223rd General Assembly Convenes Saturday, June 16th
What if they held a General Assembly but no one came? This thought came to mind when I noted the number of overtures that were submitted to the GA this year, about 75. In previous years, the number would top 130 overtures, with at least half of them proposing a change to the Book of Order. This year, only around 25 overtures proposed amendments to the Book of Order.
There are still important issues to be considered. Here is my personal Top Ten List of issues to be considered by the 223rd General Assembly: 10. Adopting the "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," written by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a Contemporary Statement of Faith (But not with Constitutional Standing) – Item 14-05 (Committee 14, Item #5). This is a concept that does not exist in our polity. I suspect the GA will commend it to the church for study and use. 9. Proposal to create a new Presbyterian Mission Agency department for Small Church Ministry – Item 10-09. It is heartening to see this concern for small congregations, but is increasing our bureaucracy the most effective way to address this issue? 8. Item 09-09 asks the GA to encourage Presbyterians to commit to prayer and preparation for peace on the Korean peninsula. One issue that will have to be addressed moving forward is if peace is achieved, what becomes of Presbyterian property that was confiscated by North Korea? 7. Divestment issues, particularly involving companies that do business in fossil fuels, is back before the Assembly. (Items 08-01 and 08-02.) As a reminder, if the GA adopts a divestment recommendation, this sets policy for the GA, but is only an advisory word to rest of the church. 6. Five different items (06-13,06-14, 06-15, 06-17, 06-20) would require 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the GA and urge the same at all other levels of the denomination. Items 14 and 15 involve amendments to Book of Order to add this requirement to terms of call. (Previously, the GA has encouraged six weeks of paid leave.) 5. As has been the case in recent GAs, there are a number of items that deal with Israel – Palestine issues, including Items 12-01 through 12-08. Dawn Neff (Orlando Presbyterian) is a member of this Assembly Committee. 4. The 2020 Vision Team, created by the 222nd General Assembly, has released an interim report. The final report is due in 2020 at the 224th GA, meeting in Baltimore. Item 04-05 is the Team’s Guiding Statement on the mission of the PC(USA) moving forward, which has been referred to this GA for study and comment. 3. Another special working group is the Way Forward Commission. This commission submits its report (Item 04-03) which includes recommendations on the role of GA Stated Clerk, financial sustainability issues, and … 2. The General Assembly, A Corporation (Item 04-03). What to do in regards to the corporate existence of the General Assembly? Should A Corp be divided into 2 corporations? Should something else be done? Should the status quo be maintained? There are differing proposals before the General Assembly from the Way Forward Commission and Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (Item 04-06). Maynard Pittendreigh (Grace Covenant) is on the GA Way Forward Committee. 1. General Assembly Per capita budgets, 2019-2020 (Item 03-01). The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and Presbyterian Mission Agency Board propose a 38.55% increase in per capita for 2019 ($2.98) and an additional $0.74 for 2020. Please see the article I wrote in last month’s CFP Connections. John Daniel DeBevoise is a member of the Assembly Committee that will consider this issue.
There you have it … from my perspective. A few issues that did not make the list are a request for an administrative commission to resolve difficulties in the Synod of the Covenant (Item 05-03 + Synod response (05-Info)); a proposal to allow ruling elders to be elected without having to serve on the session (so they can serve higher councils; 06-08), and an overture calling for “a Movement of the Spirit to Engage Presbyterian Congregations in Nation-Wide Action to Prevent Gun Violence” (Item 11-14). I think we can all say amen to that.
The 223rd General Assembly convenes at 11:00 a.m. CDT on Saturday, June 16, 2018 at the America’s Center in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The meeting continues daily until Saturday morning, June 23. Some of the highlights of the meeting will be: 6/16, 11:00 a.m. Opening Worship at the America’s Center Sat. evening Election of the Moderator or Co-Moderators [for information about those standing for moderator, please see the Handbook provided by the General Assembly.] Sunday morning Worship in area churches Sunday evening Assembly Committee meetings begin (through Tuesday evening) Wednesday morning Ecumenical Worship Service Wednesday afternoon Plenary sessions (through Saturday morning) 6/23, 11:00 a.m. Closing Worship
The Weekly updates have included information on how you can follow the GA meetings, which can be done by downloading PC-Biz, the denomination’s platform for distributing all of the reports headed to GA, by subscribing to the GA News (see the Weekly Update), or by live streaming the plenary sessions. Information about how to do that will be included in an upcoming Update.
The most important thing we can do is to uphold the General Assembly, and in particular our commissioners, Advisory Delegates, and others, who will be present at this year’s meeting.
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk