These remarks were shared by YAAD Rebekah Woodburn at her home church, Henry Memorial after GA 222
During the ten days that I spent in Portland, I had a beautifully exhausting experience. I started my time in an orientation with the 140 Young Adult Advisory Delegates from presbyteries across the country. It was an intensive day in which we had fellowship, worshiped together, and learned about the GA process, what our roles would be, and how to go about doing business in the most respectable and productive way.
After our first day we were already feeling tired and a little bit overwhelmed but we felt more confident in our abilities to navigate the General Assembly. On Sunday we were welcomed with open arms into various local churches. Then our work began.
We dove head first into business by electing our new Co-Moderators. We elected two amazing women (Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston) who I have complete confidence will lead the PC(USA) beautifully. As a YAAD I was allowed voice and vote in my committee (Peacemaking and International Issues) and voice and an advisory vote in plenary. The first half of the week was spent in committee meetings where we discerned God’s will on how the PC(USA) should act as a peacemaking denomination. We discussed issues such as advocating for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (which a member of my committee was from), nonviolent means of resistance to oppression, adopting 5 new peacemaking affirmations, our relationship with Cuba, supporting the Report from the UN about protecting individuals from violence and discrimination, and the protection of refugees.
After each of our last meetings of the day, the YAADS also had a separate meeting for fellowship and to reflect on the day. Once each committee finished acting on their business, they presented their recommendations before the assembly. A few of the highlights of these decisions in my eyes include the acceptance of the Belhar Confession, the decision to uphold human values in Israel/Palestine, and the decision to accept the new peacemaking affirmations as discussed in my committee. The process was exhausting, at times frustrating, but always enlightening. I got to see as well as take a stance on issues that members of the PC(USA) consider important for our denomination. I felt more involved in the Church than I have ever felt in my life.
This has been an experience in which my faith in the PC(USA) as a denomination grew as I saw the incredible young adults as well as the rest of the advisory delegates and commissioners that were passionate about their hope for the church and work towards the common goal of a healthy and faithful national church that seeks to show God’s love in everything we do. After this meeting my heart has been filled with pride and joy for the PC(USA).
I would now like to tell you a little bit more about the Confession of Belhar because I believe that it was a historical moment that gave me so much pride to be a member of the PC(USA). The Confession of Belhar originated in South Africa during the age of apartheid. It is a beautiful confession of the harm that discrimination based on race and ethnicity has on humanity. I would now like to read you a portion of it that I think is particularly incredible.
“We believe that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people; that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged; that God calls the church to follow him in this; for God brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry; that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind; that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly; that for God, pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering; that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right; that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream; that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.”