonerate ourselves.
During the second round of seminars, I heard from Dr. Kelly Kapic, professor at Covenant College in nearby Lookout Mountain, Georgia, about how to live with faith, hope, and love in the face of physical suffering. It’s a topic of particular interest to Dr. Kapic given his wife’s diagnosis with cancer two years ago. He offered plenty to mull over and more to share with you over time. Borrowing from some of the lesser known writings of Luther and Calvin, perhaps the most resonant theme of his talk involved the necessity of vital connection to the Body. For when we suffer physically, our own individual faith suffers along with our bodies, and experiences a commensurate weakening (you’ll be sure to hear some of the transparent quotes of Luther in the coming months). When we find ourselves compromised in our capacity to believe, it’s the faith of the community to which we’re connected that, in a sense believes for us.
This evening we gathered in the Assembly hall, first to worship with all the presbyters and their families. Dr. Bryan Chapell, pastor at Grace Presbyterian in Peoria, Illinois preached from Psalm 32 to remind us all of the cruciality of confession.
Oh, and we sang, too.
Following the service we elected a new moderator for the Assembly, Mr. John Wert, and offered our thanks to the outgoing moderator–also Dr. Chapell. The moderator is tasked with ensuring an orderly operation of the Assembly.
That’s all from Chattanooga for now. The Assembly will be in session mid-morning tomorrow following seminars on other topics.