#AfterGA: Racism and the Belhar as A Prayer

afterga221 aMy first time at a General Assembly for PCUSA was an experience too much for words. I’m trying to process everything – the work, the proceedings, the discussions, the community, the aftermath and backlash. One voice I continue to desire to hear is that of young adults and millenials. I’ve asked YAADs (young adult advisory delegates), TSADs (theological seminary advisory delegates) and young adult commissioners to offer their own reflections, which will be posted here for the rest of the week. -Mihee KK


While at General Assembly, I served on the Theological Issues and Institutions committee where one of our more important pieces of business was the Confession of Belhar. I had obviously read (skimmed) the overture on Belhar in PC Biz before I got to GA and thought that the confession itself was very beautiful and did not object to any line in particular. But it was not until I heard the words of the appointed committee on the Belhar Confession first in the Riverside Conversations, and then in their presentation to our committee that I started to realize the importance of the Belhar as well as how important it is for the PC(USA) to include it in our Book of Confessions. Belhar is a prayer, a confession asking forgiveness for something that we have ignored for years, racism. As much as we hate to admit it, the church is still the most segregated hour of the week and the church for all its good intentions is just as guilty of racism as anyplace or anyone else. The Confession of Belhar, which roots are planted in post-Apartheid South Africa is a gift to us, an obligation to confess the first American sin: racism.

I think what Belhar taught me about the church was that as perfect a picture I paint of the PC(USA) we are an institution made up of humans with the best intentions. And we make mistakes. The church is also bold and we dare to acknowledge our shortcomings and Belhar will definitely help with that. Throughout the GA experience I most felt the church while we were singing together whether it be in worship in committees or with the entire assembly after a plenary session or during plenary after a particularly important overture was passed. This joyous, group singing continually reminded me that we were in Detroit, representing our Presbyteries for one reason and one reason only – to do God’s work. I appreciated this reminder and I appreciated the church’s emphasis on God over politics.

The things I found disappointing about GA were short-lived. I think after every ruling, I felt a general peace about all the results, which convinced me, at least, that this was how it was supposed to go this time. I was pleasantly surprised by the large margin in which the rulings in response to LGBT marriage issues were passed. I will say, however, that there were some things I felt very conflicted about to the point of tears. So in a way, rulings on those issues felt like disappointment because I did not know with my whole heart what the correct response should be in the end.

But, those rulings – what we did with the marriage and the inclusion of the Belhar confession – were a big deal, and showed just how accepting of a church we could be and made me beyond proud to be a Presbyterian. It showed me that hope does abound, and we had a glimmering of that hope this week.

1977337_10153971624500099_1187100251_nEmma Moore is a rising senior at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN., studying Psychology and Religious Studies. She is a member of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, but frequents the pews of First Presbyterian, Bloomington. After graduating next spring, Emma hopes to do a YAV year and attend seminary. She is a single mother of twin Shih Tzus, Claude and Louise.