PPF GA Intern Ashley Mcfaul's Reflection

Meet Ashley Mcfaul and the other 2014 GA interns.

"That they may be completely one..."
"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
John 17:20-23 (NRSV)

A few weeks ago I attended the 221st General Assembly (GA) of the PC(USA) as an intern with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. Arriving at the GA I was excited, nervous and really did not know what to expect. I had attended General Assemblies in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, but the scale of this GA was going to be much bigger. The PC(USA) is also a much broader church on the theological spectrum, therefore the discussions can often be more heated, but also more interesting.

Plenary at GA

During the course of the assembly I was reminded often that we are a church that disagrees. However, this means much more, it means that we are a church who are honest with one another. Watching the discernment and wrestling, particularly within committees was a humbling experience. Commissioners are charged with the job of discerning the will of Christ, no easy task on some of these issues! As we consider this prayer of Christ in the gospel of John, we see that one of the desires of Christ's heart is for his followers to be one, "as we are one". Many people are concerned with the unity of the PC(USA) at this present moment. How do we stand united as the body of Christ in disagreement? And how does the PC(USA) figure out how to be one, as Christ desires?

We are a church that values discernment in community and as Christ's body, Christ is with us in the midst of our differences. We do not become "one" through our agreement. Instead, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus said that we are one through him, not through our own endeavors. How do we stand united? We follow Christ. We keep this at the center of who we are. We remain rooted in love. And I do see this happening. During the General Assembly I too found myself disagreeing with people, people whom I love and respect. Many conversations left me with tears in my eyes and on one occasion these people with whom I disagreed put their arms around me as I cried. We sat in that place of discomfort but we remained united.

I entered this GA hearing comments such as, "the PC(USA) will not survive" and "the church is about to split". I cannot make comment about the institution of the church will look over the next 5, 10, 20 years, but what I do know is that I left Detroit full of hope. I believe that the majority of people in our denomination are committed to continued discernment with each other, and to continued dependence on Christ as we move forward. Whatever the future looks like, I believe it is a bright one, filled with the spirit. Friends, the Spirit is moving, let us continue to wrestle together with God on this journey of faith. Thanks be to God that we are united to Christ, and through that union, not our own opinions, we are one with each other.