Presbyterians Today

JUN-JUL 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | JUNE/JULY 2018 41 in a tour of the area and met with the farmworkers who pick vegetables for some of the major food retail- ers and restaurants in the United States. Meeting with the families and witnessing the improvements in farmworkers' lives have made her a major cheerleader for the denomina- tion, which has advocated on behalf of the farmworkers. A renewed joy for meetings "Another thing that has surprised me, I have also relished going to presbytery meetings around the country. I have loved it," Edmiston said. "I have appreciated watching how other presbyteries do their work, and I have been present when people were being examined for ordina- tion and were honored for their service at retirement and different mission projects highlighted at those meetings." Anderson agrees. "We've met some incredibly faithful people, and granted, we get to see the best of the denomination, because when the moderator comes through, people are on their best behavior," she said. "But I think that's been a gift because we get to see the best of who people are. I think there's something sad that more of us don't get to see that. We share stories of what God is doing everywhere we go." While these two years filled with meetings have been busy, Edmiston describes her time as co-moderator as inspiring and energizing. "I'm a lifelong Presbyterian and so I know a lot about our denomina- tion, but I have had the opportunity to meet so many people that I did not know and get a glimpse of the broader ministry that I had not had a personal connection with in the past," she said. "For example, the Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. I knew about the ministry work there, but it really makes a difference to actually be there and go talk to the people who are benefit- ting from the ministries we've been involved with." Like Edmiston, Anderson also feels that traveling abroad has been enlightening. "I enjoyed the opportunity to travel around the world with our mission co-workers and to see the deep work they're engaged in and the ways that Presbyterians and the PC(USA) are partnering with Presbyterians, Christians and interfaith partners and people with no faith," she said. "I've gotten to see what our co- workers are doing in Thailand in the fight against human trafficking. I've been to Rwanda and seen how they are lending their gifts to the ongoing healing in that nation following the genocide 24 years ago." Honest, tough conversations The co-moderators have served at a time when the Church continues to struggle with declining numbers, but both feel that Presbyterians must still address issues, even those that make them uncomfortable. "So many times, we say, 'That's the past; let's move forward; it's negative.' But it's very important for us to be aware of our history," Edmiston said. "I'm gratified to see individuals, con- gregations as well as some presbyter- ies step up and talk about some of the difficult things and try to offer some reconciliation and activism to change the world for good." Edmiston and Anderson agree that this "head-on" approach has resulted in positive outcomes. "I grew up in the South as a Presbyterian, and the culture was not always to talk about unpleasant things. And yet Jesus talked about unpleasant things, and we are called to point out and just look at where we are in the world," said Edmiston. "I often talk about what's breaking God's heart in the community, and I've been doing this in talks with churches and mid councils about becoming a 21st century church. That's different from being the church we have been." Anderson is also proud of the organizing work that has taken place around the Poor People's Campaign and the national call for a moral revival. "I'm grateful for the ways in which we've been able to lend our voices to what the Holy Spirit has already been moving us toward as a denomi- nation in the work of antiracism," she said. "We've been able to truly look at ourselves and our structures in how we are complicit in racism and equity and how we might be able to COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY Denise Anderson, left, and Jan Edmiston made history in 2016 when they became the first co-moderators for the General Assembly.

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