General Assembly Update

So the Committee Hearings are over and Wednesday is a day to catch our breath! So I figured this would be a good time to give everyone an update.

This GA has been dominated by a few issues: Fossil Fuel Divestment, the Reorganization of the PMA/OGA and Middle East Issues. Regarding Fossil Fuel Divestment, the environmental committee passed the overture to divest by a vote of 35-25, which I think is a greater margin that in Portland in 2016. However, that overture in 2016 was defeated in the Plenary. My guess is that it will be the same, there does not seem to be an overwhelming desire of people to pursue divestment of anything right now. Even in the Middle East Committee, anytime boycotts etc came up, people spoke against it.

I have yet to have a chance to read any of the reorganization overtures that are coming forward. As a primer, there are three organizations within the denomination that have been looking at such a reorganization, the Way Forward Commission, the All Agency Review and the 2020 Committee. All three have been very critical of the PMA, the Presbyterian Mission Agency, who has been slow to reform. The PMA testified at the hearings asking for one more year to present a plan but that was denied. It will be interesting to see what happens in Plenary, when the full GA meets to vote on issues. This will be by far the most contentious issue.

The Middle East Committee looked at overtures related to the crises in Syria, Gaza and the on going Israel-Palestine issue. Overtures on Syria and Gaza passed overwhelmingly. The committee also worked to moderate several inflammatory overtures that would have raised passions between Jews and Palestinians in Israel-Palestine. It also worked to craft overtures that were more balanced in addressing dialogue between Jews and Christians in the US. Many of the overtures dealing with Israel-Palestine and the Jewish community, were very slanted against Israel and the Jewish community, so I see it as a good sign that the committee removed the offensive language of those overtures.

I will have a more thorough update later this week, but that is where we are.

Prayers for the Week of June 18

Please keep John’s father and mother and Sandra’s father in your prayers this week as they face the challenges of declining health.

We raise prayers of gratitude this week for a community that can come together to help one another when asked and also just when needed. May we individually continue to have the strength to ask for help and collectively have the awareness to recognize when others around us need support.

We ask for God’s guidance as we walk through this week.

Calendar and Birthdays

Happening this week

Monday-Wednesday, June 18-20
             12:30-3:30 Lower Merion Summer Cafe

Tuesday, June 19
            10:00 am Bible Study: Book of Acts of the Apostles (chapter 8)
at Pat McCole’s apartment

Wednesday, June 20
9:15 am
Trip to Harrisburg: POWER’s Day of Action

Thursday, June 21
             7:00 pm Knit or Knot at Joyce Baker’s house
             7:30 pm Men’s Group

Sunday, June 24
             9:45 am Session meeting
10:00 am
Worship: Pastor Todd preaching
             11:00 am Congregational Meeting
             12:00 pm Church Picnic at Margaret’s house (or whenever we get there!)

Birthdays

June 21    Mark Fifer

 

Prayer for the Week of June 10th

Prayers of gratitude for GPC and its support.

Prayers of care and compassion for those who have been touched by suicide.

Prayers of support for those who feel abandoned or forsaken in our society.

Prayers of support for Daniella as she travels home to Chile to care for her mother.

Prayers for healing for Sarah’s mother who has suffered a hip injury.

Prayers of community for Jeannette as she continues to try and settle Tom’s estate.

Prayers of healing for Alex who has had fever.

Prayers for those suffering from cancer.

Why do we not listen to the full story?

Sermon: Why do we not listen to the full story

Texts:

Genesis 3:8–15 God confronts the man and woman about the forbidden fruit.

Mark 3:20–35 Jesus is accused of having an unclean spirit; he warns of blasphemy.

Why I support POWER Metro’s Call for Fair Funding

Many of you have heard Mark Fifer’s needles and prods to hear more about POWER Metro’s activities, and one of the events that is coming up is on June 20th in Harrisburg, called the 100% School Funding Day of Action. I wanted to lend my voice in support of this day of action, even though I will not be able to be in attendance as I will be at the PCUSA General Assembly in St. Louis.

Given the latest example of the divides we are seeing in our society, the Eagles White House visit etc, it seems that all issues these days are taking on an overly partisan nature. But some issues are beyond being partisan and education is one of them. The state of public education in PA has been an issue for at least the last generation perhaps more, and yet still our elected officials have failed to address the issue. Twenty-five years ago, when I first started in politics, we ranked close to the bottom in education funding and achievement, and unfortunately we are still towards the bottom. If we truly hear the Gospel of message and respond to Christ’s care for children, then we must raise our voices in concern.

Now if I am honest, I have some issues with POWER Metro. I do not always approve of language that they use, I do not always appreciate their actions or lack there of, and I certainly have issue when it seems like partisan politics seems to be impetus for actions instead of faith. But I do support the idea behind the effort of POWER Metro in general, to bring the voices of the faithful into the public realm, particularly when it comes to the issue of school funding.

I support their actions to seek fair funding for all the school districts in Pennsylvania, and I do mean all. Frequently Philadelphia is used as a wedge issue on fair funding questions, in other words, opponents of fair funding point to Philadelphia and say, we do not want our tax dollars to go to Philadelphia. They point to the myriad of issues that face the school of Philadelphia, from teacher’s unions to political patronage to mismanagement, which are all challenges that Philadelphia faces. But the reality is that this is not a Philadelphia versus the rest of the state. When we speak about fair funding, we are actually talking about districts that are not in the Southeastern region of Pennsylvania.

Just like this is not a Philadelphia vs. the rest of the Commonwealth, this is not a D vs R issue either. The first step of fair funding was the creation of a formula and this formula was created by a commission lead by Rep. Mike Vereb and Sen. Pat Brown, both Republicans. Many of the districts that would benefit most are represented by Republicans, so this is not an R vs D. situation.

This is not a “coasts” vs the “T” argument either. Some political consultants have referred to Pennsylvania as having two coasts of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (which are like the East Coast and West Coast) and having the “T” (Alabama) in the Middle. But this is not the case either. The “two coasts” and the “flyover” region of Pennsylvania are all in need of new funding and a more equitable means of distribution of state aid.

And lastly, this is not a black and white issue. Yes, people of color are getting hurt the most by this inequity, but there are many poor white communities that are suffering as well. All colors will benefit from a fair funding distribution.

We, as people of faith, have to walk a fine line, we must act out of our faith without allowing our faith to be weaponized or politicized. We must speak the truth without allowing our individual “truths” to become the truth. This is never an easy thing.  But the work that POWER Metro is doing, particularly on the issue of faith funding for the school districts in Pennsylvania is faithful. It is an attempt to shine light on the inequities that should not exist.

The effort for fair funding is a state wide campaign that POWER Metro is a part of, other members include the PA Association of School Business Officials, the Pennsylvania School Board Association, Allies for Children, The PA Association of Rural and Small Schools to name just a few. This is an effort that brings a broad coalition together to work on behalf of the children of the Commonwealth of PA.

At Gladwyne, we see first hand the discrepancy between school districts, from Lower Merion to Havertown Township to Norristown to Philadelphia. We spend time in Pierce working with children whose school does not have adequate funding for libraries and we read of many school districts locally who are struggling with budget issues and are looking to cut music and arts programs.

We have also read about Toxic Charity, and how just offering services without providing for structural change can lead to issues of dependency. One of the reasons I support the funding issue is because Pennsylvania needs to have a serious conversation about how we fund school programs. It is clear that property taxes and business taxes are not a system which allow local authorities to provide for local education funding. When gambling was legalized, it was hoped that this additional revenue would help, but it has not. Unless we push, this conversation will not happen. Notice I am not giving a solution but the reality is, we need to raise the issue so that together we can all agree on a better way of doing it.

I would encourage you all to spend some time checking the resources that are available through POWER Metro or on this website. Please consider attending on the 20th and lift your voice in concern.

 

POWER’s 100% Education Funding for All Rally: June 20 in Harrisburg

100% school funding

Looking for 15 GPC participants

On Wednesday, June 20th students, parents, community activists, faith community members from different traditions and their leaders will gather on the steps of the State Capitol Main Rotunda in Harrisburg for POWER’S DAY OF ACTION for 100% EDUCATION FUNDING.  As a group we speak to support legislation putting 100% of the Commonwealth’s Basic Education Budget through Pennsylvania’s Fair Funding Formula. Let us join together as a faith community, standing in solidarity with one another, continuing to call for an end to racial bias in education funding for our kids by challenging our state legislators and chief executive to enact fair and fully funded education for Pennsylvania’s public school students.

In addition to this group demonstration, we will march to Governor Tom Wolf’s office to pray for his support for legislation that puts 100% of Pennsylvania’s Basic Education Budget through the Fair Funding Formula. We will also visit our elected officials’ offices, asking each legislator to speak out in favor of POWER’s 100% plan!

GPC Specifics:
All are welcome, including youth (a great civics lesson field trip for all). Participate in as much of the program that works for you—your presence is important and needed! It would be great to take as many people from GPC as possible (15+ would be a great goal).  If there are enough people interested, van transportation could be provided (donations appreciated). Carpooling is also an option. We would leave church at 9:15am and be home at 4:00pm. Bring a bag lunch. Rest room and seating areas are provided in the state capitol or a nearby church.

General Program:
9:15 am –  Departure from GPC
11:00 am – Legislator Visits
12:15 pm – Lunch
1:00 pm – Rotunda Demonstration
4:00 pm – Arrival back at GPC

For more information contact Mark Fifer at markbfifer@gmail.com.

 

Calendar and Birthdays

Events:

Tuesday, June 5th:

10 am Bible Study: Book of the Acts of the Apostles

Sunday, June 10th:   Final Sunday with Worship at 11 am

9:45 am Christian Education

11 am Worship: Pastor Todd Stavrakos preaching

Sermon: Why do we not listen for the full story?

Texts:

Genesis 3:8–15 God confronts the man and woman about the forbidden fruit.

Mark 3:20–35 Jesus is accused of having an unclean spirit; he warns of blasphemy.

Monday, June 11th:

1 pm Lower Merion Summer Cafe: Volunteer Training at Ardmore Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, June 12th:

10 am Bible Study: Book of the Acts of the Apostles

7:30 pm Session

Thursday, June 14th:

7 pm Women’s Book Club

Sunday, June 17th:

10 am Worship: Rev. Margaret Somerville preaching

 

Birthdays

June 4th:

Esteban Romero

June 7th:

Briana Weisgerber

Bruce MacCullough

June 8th:

Joe Kanzinger