Reflection on the 2019 General Assembly by Rev. Dr. Richard Sturm
I was impressed and inspired by the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, this July—celebrating fifty years of Restructure for our church’s present form. The 2019 focus was John 15:1-5, Abide in Me, and Bible Study was ably led by two of our Seminary professors, Rev. Drs. Lisa Davison, and Stephanie Buckhamon Crowder, linking the biblical text with its original theological/political/socio-economic context and our own.
Workshops ranged from “Disciples History and Polity” to “Being an Elder,” “Refugees,” “Stewardship,” and “Social Media.” Lunches and Dinners highlighted current ministries, from DJAN and Global Ministries, to the LGBTQIA+ Alliance. Business sessions included ministry presentations of the units of the General Church—and resolutions of concern in the Church, including full welcoming of Trans persons and two Emergency Resolutions supporting refugees and asylum seekers.
Worship was inclusive, combining the music, language, and worship styles of our wider church. Praise songs every now and then would morph into a verse from a classic hymn. Worship was also where we installed our new leaders, including our own Rev. Stephanie Kendell, and commissioned our mission ministers going to serve around the world. Preaching was excellent each day, reaching a peak (for me) the last morning, with a sermon by Rev. Dr. William Barber II describing the ancient, historical, and present politics of rejection that discards, neglects, or destroys people—stones that God fashions into cornerstones and capstones of beloved community, the promise of the prophets, the psalmist, and the Gospel.
The Park threw a party one night after worship, hosted by Pastor Kaji (and Stephanie Wilson), where true fellowship was experienced. Friends from near and far, recent and old, re-connected, from Alvin and Tina Jackson, Thad Allen, Allen Harris, and Allan Dickman, to Stephen Tickner, Chantilly Mers, Mary and Chris O’Brien, Deborah Owen, and James and Betty Brewer-Calvert, and many more.
The General Assembly gave me new hope for our Church and our mission for compassion and unity in a broken, fragmented world.