Up until tonight, General Assembly has mostly been about reports, deliberations, meetings, and decisions. There have been some wonderful times getting to know and work with people, but mostly, it was about business.
Tonight that changed. Tonight we passed something called the Belhar Confession. It began in 1970's in South Africa when theological students were challenged to respond to the oppression of apartheid not just with politics, but theology.
In 1986 it was adopted by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Tonight, it was approved to be part of our own Book of Confessions. Two representatives from South Africa attended tonight's assembly to bring greetings and offer thanks to the PCUSA for their action. We were told that even though it wasn't yet 6 am in South Africa, there were people waiting up all night to see if this would pass. Alan Boesak was one of the primary architects of the Belhar Confession and he was here, too. You can read more about it here.
I plan to explore Belhar throughout the summer, but first, click on the video and just listen to it. It was revolutionary in its day and it's still powerful today. It's a way to be connected to our brothers and sisters in South Africa, and also be informed by their experience of the gospel and God's grace.
Tonight, we approved Belhar. It was a long time coming, and should have been done sooner. But tonight, it passed. Tonight, General Assembly shifted in my mind from something important but mostly detached from life to something that changes people's lives and makes history. People half way across the globe were staying up all night to see what we would do. Tears, laughter, singing and dancing followed. I'm usually suspicious of making pronouncements that don't bring real change.
Tonight, words and actions came together.