225th General Assembly of the PC(USA)

225th General Assembly of the PC(USA)

The 225th General Assembly of the PC(USA) was held in Louisville, Kentucky, at the national headquarters and online from June 18 to July 9. And no, that is not a typo, it was a three-week meeting, but more on that in a minute.

For us in San Gabriel Presbytery, maybe the headline of the meeting was that on the opening day our former Executive Presbyter, Ruth Santana-Grace and Shavon Starling-Louis, a pastor from Charlotte, North Carolina, were elected Co-Moderators of the Assembly. During their time leading the plenary sessions, they both were present at the head table and moderated in a collegial fashion, both leading and each helping the other.

The three-week Assembly was an experiment in conducting a hybrid meeting under the current unique circumstances. The Presbyterian Center was renovated to accommodate this meeting and was ready with new meeting spaces and the technological infrastructure. For the commissioners and advisory delegates, the time engaged in the meetings was a three-day in- person committee meeting and the virtual plenary sessions with an opening day and five days of plenary at the end. The 16 committees were divided into four shifts and combined together the in-person meetings spanned two whole weeks. It was made clear going into the Assembly that this was not intended to set the pattern for future assemblies. In considering the future, the Assembly decided that the next General Assembly in 2024 would be the reverse with online committee meetings and the concluding plenary sessions in-person as previously scheduled in Salt Lake City, Utah.

There was plenty of business before the General Assembly as the vast majority of the business for the 2020 Assembly was referred to this meeting. Regarding changes to the Constitution that will be coming to the presbyteries for a vote, the single biggest change is a new Principles of Discipline section which, if approved, will replace the fourth section of the Book of Order currently named Rules of Discipline. A number of other changes are also being proposed, including adding a requirement for 12 weeks of family leave in the standard benefits for the birth of a child or adoption, requirements for sexual misconduct prevention training for ministers, those under care, and Certified Christian Educators, the change in the designation “Honorably Retired” to just “Retired,” and to be able to ordain individuals as ruling elders for service to higher councils in the church. There are a number more that we will be considering as a presbytery as well.

As you might expect, there were several of statements related to social witness issues and a couple of these got picked up by the mainstream media. One of these was the decision to divest from five companies in the fossil fuel industry because they are not doing enough to slow global warming. Another of the high-profile statements was regarding the situation in Israel and Palistine and included the statement of “Recognition that Israel’s Laws, Policies and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against the Palestinian People.” There are additional statements from the Assembly on reproductive justice, race and gender justice in the denomination, immigration, gun violence, and Ukraine. And most of these actions also include the preparation and distribution of resource materials related to the action.

Finally, there were some significant actions related to the denomination itself. Diane Moffett was re-elected to a second term as president and executive director of Presbyterian Mission Agency and Tom Taylor’s re-election for a fourth term as president and CEO of the Presbyterian Foundation was confirmed. Regarding the denominational structure, a commission was created to oversee the unification of the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency into a single entity. And a unified budget was approved encompassing those two agencies plus the Administrative Services Group of the corporate parent body referred to as A Corp. Related to the budget, the Assembly set a per capita rate of $9.85 per member in 2023 and $9.80 per member in 2024. Currently the per capita rate is $8.98 per member meaning an 87-cent, or 9.6% increase next year.

Our thanks to our two commissioners, Ruling Elder Commissioner Joshua Marmol (Knox) and Teaching Elder Commissioner Ally Lee (Interwoven/San Gabriel Presbytery), and our Young Adult Advisory Delegate Joselyne Gonzalez (Puente de Esperanza). We look forward to hearing about their work and experiences at GA when they report at the September Presbytery Meeting.

For more information you can check out the PC(USA) News summary of the GA and the additional more detailed articles on their website. For subscribers to the Presbyterian Outlook there are plenty of articles on their website as well including my reporting for them. (And if you are not an Outlook subscriber you get three articles at no cost from the website.)

Peace,
Elder Steve Salyards
Stated Clerk for Judicial Process

225th General Assembly Notes

225th General Assembly Notes

Stated Clerk for Judicial Process
Elder Steve Salyards

As we enter the fall season many of the preliminary events that precede next summer’s 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be happening. These include the introduction of overtures, hearing about individuals and teams declaring to stand for the office of (co-)moderator/s, and election of the presbytery’s commissioners and young adult advisory delegate.

As many of you are aware the 224th General Assembly was a GA like no other being held completely online with no traditional commissioner committees and a greatly reduced agenda of business that focused on the urgent and the essential.

As we look forward to the next Assembly the plan is to take what was learned from the last assembly and do the work in a middle-ground with committees meeting in-person and plenary sessions being mostly online.

Following the 2020 General Assembly, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly took a hard look at how the meetings are organized and came up with a new form that is intended to provide efficiency and cost-savings. The first move was the decision to hold the next GA in Louisville in the PC(USA) Presbyterian Center. To facilitate the meetings the Center is undergoing a $2.4 million upgrade that includes the creation of a conference center in the building as well as a production facility and other needed improvements to the building not directly related to the Assembly.

In this new meeting space, there will be four three-day sets of meetings with four committees meeting in each block. This will facilitate each of the 16 committees meeting in person to do their business. These meetings will happen between June 20 and July 2 and commissioners and advisory delegates will travel to Louisville to participate. Overture Advocates and speakers at the open hearings will still be part of the process but they will address the committees remotely.

The opening plenary session will be held on June 18 with the members of the first four committees present in Louisville and all other commissioners and advisory delegates joining virtually. One of the first items of business will be the on-site participants – enough to constitute a quorum – approving Standing Rules that include the possibility of an electronic meeting. Once that is approved all the remote commissioners and delegates would become full participants in the meeting.

After all the committees have met plenary sessions will be held July 5-9. For these, all the commissioners and advisory delegates will participate remotely with only the (co-moderator/s, clerk and support staff on-site in Louisville.

A celebration of Juneteenth is planned for Sunday, June 19. And COGA is working on methods for the GA participants to have opportunities for community building and networking.

And as with the last GA, all of us at home will be able to follow along with live streaming of the meetings during the Assembly.

I hope this gives you a flavor for the organization of the next GA. There is a GA website with more information and it is the place to find new information as it becomes available. In particular, there is a good FAQ that helps explain the aspects of this GA. If you are considering being nominated to be a commissioner or advisory delegate to this GA you might want to check out the information to better understand what the expected commitment is for this GA.