Presbyterian News Service: Listening to God’s Call
New GAMC Deputy Executive Director for Mission seeks to connect churches.
... Dermody acknowledged that the General Assembly often gets a bad rap among the more evangelical churches in the denomination. Unfortunately, often all folks know is "that's the convention that happens every two years where we make a lot of decisions and then fight about them," he said.
"But they have no idea that we have over 200 mission workers in seminaries and countries around the world, or that we have a UN office or an office in Washington D.C., or that we are speaking up for the rights of children — this is some of the really cool stuff that both sides of the aisle can applaud and get behind and cheer on," Dermody said.
During the interview process, Dermody came across a brochure on growing the church deep and wide. He had heard the reference in passing, but that was it. In 2008, the 218th General Assembly adopted "Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide," a churchwide emphasis to help congregations grow through discipleship, diversity, evangelism and servanthood.
"When I saw this brochure it told about all of the mission work the denomination is involved in, based on the Great Commission and the Greatest Command," Dermody said.
He thought the initiative was fantastic — an idea that everyone can agree on and celebrate. But he wondered why, as the executive pastor of one of the largest churches in the nation, he'd never seen it before.
"What is the blockage that is hindering us from helping those in the pew understand what is going on in the wider church?" Dermody asked. "Louisville has got to begun to be seen less as this command-and-control rules enforcement center and seen more as the source for collaboration, networking and a partner in ministry to strengthen the churches to do the work."
Louisville doesn't need to do the churches' work for them, but it needs to strengthen them to do the work that Christ has called for. ...
The GAMC board is what I will become chair of in July. The reality is that maybe 30% of the denomination has some sense of what the GAMC is and that is about double what it was four years ago. The General Assembly Mission Council is one of six agencies of the General Assembly:
- General Assembly Mission Council
- Office of the General Assembly
- Presbyterian Publishing Corporation
- Presbyterian Foundation
- Presbyterian Board of Pensions
- Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program
All six answer directly to the General Assembly and none answer to the others. The leaders get together periodically to collaborate and coordinate, but they do not answer to each other.
In many other denominations, the GAMC would be seen as a combination of the National and International missions boards. We oversee the mission work of the church. That includes carrying out directives of the General Assembly but it also includes taking proactive measures to strengthen the mission life of the church, as we are doing with the Grow Christ's Church Deep and Wide initiative.
We are not a governing body ... the national equivalent of a session, presbytery, or synod. That is the General Assembly. People tell me, "We will start sending you guys money when you stop debating ordination standards." To which I say, "Get out those checkbooks because those are not the debates that are had at the GAMC." While we certainly have significant input into the business that happens at the General Assembly, we answer to them, not they to us.
We have made great strides toward achieving focus in ministry at the GAMC and there are some very good things happening. If you are Presbyterian, I suspect more of what the GAMC does is about to become more visible. But I think one of the biggest obstacles to appreciating the work of the GAMC is the false perception that we are "that body that meets every two years and argues" and therefore info about the GAMC is tuned out.