I’m looking forward to General Assembly.

That’s primarily because I suspect the tone of last year’s Assembly will carry over into this one. Last year, several issues provoked disagreement, and a few were decided by razor-thin margins. Yet speakers consistently showed respect for one another.

Such peace is a reflection of our essential unity. Such unity springs from our agreement in what we believe. And such agreement is cause for rejoicing. We can rejoice, for example, that every GA commissioner believes the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and our only authority for faith and practice. We can thank God that the elders of our denomination believe in the Triune God, and that salvation comes through trust in Jesus Christ alone. We can be grateful that we all hold to the tenets of the Reformed Faith and Covenant Theology, and that we are all committed to connectional church government through the Presbyterian system.

We have our disagreements, of course, but those are small compared to the things we hold in common. There are denominations that have entered, into contentious debate on major issues: endorsing same-sex marriage, the ordination of practicing gay/lesbian clergy, the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, and whether or not Jesus is the only way to God.

These are watershed issues where, with the wrong decision, denominations abandon Christian orthodoxy.

While we will have our debates at the 43rd Assembly, those debates will not involve watershed issues. I thank God that I’m part of a body that affirms biblical orthodoxy, is committed to the Reformed faith, and is also committed to aggressively building Christ’s kingdom. When that body gathers, it is bound to be a high point.

If this Assembly is like most, it’s likely that we’ll spend an inordinate amount of time wrangling over some matter that — in the broad sweep of redemptive history — is of little consequence. But when we realize what issues we aren’t debating, I can take those in stride.

What can we do to promote the peace and unity we experienced last year? Two things:

Pray. I know of many devoted brothers and sisters who were faithfully bringing us before the throne of grace both before and during last year’s Assembly. May we join them in prayer that God will keep us faithful.

Prepare. Last year, the commissioners were unusually well prepared. The quality of the speeches, both in Committees of Commissioners and on the Assembly floor, suggested hard work and diligent study.

I am hopeful that these trends will continue. As we grow in our appreciation for our essential unity and better accept our differences on lesser matters, we will more closely approximate the “beautiful orthodoxy” that the Rev. Ray Cortese pictured for us so well at the outset of last year’s Assembly.