The Valley Bridge
General Assembly Edition
June 21, 2016
The View from Portland

Tuesday at General Assembly is now in the books, committee work has been completed, and on Wednesday afternoon, the entire Assembly will return to the floor to act on the recommendations and reports of the thirteen committees. From some of the comments that I heard around the convention center, it looks like there will be some very interesting, passionate, and contentious moments ahead. We will see how things will play out over the next three-and-one-half days.
In a Tuesday morning Facebook message, I asked the members of our Minnesota Valleys team to send me their thoughts and experiences, so that they might be shared with you all. Our TEC (Teaching Elder Commissioner) Andy Davis simply responded, "Andy is tired."
I think that there is a bit of weariness among the crew and we all needed some time away from the OCC (Oregon Convention Center). Eleven of us gathered at Huber's, the oldest restaurant in Portland - recommended to us by Ruling Elder Darlene Scherbing of Saint Cloud. The food, fellowship, and fun was what we all needed. There was a good deal of laughter and spirited conversation. 

Wednesday begins with some special breakfasts, the ecumenical service of worship, and lunches sponsored by our seminaries and special ministry groups of our denomination. Then, the work will begin. Your commissioners and YAAD will be on the floor prayerfully discerning their decisions; Pam and I will be in the staff section; and the the rest of our folks will be tracking the floor action from the cheap seats.
On Wednesday evening, we will recognize the retirement of Stated Clerk Grady Parsons at a special dinner gathering. The day will begin early and end rather late. Much energy will be needed by all.
We will do our best to keep you in the loop on things. Karen is holding down the "Mother Ship" in Willmar and will forward the latest GA news to you. Please keep us all in your prayers!
Well, that is about it from Portland on Tuesday. For the hard news, please check out the GA Daily News at
Until our next report, from all of us here in Oregon . . .

Grace and Peace,

Reflections from Deb Hess

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here in Portland, OR for the 222nd PC(USA) General Assembly. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet fellow Presbyterians and people of other faiths from around the world. I have met people who have a deep passion for our Risen Lord. For our denomination. For our polity. For the mission work we are involved in around the world. For the opportunity to take time to listen for guidance from the Holy Spirit. For the wonderful reminder that we are all individuals with different ways of trying to do the Lord's work here on earth. For the process that allows discussion to be done in a structure that allows all of the voices to be heard. 
Attending the Westminster Church here in Portland on Sunday, I heard a passioned plea for each of us to be involved in every way possible to address the issues facing this country. The Rev. Laura Chiefitz spoke from the heart about the choices each of us are making when something horrible happens against a fellow human being. Many of us were moved to tears as she shared stories about the victims of gun violence, rape, and discrimination for so many reasons - race, religion, sexual identity and others. Paraphrasing her message - When we hear that someone has suffered a horrific assault, it isn't enough to give a loud sigh or a boisterous Amen! We are called as Christians to get involved. We need to challenge ourselves to take action. To pray for guidance about what we each must do to address the actions of others that are hurting and killing innocent people. To show up at rallies, to call our legislators and tell them we are paying close attention to see what efforts they are making to address these issues and work to find solutions. To donate our time, money and talent to help the cause. 
Teaching elders, ruling elders, pastors, GA, synod and presbytery staff and so many others gather every two years to make decisions about policies that the churchwide body will use to further God's work in the world. From church polity, environmental and immigration issues, mid-council (synods and presbyteries) concerns, social justice, theological issues, ecumenical and interfaith relations, peacemaking and international issues and so much more, these commissioners are reviewing overtures (recommendations) for how to move forward as members of the body of Christ and as Presbyterians. The committees meet and review the overtures and then move their recommendations to the General Assembly over the next few days. According to Andy Davis, it is very hard work. You can feel it when you walk into the sessions. And they take their work very seriously. 
Yesterday I observed the Immigration and Environment Committee. One of the topics they were discussing was fossil fuels. It is just one of the topics that affects people in different ways. For some it is their livelihood, for others their churches receive much needed resources to do God's work and for others it is a plea to help us be better stewards of our earth. And the committee must determine the intent and the impact of each of the overtures. 
I sat in on the Middle East Issues Committee this morning and I was overwhelmed by the deeply convicted testimonies being offered on both sides of the issues and am grateful for the people who are diligently listening to all sides of the issues and then work to determine what the majority of the people want to move forward on. Minority reports are included if presented.  
I am one of those people that thrives on how words that are agreed upon help move us forward and know what value there is in making decisions collectively. I am praying for all of those members on the committees who are taking their work to heart! Can't wait to see what the next few days will bring. 
Thank you for continuing the practice of sending members of our Presbytery to be active participants of the the work of our bi-annual national gathering.
Deb Hess
Vice Moderator
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys

See what's happening on our Facebook site:
Like us on Facebook