Hello everyone. Well, we’ve been experiencing some technical difficulties here at the McBlog. We posted this yesterday, and it just wouldn’t work. So, we’re trying it again. Please note, this entree covers the conversation that we held with PCUSA General Assembly Moderator, Cindy Bolbach. Please make sure you’re paying attention to the editor notes. We don’t use a lot of quotes here, but there are a few. Please enjoy and we hope that you don’t have any further problems!

Greetings everyone. As we’re wrapping it up here at McCormick, the Moderator of the 219th General Assembly of the PCUSA, Cindy Bolbach, was here today to pay us a visit and answer some questions. With many changes taking place in the PCUSA, such as the voting of 10a and the proposed FOG possibly ready to pass, a handful of students showed up to ask the moderator questions and hear her thoughts on some of the things happening right now.

Moderator of the 219th PCUSA General Assembly, Cynthia Bolbach

With an intimate number of McCormick students in attendance, Moderator Bolbach opened with a brief introduction about herself. A native Lutheran, Cindy became a Presbyterian later in life after moving to Washington, D.C. A former lawyer, Cindy was on the committee for the FOG ( Form of Government) at the General Assembly as one of the co-moderators. As the only ordained elder in a candidate pool of 5 other ordained pastors, Cindy choose to run for moderator to help raise awareness as to just exactly what FOG was. Her and the rest of the committee had spent 4 years working on it and sad to say, most people weren’t aware of it and weren’t paying it much attention. As something that was important to Cindy, she decided that she could help raise awareness of the FOG by running. From what I’ve heard previously, part of the reason for her winning the vote came from her candor and good-natured humor, which she gladly shared with the students of McCormick.

*Please note, these answers are paraphrasing and are written from my own perspective as I understood them. I’m just relaying what I heard and honestly, my own thoughts. I hope you enjoy!

Some of the students wanted to know, what exactly does a moderator do besides stand in front of the GA and help run things? As the moderator, she tries to get the word out about what’s happening and answer questions, so to speak. She visits with different Presbyteries, visits seminary students and churches, and is a positive presence in a changing church. She admitted, no one actually tells you what to do; there isn’t a moderator book of order. Since FOG is being talked about in Presbyteries all over the United States, she can help shed some light onto just what FOG is and help clear up the gray areas and the misunderstandings; such as the terms “leading elder” and “teaching elder.” Cindy wants to help guide churches through the process of understanding this possible change.

What about 10a? If it passes, when will it take effect? If 10a passes (and it’s so close!), then it will take effect either July 7th or July 10th, whenever General Assembly closed for 2010.

Can you tell us more about the FOG and your own take on it? Well, apparently Form of Government has been in existence since 1983 and has been amended more than 300 times. Whew! One thing that the proposed FOG is going to require is trust, which is something that those within our denomination just don’t have right now with each other. Let’s be honest my friends, the PCUSA can be divided when it wants to be. As of right now, only 3 more Presbyteries need to vote yes for it to take effect. And atleast 2 Presbyteries are voting as we speak, so by the time I post this, it could have almost or actually passed!

What is the most exciting thing in the PCUSA that you have seen in your travels? “The number of really good young pastors.”

Now before I (your blog editor-in-chief) go on, let me explain something. These Presbytery meetings are where all the folks from the churches, elders, deacons, ministers, etc. get together and make decisions and have conversations about once a month, for their regional group of churches. For example, I’m from the Greater Atlanta Presbytery, which is made up of about 100 churches in and around the city of Atlanta, GA. They meet monthly to vote and make general all-around decisions for the body of churches in that area. What happens is, in many of these meetings, you don’t see a whole lot of young lay-people (elders and such).

Why? Well, we asked Cindy about that. Part of the reason is that it doesn’t make much sense to have a Presbytery meeting on a Tuesday at 10am. Churches aren’t made up people who can just take the middle of a work day in the middle of their work weeks, they are made up of lots of people from all brackets, so those lay-people who are working just can’t get to those meetings and help be in those discussions and make those decisions when the Presbytery meetings are in the middle of their work day. They have careers they are trying to establish, and in today’s economy, people can’t afford to miss work to go to a Presbytery meeting.

This is sad but true in the PCUSA, all over. Why, well, it means that accommodations aren’t being made for those who need to be there. (But that’s my own personal rant that we can see to later… back to Cindy now.)

Some of the more interesting things that we talked about had to do with changes for the church and the ever-hot-topic, ordination. At McCormick, we’re inclusive. You gather from that what you will. We believe all people are called to God’s ministry in all different ways, and our job for our students is to support, love, nourish, allow for growth, to challenge, and to equip all people called by God in the priesthood of all believers, to do that ministry and to do it well. Moderator Bolbach spoke to this issue when asked about ordaining gay, lesbian, etc. individuals to the church in areas like elders and ministers, her answer: “How can you say this [ordination of gays and lesbians] is against God’s will?”

How do you see seminaries connecting to the General Assembly and the PCUSA governing bodies? “Before I became moderator, I never set foot on a seminary campus, so I don’t know a whole lot about seminaries. What I do know is that… for pastors, self-confidence gets ingrained at the seminary level.”

Moderator Bolbach sees the role of seminaries to train potential pastors “to know who they are and to be confident in who they are.” These new and potential pastors shouldn’t be taught to be dictators, but to share responsibilities of a church and to help churches flourish and spread the love of God.

On a denominational level, what does the PCUSA think of the declining numbers? “I think sometimes we worry too much about membership numbers.”

In 1997, GA committed to having 10% racial ethnic membership by 2010. Well folks, we didn’t come close to making that mark. Just because our numbers used to be greater doesn’t mean that we were proclaiming the Gospel any better in the past, in fact, we’re better at it now that we were. I mean c’mon. For many years the most segregated times in our country, racially and culturally speaking, were on Sunday mornings. The question Moderator Bolbach raised for the changing church was: “How do we make a structure to allow the resources to be used as efficiently as possible?” In short, we have what it takes to proclaim the Word of God and show God’s love, but how can we do it and make it work and in an effective manner?

So friends, that’s about it. We’ll end it on this last question for Moderator Bolbach:

What is your biggest joy/concern in all of this?

Concern: That she might lose the moderator cross she wears around her neck. Apparently it was forged on the floor of General Assembly many years ago, and is passed down from moderator to moderator each GA. (Honestly, it sounds like something out of Lord of the Rings, if you ask me. And not in an evil way, but it does sound cool as a pop-culture reference.)

Joy: While touring the House of Hope Church in the twin cities, Cindy headed into where to organist was practicing. They were able to make some requests for hymns and then the Organist played Widor Tocatta No. 5 from complete memory… pretty sweet if you ask me.

Well, my dear readers, this is it for now. Stay tuned. Tomorrow we will be announcing on the blog the new President of McCormick!

Until then, Peace my brothers and sisters!

Shelley D.

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