General Assembly Day 7: Salsa and Jazz

Thursday found the assembly continuing to hear committee reports and take action on overtures, which meant they needed a few salsa breaks to stretch out the legs and shake loose the cobwebs. Thursday evening was an evening off from our work, and an opportunity to celebrate all the Presbyterian hands and feet that have been impacting St. Louis over the last two years in preparation for and during this General Assembly. Musician Kirk Whalum shared his amazing gifts of jazz with us.

General Assembly Day 7 Daily Digest

Thursday Afternoon in St. Louis

Barbara Smith

The Way Forward…

It has been a busy day thus far! And it has been an afternoon full of motions, and amendments, and “calls for questions” around the report of the “Way Forward Commission.” And for that reason, I am thankful that the daily GA newspaper is on-line and is being shared with you by our communication partners, Worship Times (see above).

However, I did want to report…

The commissioners, by a nearly unanimous vote, concurred with the following:

The 2020 Vision Team recommends that the 223rd General Assembly (2018) forward the proposed draft of the Guiding Statement to the church for study and comment in consideration of submitting it to the 224th General Assembly (2020) for approval.

God calls the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to be:


  • Confessing our sin before God and to those we have wronged, we accept our responsibility for the brokenness in the world and in ourselves. In Christ we are assured of forgiveness and freed to forgive others.
  • We ask the Holy Spirit to direct and guide us as we actively listen to Scripture and fully engage in the joys and challenges of life in this present world.
  • In Christ we are bound together by grace, cleansed in the waters of baptism, nourished at the Lord’s table, and sent out to share the Good News.


  • Reformed and always being reformed, we follow the Holy Spirit in new and imaginative ways to places we have not yet been.
  • We foster the hope of reconciliation in Christ that brings healing to individuals and communities, which transforms the world.
  • We work for God’s justice and peace for all people in every land, prioritizing the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the abused.


  • As members of the Church universal, we are Christ’s disciples, called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  • Against forces that seek to divide, Christ compels us to bear witness to a love that sustains community across great differences.
  • Striving to love all our neighbors as ourselves, we approach others in a spirit of openness and trust as we follow Jesus Christ in respecting the freedom of other religions, worldviews, and traditions.


  • As followers of the One who washed his disciples’ feet, we listen to and serve our neighbors, working to meet their practical needs.
  • We partner with others to become the hands and feet of God in the world, showing compassion and generosity to all creation.
  • We venture beyond the familiar, meeting people where they are as we share Christ’s transformative love.


  • We are a people of the resurrection: though death surrounds us, we are not afraid because we follow the One who was raised from the tomb.
  • The Holy Spirit gives us courage to build a community that reflects the fullness of God’s image in humanity: beautifully diverse and no longer divided by age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexuality, physical and mental ability, geography, or theological conviction.
  • In the sure and certain hope of resurrection, we testify that the church and its members are called to follow Christ’s model by risking all, even life itself, for the sake of the Gospel.

And so, God calls the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to be: Prayerful, Courageous, United, Serving, Alive.

General Assembly Day 3: New Co-Moderators and Committees Begin

Sunday at General Assembly

Barbara Smith

Worship this morning was spread among the churches of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, our hosts for this Assembly.

This evening the commissioners and advisory delegates move into their respective committees where they will consider the business assigned. While Committee meetings are normally open to anyone for observation, traditionally Sunday evening meetings are closed so the group can get to know one another. To get an idea of what Ruth, Lorraine, and Emma will be doing –

Teaching Elder Commissioner Ruth Boling, is assigned to Committee #9 – Peacemaking, Immigration and International Issues. One of their Overtures to consider, from the Presbytery of New Hope (NC),  calls upon the PCUSA, in part, to: 1. …in faithfulness to the God of justice, mercy, and compassion—to take actions in defense of God’s creation and our own security, which is inextricably bound to the security of the rest of the world, to take all actions such as might be effective in requiring full U.S. compliance with the obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 2. Renounce the false god of nuclear security with its promise of catastrophic consequences. 3. Renounce any policy that threatens the death of millions of God’s children in any land with a single command and a single warhead. 4. Join in ecumenical discussion at the highest level to develop a collaborative strategy with Christian and other faith communities to effect the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth.

Ruling Elder Commissioner Lorraine Cuffie is assigned to Committee #13 – BOP (Board of Pensions), PILP (Presbyterian Investment and Loan), PPC (Presbyterian Publishing Corporation), and Foundation.  One of their Overtures, which has some effect on the Presbytery of Newark since we are within the geographic scope of the Jarvie Foundation, calls for the PCUSA, in part, to: 1. Assess the current placement, management, and location of the Jarvie Commonweal Endowment Fund (now valued at $90 million). 2. Assess the current placement of responsibility for supervising the provision of services to the recipients of the prescribed generous Jarvie Service assistance. 3. Assess the current PC(USA) Presbyterian Mission Agency and Foundation organizational responsibilities for both the services and the endowment of the Jarvie Fund.

YAAD Emma Gritsch is assigned to Committee #7 – Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. One of their to consider, from the Presbytery of Carlisle (PA), calls for the PCUSA, in part, to: 1. Affirm and embrace the religiously diverse nature of the United States of America and the call of the Christian faith to love all of our neighbors—including those of other faiths—as we love ourselves; and 2. Condemn all religiously inspired and motivated violence, prejudice, discrimination, and hate speech, in particular, those actions based upon anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim behaviors and language.

As always, keep not only Ruth, Lorraine and Emma in your prayers, but also all commissioners and advisory delegates who are faithfully serving their presbyteries and this denomination this week!


GA223 Day 3 Daily Digest

General Assembly Day 2: Everything Starts

Barbara and Megan Hansen from Worship Times caught up on what was happening the first full day of General Assembly 223 in St. Louis right after opening worship. You can watch it on our Facebook page.


Barbara’s husband also gifted she and Warren with Newark Presbytery Fire Department hats to celebrate the good, but challenging work that presbytery staff do every day, which often includes putting out fires:


Barbara shares news from tonight’s moderator’s election:

Saturday Evening from St. Louis

Barbara Smith

This first full day of GA223 began with amazingly inspirational worship. The co-moderators of the 222nd General Assembly – Rev. Denise Anderson and Rev. Jan Edmiston – preached a joint sermon as they conclude their moderatorial term. Hundreds of voices were joined in prayer and song, we affirmed our faith with words adapted from the Confession of 1967, and we were fed at our Lord’s table.

This evening, commissioners once again gathered in the traditional Saturday evening activity – to elect the leader(s) of the 223rd General Assembly. Three teams were elected to stand – two co-moderator teams and one team of moderator/vice moderator.

Ruling Elder Chantal Atnip from the Presbytery of Carlisle presented herself as candidate for moderator. Chantal chose as her vice-moderator candidate, Rev. Ken Hockenberry from the Presbytery of Chicago.

Rev. Eliana Maxim, Associate Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Seattle, and Rev. Bertram Johnson from the Presbytery of New York City, presented themselves as co-moderator candidates.

Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, Presbytery Leader of the Presbytery of Northern New England and Boston, and Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri from the Presbytery of Tropical Florida also presented themselves as co-moderator candidates.

After a 5-minute time of introduction by each team, the commissioners engaged the candidates in a 45-minute question and answer period, 3 minutes at a time.

The advisory delegates advised, and then the commissioners voted. To be elected, the winner would need 50.1% of the votes, or 262.  On the first vote, Atnip and Hockenberry received 45 votes, Maxim and Johnson received 250 votes, and Kohlmann and Cintrón-Olivieri received 229 votes.  On the second vote, Atnip and Hockenberry received 18 votes, Maxim and Johnson received 256 votes, and Kohlmann and Cintrón-Olivieri received 248 votes. Is the third time the charm?? Apparently not. On the third vote, Atnip and Hockenberry received 9 votes, Maxim and Johnson received 252 votes, and Kohlmann and Cintrón-Olivieri received 261 votes. On the fourth vote, Atnip and Hockenberry received 5 votes, Maxim and Johnson received 253 votes, and Kohlmann and Cintrón-Olivieri received 266 votes.

Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintron-Olivieri, and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann , co-moderators of the 223rd General Assembly of the PC(USA). (Photo by Michael Whitman)

Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri is an ESL teacher and a ruling elder at First Spanish Presbyterian Church in Miami. She served in 2017 as moderator of the Presbytery of Tropical Florida.

Cindy Kohlmann has been pastor of congregations in Ohio and Massachusetts, and currently serves in the newly designed position of resource presbyter for the Presbytery of Boston and the Presbytery of Northern New England.

Please keep our denominations new co-moderators, Cindy Kohlmann and Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri in your prayers!


Day 2 GA News Digest

General Assembly Day 1: Pre-Assembly

Thursday and Friday are the days when most of the General Assembly participants arrive and prepare for the work. National, synod and presbytery staff people, commissioners, advisory delegates, volunteers, exhibitors – arriving in St. Louis and getting ready. The exhibit hall opens on Friday, so Barbara and Warren spent some time seeing all the booths, reuniting with our friends from all over the country, and collecting the good swag. (And a couple meetings, as it goes at GA.)

Barbara stopped by to see the creators of our website and digital ministry providers, Worship Times, and wanted the team to say hi to all of you at home:

Barbara, Megan Hansen, Michael Gyura and Susan Gyura – our Worship Times team!

General Assembly kicks off tomorrow with opening worship (you can live stream all full assembly worship and plenary events at the GA223 site), and we will elect a moderator team tomorrow evening, so we’ll update you on all of that tomorrow.

Friday’s GA Digest