The business of the Assembly has resumed, and our delegates and commissioners are now offering amendments, standing to speak in favor and against, and voting. Presidents of PC(USA) seminaries have been affirmed and new members of denominational committees were elected.
The biggest vote this afternoon was on the revised Directory for Worship, a major change to the current section headed with the "W" in our Book of Order. The Directory seeks to provide clear direction about the theology and practice of worship, while seeking to provide the breadth and flexibility to meet the changing needs of worshiping communities within our family. It is shorter and better organized (which caused the assembly to cheer) and is offered with joy and hope to the church.
Within the revised version, this paragraph about who is welcome to the table was the cause of several amendments from the floor:
The opportunity to eat and drink with Christ is not a right bestowed upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in faith, repentance, and love. All who come to the table are offered the bread and cup, regardless of their age or understanding. If some of those who come have not yet been baptized, an invitation to baptismal preparation and Baptism should be graciously extended.
Do you notice what is missing? The current Directory of Worship says, "All the baptized faithful are to be welcomed to the Table, and none shall be excluded because of race, sex, age, economic status, social class, handicapping condition, difference of culture or language, or any barrier created by human justice." (W-2.4006)
An amendment to include again the words regarding baptism was offered, and a conversation about theology and worship, sacrament and hospitality, ensued. A Presbytery leader who has been attending General Assembly for years commented that it was uplifting and encouraging to hear a debate in this way, full of grace and care-filled language. It was a glimpse of Presbyterians at their best, passionate about worship and engaging in theological reflection.
The amendment was defeated strongly, and the Directory for Worship that we vote on in the Presbytery in the next year will invite all to come to the table. That is what this gathering has felt like so far, a gathering of people excited to throw open the doors, invite all who walk by, and even go out into the streets and by-ways and be invited ourselves into others' homes. The sense of expanded fellowship and ever-deepening joy is tangible.