This past week the IENPG Synod held its annual plenary at the campus of the Evangelical National Seminary in San Felipe, Retalhuleu. In attendance were over 400 delegates from 22 presbyteries. I along with other PC(USA) mission co-workers participated as corresponding members at the 5-day meeting. Pastor Ivan Paz moderated the meetings each day (see photo of him with his accordion). Here are some highlights:
- Delegates gave their enthusiastic approval for the Presbyterian Complex of the North, the educational and mission center that’s under development in Cobán. The assembly also authorized the work of the Multi-Institutional Board that’s behind the complex, along with the administrative committee that’s overseeing the project’s ongoing work.
- A highpoint was the decision to approve a new presbytery, the Reformed Achí Presbytery of Cubulco. (See photo of their representatives before the assembly) These five churches, along with a mission congregation, are the fruit of mission work begun in 1991 by the Reformed Church of Canada. Now there are 23 presbyteries in the IENPG.
- As most of you know, Bacilia and I end our time of service with Presbyterian World Mission in July. The IENPG Synod officially called us to stay on, with me working half-time as Partnership Coordinator with PRESGOV, and half-time as Director of the Presbyterian Complex of the North. The Synod approved salary support comparable to what other Guatemalan pastors earn, but housing, health and pension benefits, visa, travel to the U.S. and other expenses aren’t included. Eventually we hope to find some sources that will help us cover these costs.
- I gave a power-point report about the partnerships and projects we’ve worked on as mission co-workers during the past year. Unfortunately Bacilia couldn’t join me for the presentation, staying back home in Guatemala City where our kids are finishing the school year. The report was well received, and the Synod also asked me to preach at the Thursday night worship service on the theme of stewardship and God’s mission.
- The Synod authorized a request to the PC(USA) that Walton Funds that have accumulated during the past seven years be designated for the construction of a theological center at the Presbyterian Complex in Cobán that will serve the indigenous presbyteries of that region—primarily Q’eqchi’. Concern was expressed repeatedly that, although projects have been approved and are underway, Walton funds to support them haven’t arrived yet.
- A few lowlights: Time-consuming recitation of and discussion about previous minutes each morning; the need to repudiate death threats against two IENPG leaders and their families; the postponement of important matters like the election of officers, budget, and restructuring of committees because time ran out. A called Synod meeting will take place on June 24-25 to take up this left-over business.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend this assembly each year. Unfortunately, five of the eight Q’eqchi’ presbyteries weren‘t represented this time. Long distances, and the costs involved, are obstacles to their full participation. The Denver Presbytery generously provided funds to help delegates come from their partner, the Franja Transversal del Norte Presbytery. Also, women are always a small minority at these assemblies because so few of them hold leadership positions in their churches and presbyteries. Finding ways to address these limitations in the future will help the Synod to be more balanced and healthy as it moves forward.