It is safe to say that in the coming week most American Presbyterians will have their General Assembly in session. Pardon the alphabet soup, but this next week will see the General Assemblies of the PC(USA), a concurrent GA by the CPC and CPCA, then the PCA, the EPC, and the RPCNA. (Technically that last one is a General Synod.) There is also the distinct likelihood that there will be three live streams going at once so figure out your viewing schedule now.
First up is the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Portland which begins on Saturday 18 June and finishes a week later on Saturday 25 June. There is no question that this will be a momentous and memorable meeting. Even before a single vote is taken we know that the denomination will come out of the meeting with their first Co-Moderators, a new Stated Clerk, and a road map – if not solid decisions – related to reorganizing the national offices to reflect the changing reality of the church in these current times. In addition, it is anticipated that the Belhar Confession will be added to the Book of Confessions and the celebration will begin for the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Confession of 1967. And that does not even begin to scratch the surface of all the other business that is out there.
The source for information on all this business is, as usual, the on-line PC-Biz system. However, it has been given a new look and a bunch of us have been putting it through its paces and helping to squash bugs. (You are welcome.) And the tech wizards behind it have been very responsive to our reports. Now we will see if it can handle a couple thousand simultaneous users. And the PC(USA) event guide for the Guidebook App is back as well. There are Android and iOS apps and it can be viewed in a web browser.
There is a docket posted and you can also find the schedule, reports overtures/business items on PC-Biz as well as all the Constitutional documents, the Manual of the General Assembly, and other useful items on the PC-Biz Resources tab.
The Assembly will begin with the usual formalities on Saturday, but this year in the morning. The opening worship with celebration of the Lord’s Supper is scheduled for 11 AM local time and will be live streamed. Congregations are encouraged to gather in their churches and join in the worship. Formal business will begin at 2 PM in the afternoon followed by the election of the Moderator Saturday evening. Sunday is worship in churches throughout the Portland area and a plenary session and receptions in the afternoon. Committee work begins in that evening and it will run through Tuesday evening. During that time PC-Biz is the place to find out what the committees are doing with the pieces of business near and dear to you.
The meeting moves back to plenary on Wednesday afternoon and then it is a mad push to get all the business done by Friday night or in the wee hours of Saturday morning. But one of the realities is that there is no real schedule of when particular committees report until later in the week when committees have finished their business and they are assembled on the docket like a jigsaw puzzle. The final Saturday morning session is highlighted by worship and the closing business formalities.
Opening worship and plenary sessions should be live streamed and the viewer can be found embedded in the GA 222 Home Page.
The tracking utility on PC-Biz is the best place to follow business. While the PC(USA) does have a general Twitter account (@Presbyterian), the General Assembly feed (@presbyGA) usually provides more play-by-play. There is also the Presbyterian News Service on Twitter (@PresbyNews). The hashtag for the meeting is #ga222.
There are numerous entities of the PC(USA) that have Twitter accounts and you might want to watch the hashtag or check the list I compiled in a post a while back.
For individuals of note let me start with the two Co-Moderator teams: Jan Edmiston (@jledmiston) and Denise Anderson (@thesoulstepford), and David P. Parker (@DavidPParker) and Adan Mairena (@elburque). The other office to be decided is for Stated Clerk and you can follow J. Herbert Nelson (@jherbertnelson). The other candidate is the Rev. David Baker and while he promotes himself as strong in social media in his LinkedIn profile, I can not find a Twitter account for him. I will keep looking. Moving on to Moderators of previous assemblies we can begin with Bruce Reyes-Chow who tweets at @breyeschow and @brc_live. The immediate past Moderator, Neal Presa, can be followed at @NealPresa. And the Moderator finishing up his term, Heath Rada (@heathrada), is there as well. And the current Vice-Moderator, Larissa Kwong Abazia can be found at @LarissaLKA, and a previous Vice-Mod, Landon Whitsitt (@LandonWhitsitt) would definitely make the list. And not to be overlooked is the Executive Director of PMA Tony De La Rosa (@tonydlr). In this list of individuals let me throw in the Director of Operations, Thomas Hay (@DirOfOp) and also a true GA Junkie in his own right, Andy James (@andyjames). And fair warning that both of them are heavily involved in the Assembly so it is entirely possible their time will be spent on things other than tweeting. Finally, the Church of Scotland ecumenical delegate is the Rev. Derek Browning (@DerekBrowning2) who, besides being a parish minister, is also their General Assembly’s Business Convener – something like an associate stated clerk – and therefore a polity wonk in his own right. I am looking forward to his insight and dry wit. He will also be tweeting at the curated account @churchscovoices.
I will be at the meeting as well. I plan to live blog the plenary sessions here as well as posting more information about specific areas of business. The Outlook has posted three articles I wrote for them on business coming to the Assembly related to Elders and Councils, Non-geographic Presbyteries, and Synods. I do plan to tweet extensively but not completely during the Assembly. So here is my plan: My regular Twitter handle – @ga_junkie – will be used to cover major events at all the Assemblies and the Synod that will be under way. So read carefully as to which meeting the hashtag is for. I will use my secondary, and confusingly named @gajunkie handle (note – no underscore) to cover the PC(USA) exclusively. And if someone is planning to live tweet the Assembly let me know and I will point people in your direction.
Finally, my bit of levity. First, I will once again be passing out my “I’m A GA Junkie” buttons. Find me if you want one. Also, the Bingo Card is available for the meeting. In addition, I have targeted four concepts that I will keep a score board on how often they are mentioned in plenary. While giving away the phrases and concepts might bias the results and/or encourage people to use them, I will put them out anyway. They are:
- Any reference to the Rev. Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers
- Misquoting the recent When We Gather At The Table Report. (You can see my caution in the related blog post.)
- References to the membership decline in the denomination.
- Comments about a certain presidential candidate as a Presbyterian, or not.
And so I am looking forward to an exciting week in Portland but wishing the important action around American Presbyterian branches got spaced out a bit more.
So time to finish packing and see you in Portlandia in a few hours.