Presbyterian News Headlines For The First Half Of August 2014

With the GA Season winding down and my summer vacation behind me it seems time to resume the headlines posts. While I have delusions that I might get caught up back to when I dropped the posts for GA season, that will probably not happen. There were a couple of interesting items in that time period and I might do one major highlights piece, but we will see if that actually happens.

But for now, let’s turn to the first half of this month and what caught my attention.

A significant news thread in Europe was the centenary of the start of World War One and the involvement of the UK in that conflict. For a number of reasons I won’t go into several significant national commemorations were held in Scotland with the major involvement of the Church of Scotland.

Scotland commemorates World War One centenary (from BBC News Scotland)

Church of Scotland Moderator urges world leaders to learn from WW1 (from Ekklesia)

Across the Presbyterian branches there were calls for peace in Gaza

Gaza: Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland in plea for peace (from Belfast Telegraph)

Largest Presbyterian Denomination in US Demands Obama Push for Israeli-Hamas Ceasefire (from The Christian Post)

Head of Church of Scotland in plea for peace in Gaza (from Herald Scotland)

And in an interesting side note, that last headline brought some comments about how for Presbyterians that headline should have referred to the Moderator of the church since, as this letter to the editor points out, Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church:

The true head of the Kirk (letter to the editor in Herald Scotland)

An Irish minister who died in a tragic scuba accident is remembered

Deeply committed and straight-talking Presbyterian minister (from the Irish Times)

In Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, the historic Greyfriars Church of Scotland building was sold to a local businessman leading to some concern over the fate of the building. The new owner is having the building inspected to determine what it would take to preserve the building and possible uses while others are looking at possible paths to ensure preservation.

Greyfriars church sold (from Trinidad Express Newspapers)
‘I felt compelled to buy Greyfriars’ (from Trinidad Express Newspapers)
National Trust moves to protect historic Greyfriars Church (from Trinidad Express Newspapers)
I can’t make guarantees (from the Guardian)

Southside Presbyterian Church of Tucson, a church which was a leader in the sanctuary movement 30 years ago, is once again offering sanctuary to undocumented individuals.

Presbyterian church in Arizona offers sanctuary to undocumented migrant (from Reuters)

Also, from the PC(USA), a lawsuit that includes the denomination as a defendant

Minister’s lawsuit targets his own denomination over sexual abuse allegations (AP story in The Kansas City Star); “The Rev. Kris Schondelmeyer, a youth minister in Toledo, Ohio, is seeking unspecified damages in a lawsuit he filed against the Louisville, Ky.-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Mo.; the Missouri Union Presbytery in Jefferson City; and his alleged abuser, Jack Wayne Rogers.”

Finally, a profile of Doran, Minn., population 55, caught my attention because of the emphasis on the Presbyterian church and how it is the last remaining house of worship in town as well as a community gathering spot.

Doran, Minn.: Little town on the prairie (from the Daily News of Wahpeton, ND and Breckenridge, MN)

So until next time…

2014 National Youth Assembly Of The Church Of Scotland

NYA 14

National Youth Assembly 2014

It is once again the time of year for the National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland. This annual meeting takes the deliberative process seriously and gathers the younger members of the church, those in the 17 to 25 age range, for a weekend of discussion and deliberation as well as connecting through some fun and fellowship.

And this is a milestone year for the Assembly as it meets for the 20th time. This year’s Moderator, Rachel Hutcheson, commented on the anniversary in the Kirk news article: “This forum, over 20 years, has become the best way for young people within the Church to have their voice heard.”

This year’s overall theme is “My Father’s House” and under that there will be four topics of discussion and debate that will form the recommendations that participants will take back to their churches and presbyteries and that will make up the NYA deliverance to the 2015 General Assembly. Those discussion topics are: How do we worship? How should the church spend it’s money? How can we do ministry intergenerationally? How will we support Christians in the Middle East? The workshop streams are titled Pray, Train, Do, Bible, Church.

The Assembly gets under way this evening, Friday 15 August, at Gartmore House in Stirlingshire, and will continue until Monday morning 18 August.

Some years live streaming is available but considering the meeting facilities and that I have seen no mention of streaming I don’t think it looks promising.

As for social media, it looks like Twitter will be the primary vehicle. There is the NYA account at @cosy_nya to watch as well as the official Church of Scotland feed (@churchscotland) and the official publication Life and Work (@cofslifeandwork). The hashtag is announced as #nya14. although I am seeing #nya2014 in use as well. As for individuals, the Moderator of this year’s Assembly is Rachel Hutcheson (@rach_hutcheson) and the Clerk is John Haston (@johndhaston). It is also worth following past Moderator Lynsey Martin (@lynsey1889). We will see who else might provide some interest insights.

UPDATE: One day in I would add the Rev. Liz Crumlish who is writing about NYA on her blog Journalling and tweets at @eacbug. And the #NYA2014 hashtag seems to be getting more use.

Advance coverage and information about this year’s Assembly includes the Church of Scotland article, another from their publication Life and Work, Information from the Resourcing Mission page, and the NYA 2014 flyer.

While there has been some live updates in the past on the COSY Blog, that was not active last year, but maybe it will be revived. Otherwise, we follow along on Twitter and wait for press releases, articles and next year’s Blue Book.

So our best wishes and prayers for a fun, enlightening, meaningful and productive experience for all the participants this year. And prayers for Rachel and John as they lead the body.

[Personal update: I am back from my summer vacation and getting back into the routine of writing so the blog will come alive again. I am also adjusting to the new blogging platform so if things are not as neat and orderly right away sorry about that and please bear with me.]

cosy-logo

Two Letters From The Third Of July

I have developed a significant respect for John Adams, the colonial lawyer who would serve the colonies and the new nation in many capacities including as its second president. He was not the charismatic leader like Washington or the Renaissance Man of Jefferson, but he was a hard-working, practical and principled individual and politician.

One example of his character was his agreeing to lead the defense of the the British soldiers who were tried for the Boston Massacre in 1770 because he felt that they deserved a fair trail.

Another place where his personality and qualities come through is in his very extensive correspondence with his wife Abagail during his many positions of public service which kept him away from home. I have come to value the extensive discussions and heartfelt emotions he shared with his partner in marriage.

To that point, on the Third of July, 1776, he wrote two letters to Abigail discussing the events of the previous day and expressing his views of them, the place of Divine Providence in them and what they would mean for the future.

Two paragraphs from the first letter:

Philadelphia, July 3, 1776

Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony “that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.” You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell’d Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days.

When I look back to the Year 1761, and recollect the Argument concerning Writs of Assistance, in the Superiour Court, which I have hitherto considered as the Commencement of the Controversy, between Great Britain and America, and run through the whole Period from that Time to this, and recollect the series of political Events, the Chain of Causes and Effects, I am surprized at the Suddenness, as well as Greatness of this Revolution. Britain has been fill’d with Folly, and America with Wisdom, at least this is my judgment. — Time must determine. It is the Will of Heaven, that the two Countries should be sundered forever. It may be the Will of Heaven that America shall suffer Calamities still more wasting and Distresses yet more dreadfull. If this is to be the Case, it will have this good Effect, at least: it will inspire Us with many Virtues, which We have not, and correct many Errors, Follies, and Vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonour, and destroy Us. — The Furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming, in every Part, will require a Purification from our Vices, and an Augmentation of our Virtues or they will be no Blessings. The People will have unbounded Power. And the People are extreamly addicted to Corruption and Venality, as well as the Great. I am not without Apprehensions from this Quarter.– But I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable [ as] the Faith may be, I firmly believe.

[Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, "Your Favour of June 17..." [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/]

The second letter of that date reflects more deeply on what the actions mean. While he begins by reflecting on the timing – the advantages of an earlier declaration and the benefits of the current timing – he concludes with this:

Philadelphia July 3d. 1776

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

[Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, "Had a Declaration..." [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/]

And so to my American readers a Happy Second of July yesterday and a Happy Fourth of July tomorrow. May we indeed, as Adams suggests and foresees, celebrate it with “solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty” as well as “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other…”

Welcome to the new look of GA Junkie

Greetings,

It has been a hectic 24 hours but I have gotten the bulk of the blog migrated to a new platform. Plenty of little details to be cleaned up and still working on migrating all eight years of past posts.

But the basics are there. Hopefully the RSS feed came across without interruption and the ability to subscribe to the blog by email should be working.

Thanks for your patience and hoping that it will be another eight years and 1000 posts before I have to do that again.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming

221st General Assembly Of The PC(USA) — A Summary Of Summaries

 

The 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) concluded this morning. While plenty has already been written on individual issues, over the next few days several summaries of the actions of the GA will be appearing on the interwebs. I will create a running list here of those summaries.As a matter of personal privilege I will begin with mine, A Brief Summary of the 221st General Assembly. This is a resource that I have shared with my congregation for a number of GA’s now and you are welcome to use it as well.

A general letter about the Assembly from the PC(USA) leadership
The OGA Assembly in Brief summary

The Presbyterian Outlook does not have a single summary posted online but you can check their General Assembly 2014 category for summary articles on different topics

As additional summaries are posted I will compile them here.

I am collecting articles by the mainstream media that are, well to put it kindly, getting it wrong. But this article from Haaretz gets it so right that I will include it here:

U.S. Presbyterians vote to divest from companies used by Israel in occupied territories

Finally, a few good personal reflections from individuals about the assembly

PC(USA) 221st General Assembly — Actions Related To Marriage

Yesterday afternoon the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) considered the report of Committee 10 – Civil Union and Marriage Issues. Here is a brief summary of the four basic actions that the General Assembly took.

[10-07] On Creating a Task Force to Identify Common Ground and Reconcilable Differences with Respect to Same-Gender Marriage
The first item to be considered came as a overture from Eastern Korean Presbytery requesting a Task Force whose charge it would be to

a. identify common ground and reconcilable differences in biblical understanding and confessional interpretation with respect to same-gender marriage;

b. study the nature, scope, and controversies of the same-gender marriage laws legalized in certain states;

c. assess the impact of such laws and related sociopolitical changes on the ministry and mission of the church;

d. provide the local presbyteries and congregations with theological guidelines for
their ministry, as to understand and apply the concepts and functions
of family and parenting based on biblical norms and ethics; and

e. bring forth practical and futuristic recommendations that would not
only strengthen and promote unity within the church, but also solidify
ministries and missions with ecumenical partners locally and globally.

The Task Force would report back two GA’s from now in 2018.

The Committee recommended disapproval and there was a minority report advocating approval of this request. After some discussion, a lot focusing on whether the PC(USA) needed four more years to study this, the substitute motion was not made the main motion by a vote of 237 to 372 and the Committee recommendation was approved 401 to 185.

[10-03] On Issuing an Authoritative Interpretation of W-4.9000 to Affirm Pastoral Discretion in Performing Marriage Ceremonies

The next item was this Authoritative Interpretation that would permit pastors in jurisdictions that recognized same-sex marriages to perform those ceremonies. The core line in the AI reads, with the amendment:

[W]hen a couple requests the involvement of the church in solemnizing their marriage as permitted by the laws [of the civil jurisdiction in which the marriage is to take place] [of the place where the couple seek to be married], teaching elders have the pastoral responsibility to assess the capabilities, intentions, and readiness of the couple to be married (W-4.9002), and the freedom of conscience in the interpretation of Scripture (G-2.0105) to participate in any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them to perform.

The AI would also permit the use of church facilities with the consent of the session.

This debate began with a point of order as to whether this item was out of order under Roberts Rules of Order because it was in conflict with the definition of marriage as found in the Book of Confessions.

Just as when this point arose at the 220th General Assembly, the Moderator turned to the Clerk who suggested that the Assembly receive advice from the Assembly Committee on the Constitution. In 2012, the ACC’s response was along the lines of the narrative found in the front material to the Book of Confessions in the Confessional Nature of the Church Report. At one point the Report says “Nevertheless, for Reformed Christians all confessional statements have only a provisional, temporary, relative authority.” In other words, while important the multiple confessions need to be considered as a body of work and individual points not singled out from the who body.

At this General Assembly the ACC advice took a different direction. The advice was essentially that this action and the confessions are in tension and that it is the responsibility and within the authority of the GA to resolve that tension. Within the ensuing discussion is was observed that in their original advice on the overture the ACC said:

The Advisory Committee on the Constitution advises that the 221st General Assembly (2014) disapprove Item 10-03

[snip]

Section W-4.9001 and related citations (W-4.9002a, W-4.9004,
W-4.9006) limit marriage to couples who are “a woman and a man.” Because
these statements are clear and unambiguous, they can not be interpreted
in a manner that is inconsistent with their plain and ordinary meaning.

When asked about this the ACC response was essentially the same as was previously given – that the Assembly could deal with this tension.

The Moderator ruled the item was in order, the commissioner challenged the ruling of the Moderator and after some significant discussion over the nature of the point of order the Moderator’s ruling was sustained.

With that out of the way the item was debated and the debate was generally civil and respectful. One of the things about this Assembly seems to be the number of times that points of debate are incorporated into questions from the floor. When debate was closed and the vote taken the commissioners voted 371 to 238 to approve the AI.

[10-02] On Amending W-4.9000, Marriage

This item is based on an overture from the Presbytery of Cascades with 16 concurrences. The proposed new wording of W-4.9000, as amended mostly by the committee but slightly on the floor, would be:

Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a women, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and
responsible members of the church and the wider community.

“In civil law, marriage is a contract that recognizes the
rights and obligations of the married couple in society. In the
Reformed tradition, marriage is also a covenant in which God has an
active part, and which the community of faith publicly witnesses and
acknowledges.

“If they meet the requirements of the civil jurisdiction
in which they intend to marry, a couple may request that a service of
Christian marriage be conducted by a teaching elder in the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.), who is authorized, though not required, to act as an
agent of the civil jurisdiction in recording the marriage contract. A
couple requesting a service of Christian marriage shall receive
instruction from the teaching elder, who shall agree to the couple’s
request only if, in the judgment of the teaching elder, the couple
demonstrate sufficient understanding of the nature of the marriage
covenant and commitment to living their lives together according to its
values. In making this decision, the teaching elder may seek the counsel
of the session, which has authority to permit or deny the use of church
property for a marriage service.

“The marriage service shall be conducted in a manner
appropriate to this covenant and to the forms of Reformed worship, under
the direction of the teaching elder and the supervision of the session
(W-1.4004–.4006). In a service of marriage, the couple marry each other
by exchanging mutual promises. The teaching elder witnesses the couple’s
promises and pronounces God’s blessing upon their union. The community
of faith pledges to support the couple in upholding their promises;
prayers may be offered for the couple, for the communities that support
them, and for all who seek to live in faithfulness.

“If they meet
the requirements of the civil jurisdiction in which they intend to
marry, a couple may request that a service of Christian marriage be
conducted by a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), who
is authorized, though not required, to act as an agent of the civil
jurisdiction in recording the marriage contract. A couple requesting a
service of Christian marriage shall receive instruction from the
teaching elder, who may agree to the couple’s
request only if, in the judgment of the teaching elder, the couple
demonstrate sufficient understanding of the nature of the marriage
covenant and commitment to living their lives together according to its
values. In making this decision, the teaching elder may seek the counsel
of the session, which has authority to permit or deny the use of church
property for a marriage service.

“Nothing herein shall compel a teaching elder to
perform nor compel a session to authorize the use of church property
for a marriage service that the teaching elder or the session believes
is contrary to the teaching elder’s or the session’s discernment of the
Holy Spirit and their understanding of the Word of God.”

I wish I could have heard more of the questions and debate concerning this item but my schedule did not permit hanging around for most of the livestream. In the part of the discussion I did hear there were numerous questions about global partners and their reactions. I can also say that in what I heard there were no slippery-slope arguments made. And in a nod of cooperation and forbearance the wording in the first paragraph that said “two persons” was changed to “two persons, traditionally a man and a woman.”

In the final vote the new language was approved and will be sent to the presbyteries on a vote of 429 to 175. For comparison, the 220th General Assembly defeated an amendment of similar intent but significantly different wording on a vote of 308 to 338. Note that after that vote the business was bundled into an umbrella item to answer all business in one fell swoop.

This will now be sent down to the presbyteries and will require a concurrence of a majority of them.

[10-NB] New Business
The final item of business was a resolution crafted by the Committee following their completion of the other business. Compared to the extensive text of the rest of these items it is pretty simple:

Recommend the 221st General Assembly (2014) direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board and
the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly to engage in the process of working together with churches in the task of reconciliation, starting with visiting
each presbytery and serving as a resource for each presbytery’s
discussion of these actions in congregations and the presbytery at-large
and present voices of reconciliation for the unity of the church.

This is a response to the recognition that for this decision there will be some who will be hurt by the outcome in the same way that some were hurt by the outcome of other decisions in this matter in previous years. The committee itself was careful in its work about being respectful and developing a sense of fellowship in the group. One of the things it did to insert some levity during its work was to have committee members share embarrassing moments during worship. (Example 1, example 2).

It should be pointed out that there was a vote to reconsider this item this morning as the first item of business and a substantive and pastoral amendment was passed without changing the basics of the item.

What’s next
Here are three items the come to mind regarding this action going forward.

First, the amendment to the Directory for Worship does need the concurrence of the presbyteries. if approved by a majority of the 171 presbyteries it will become part of the 2015-2017 Book of Order which takes affect a year from now.

Second, as we know from ordination standards an AI from the Assembly is not the last word. Even if the Book of Order change is approved there is an outside chance that a challenge to a same-sex marriage ceremony could go through the judicial process fast enough that the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission would have the opportunity to supersede the GA’s AI with a ruling that W-4.9001 does prohibit such ceremonies in spite of the AI.

Finally, expect the departures to continue. I am not sure that this action will suddenly and dramatically increase the exodus of churches leaving the PC(USA) as many that I have talked to have anticipated this and taken action on departure in a proactive manner. For most, this is not unexpected but a validation of what they have been saying for years. And while there are numerous factors at play between the action at the last GA and this proposed change to the Book of Order, we have to accept that the exodus has been at least partly responsible for the dramatic swing from a 308 to 338 vote to a 429 to 175 vote. (And at some point I hope to do some number crunching to explore what constraints could be put on the numbers.)

Following these actions a number of pastoral letters and statements have been released. In addition to one from the General Assembly leadership, there is one from Presbyterians for Renewal and another from the Covenant Network. I would also highlight one from Philadelphia Presbytery by their Executive Presbyter Ruth Santana-Grace.

As a bit of an aside, at the same time yesterday afternoon the 42nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was considering their ascending overtures, including two (Overtures 2 and 5) that reiterated that denomination’s stated views against homosexual practice and same-sex marriage. Both of those overtures were dispensed with fairly quickly, although with a little discussion, as they were ruled out of order since they were both affirmations of what is already established doctrine. However, in an independent occurrence that got a bit of a chuckle from some of us in both denominations, at least one news source got the two largest American Presbyterian branches a bit confused.

So, returning to the PC(USA), it is now time to see what happens as this descends to the presbyteries – both to approve the Book of Order amendment and in general to see what the reaction is. And we pray for the initiative to encourage reconciliation as this effort goes forward. Stay tuned…

34th General Assembly Of The Evangelical Presbyterian Church


Rounding out our very full slate of American Presbyterian General Assemblies this week, we have the 34th General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The host church is Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church. The Assembly Schedule informs us that preliminaries began on Tuesday with conferences and meetings, and continues today with the Assembly Workshop and worship. Business sessions begin tomorrow morning, 19 June, and continue into Saturday, 21 June. And while these meetings are taking place, it is great to see the youth out in the community doing service projects.

The Assembly meeting will be webcast and the webcast schedule is on that page. (There is also a webcast link from the host church.) You can download the full Commissioners Handbook or access portions of it individually on the webcast and documents page. At the bottom of the webcast page there are also the as yet unlinked points for the daily summaries for when they are posted. You can also download the current Book of Order from the web site if you need to consult it. More on that in a moment.

As for social media, there is a bit of that out there. There is a Facebook page for the EPC but it does not appear to be tracking GA items. The official EPC Twitter feed (@EPChurch) also does not seem to have too much lead in to GA but the hashtag (#epc34) has sprung to life. There is also a feed for EPC Student Ministries (@EPCStudentMin) and the Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah (@Jeff_Jeremiah). I would add to this the host church, Cedar Springs Church (@cedarspringspc).

Turning to the business of the Assembly it is interesting to note that overtures proposing changes to the Book of Order tend to be making adjustments to the process of accepting churches and teaching elders transferring into the church. One of them (14-C ) would change the examination of new teaching elders to include not just their theological views but also their knowledge of Reformed theology. Another (14-D ) would make transitional membership in the EPC an established method of joining and not invoked on a case-by-case basis. There is also an amendment (14-B ) to make explicit that there is no implied or expressed Trust Clause.

Another item of business would ratify the vote of the presbyteries and approve a Revised Book of Government.

There are a lot more business items that appear to be interesting to see the deliberations, but let me highlight one final request. As you will see, this is not being brought for debate but for referral for study with a fuller discussion at a future Assembly when the study is returned. So here is the Constitutional Revision Ad Interim Committee’s recommendation 5:
Recommendation #16 [CR-5]

That the Sabbath provisions of the Westminster Confession of Faith (21.7, 8), Larger Catechism questions 117-121; Shorter Catechism questions 58-60), and Book of Worship (§2-2) be referred to the Permanent Theology Committee for study and, if deemed necessary and appropriate, that the Committee bring recommendations to the 35th or 36th General Assembly including, but not limited to, amending some or all of those documents.

Grounds: Presbyteries have frequently and consistently allowed exceptions to Westminster Confession of Faith 21-7 and 21-8 regarding Sabbath observance. Such exceptions may be out of accord with Book of Worship §2-2 and would make it difficult for Teaching Elders to take a vow to submit to the government and discipline of the EPC with integrity at this point.

I look forward to seeing how these matters of Sabbath observance are developed.

With that, I will wish the EPC commissioners well and assure them and the leadership of our prayers as the meet to discern all the matters before them.

PC(USA) 221st General Assembly — Committees Done, Moving On To Plenary

UPDATE: I did not get the time to finish this out. I will leave it posted in incomplete form.

[Ed. Note: Due to my meeting schedule this morning I will need to do this in pieces and so to get this out as quickly as possible I will be doing it in live blog style. That means that if you get the first part via email you will need to go online to see the complete post later today. If you are following online then check back in a while to see the update.]

It is now Wednesday morning and all the commissioners to the 221st General Assembly are busy reading the reports that they will be discussing and voting on the next 72 hours.

Committee work seemed to go fairly smoothly with one committee, Committee 14 – Congregational Vitality, finishing up in one day. It looked like one or two committees continued after dinner on Tuesday, but I could be wrong and PC-Biz was just catching up.

As we go into Plenary this afternoon here are some things to look forward to…

First, there is a new system with a unified consent agenda that will be approved as the first major item of business. Any action that received at least a 75% super-majority in committee would probably be placed on the consent agenda unless the committee felt it should be presented in a committee report. This means that Committee 14 does not need to report since all six of their business items were approved unanimously. The catch is that item 14-04 has financial implications and I understand that will bring it to the floor.

It will be interesting to see how the consent agenda goes, in particular how many items are pulled off for consideration since any item can be removed by the request of even one commissioner.

There are some interesting items on the consent agenda, including the standing committee nominations. But in a quick look a lot of them are like the items on per capita limits and Young Adult Commissioners that the committee overwhelmingly disapproved with comment. We will see what is the will of the Assembly.

So, looking at the proposed docket, which may or may not be the one brought by Bills and Overtures for approval as one of the very first items of business this afternoon, here is what seems to be coming in the way of committee business.

Wednesday Afternoon
Report of the Assembly Committee on BOP, PILP, PPC, and Foundation (12)
This committee currently has seven items on the consent agenda. These include disapproval of [12-01] required participation in the benefits plan and disapproval of [12-02] that would require near-immediate divestment of departing pastors from the benefits plan.

Remaining business items seem fairly routine and received strong support in the committee. These include [12-07] to reelect the Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer, as well as [12-11] to confirm the election of the President of the Board of Pensions.

Report of the Assembly Committee on General Assembly Procedures (03)
This committee has 25 items on the consent agenda including a bunch of sub-recommendations from the Report of the Committee to Review Biennial Assemblies. The committee is recommending approval of all the Review Committee recommendations, some with amendment. As mentioned above, per capita limits and Young Adult Commissioners are recommended for disapproval. Otherwise almost all business, both consent and floor action, are recommended for approval. There are two more exceptions. One is a Commissioner Resolution  to provide childcare at GA and other national events which has financial implications and is being referred and the other is a Commissioner Resolution to give Executive Presbyters corresponding member status which is recommended for disapproval.

[That takes care of this afternoon - Back with more in a little while]

42nd General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In America

The 42nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America will convene their plenary sessions tomorrow afternoon, 17 June, in Houston. Committees of Commissioners began meeting today. The Assembly will continue through noon on Friday. The theme of the Assembly is “Proclaim Christ, Disciple the Nations.”

The meeting will be live streamed and they have their GA app available for several platforms to follow along. There is also a ShareFile! app there for registered commissioners to download reports and other documents.

While the full volume of reports is available only to commissioners, the docket and overtures are available on line. There is one report available online and that is this year’s part of the Report of the Ad Interim Study Committee On Insider Movements.
This is Part Two of Two, with Part One having been presented to the 40th GA two years ago.

To track the polity of the PCA you can access the Book of Church Order online.

News updates will be posted through the official news website and online publication byFaith.

Turning to social media, while there is a Facebook page for the PCA, it does not seem to have much build-up to GA. The byFaith Magazine Facebook page is more active.

There are numerous opportunities to follow the meeting on Twitter including the official feed from byFaith (@PCAbyFaith). There is also a feed for the Reasoning_Together (@PCA_Elders) program. The hashtag for the Assembly is #pcaga.

Individuals who will be at the meeting and are, or will probably be tweeting include Fred Greco (@fredgreco), Ligon Duncan (@LigonDuncan), Sean Michael Lucas (@SeanMLucas) and Allan Edwards (@edwardsae1). Or, I have been advised by @PCAPresbyter himself that all you really need to do is follow him. He will certainly enlighten your tracking of PCA GA in his own inimitable way.

A number of important topics are before the Assembly this year probably led by Overture 6, “Child Protection in the PCA.” There are an additional 23 overtures with concurrences, commendations and affirmations of it bringing the total number of overtures this year to an unusually high 52. Earlier today this overture in slightly amended form, was recommended to the full Assembly by a unanimous vote of the Overtures Committee with all related overtures to be answered by action on Overture 6. In addition, the Assembly will be hearing a special presentation on child sexual abuse from Theresa Lynn Sidebotham, attorney and founder of Telios Law PLLC.

Other overtures this year include eight overtures related to process of Standing Judicial Commission decisions and one to “Issue a warning regarding erroneous views of Creation.” There are several overtures related to shifting presbytery boundaries that includes one to expand Korean Southeastern, one to divide Korean Southwest in two and one to establish a provisional presbytery for Paraguay.

One of the most interesting overtures proposes a logo for the PCA. As @PCAPresbyter pointed out in a tweet today Moses and the children of Israel wandered in the desert a shorter period of time than the PCA has been in existence without adopting a logo. I don’t know if they need one or not, but Southeast Alabama Presbytery thinks they do and is proposing the one to the left here.

So that is the line up for the next few days. At the point it convenes there will be four American Presbyterian branches with their Assemblies meeting. Add the EPC on Wednesday and we have five branches meeting.

So our best wishes to the commissioners and leaders of the PCA General Assembly and prayers for your discernment around some difficult issues the next few days. I will be interested to see how these business items are decided.

139th GA Of The CPCA And 184th GA Of The CPC


I have drifted fully back onto the grid after a weekend of only spotty connections in the local mountains and realize that I have a lot to get caught up on regarding the GA already in session.

In addition, as I mentioned previously, this week is full of American Presbyterian General Assemblies and I hope that you will forgive me for doubling up the Assemblies of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Besides efficiency on my part there is good reason to consider both of these branches together: in addition to the fact that they are both meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at about the same time, they also have a Unification Task Force working to consider the reunion of these two branches. More on that in a minute, but first, here is the rundown on each Assembly.

The 139th General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America begins today, 15 June, and runs through Wednesday, 18 June. There are briefings and committee meetings on the 15th with opening worship and the start of business, including election of the Moderator, on Monday morning. You can view the schedule for the meeting as a Word document.

The 184th General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church will convene with worship on Monday afternoon, 16 June, and continue through Thursday, 19 June, or until they are done. The one-page guide to the week is available and documents for the meeting – including reports and by-laws – are published as the 2014 Preliminary Minutes. Other documents, including the Catechism, Confession of Faith and Rules of Order, can be accessed from the left navigation bar on the Office of the General Assembly page.

If you have looked at the two schedules you will see that these are mostly joint meetings with a few select times when each branch meets to do its own business. The Unification Task Force was formed two years ago and they have been working towards organic union with out a predetermined time-table.The report of the Unification Task Force can be found starting on page 108 of the Preliminary Minutes.

The Task Force is bringing to the joint Assembly a Proposed Plan for Union with reflection questions embedded throughout it. They are proposing that the new denomination be named the United Cumberland Presbyterian Church and to maintain the four synods, but with adjusted boundaries. All current presbyteries in both branches would continue for six years after union to study possible realignments. There is a one year input period on the Proposed Plan and the Task Force would bring a final proposal to a joint Assembly in 2016. Presbyteries would have the next year to ratify the proposal for union, the 2017 Assemblies would approve final documents of a new denomination and the General Assembly of the United Cumberland Presbyterian Church would meet in 2018 for the first time.

Two other items that caught my attention. The first is that there will be a Joint CPC/CPCA Louisa Woosely Celebration to recognize the 125th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women Clergy to be held Wednesday evening. The second is that the CPC will be holding their 185th General Assembly (2015) in the country of Columbia. (The CPCA holds biennial assemblies and will not meet next year.)

As for following along, no live streaming that I am aware of and little social media visible at the moment but it looks like at least some are using the hashtag #cpga14. I do see that Farmwrkministry (@farmwkrministry) and
Rev. Lisa Cook (@sacredsparks) are tweeting about it. There are also official accounts from Ministry Council (@MinistryCouncil) and CPC Young Adults (@CPYAMC) that we might see tweets from.

And so, we wish the two Assemblies well and pray for wisdom and discernment for the commissioners and the church leadership. Have a good meeting.

[Point of Personal Privilege: This post represents a milestone for me as it is my 1000th published post. If you are curious there are about 50 that have not yet seen the light of day, or at least the glow of your monitors. While I am not the most prolific blogger, it am none the less a bit taken back by the thought that I have kept this quirky little niche blog going for 1000 posts over slightly more than eight years. My thanks to all of you for your interest, interaction and encouragement. Now, back to the action.]