As I begin this post let me make two prefatory comments: First, there are two other meetings this week which I regret I do not have the time to preview. These are the GA of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland (hashtag #gaqld17) and the joint General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of America (hashtag #cpga17). Second, in a related comment, I had hoped to be at the EPC GA in person this year since it is in my neck of the woods. The missing posts and the canceled trip are both due to a family commitment that happened this week so my time and tether are both short right now.
But on to the topic of this post, the 37th General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church which began yesterday at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church, near Sacramento, California. (And as Fair Oaks notes, it is in partnership with four other churches in the area.) According to the schedule Tuesday began with workshops in the morning and classes as part of the Leadership Institute in the afternoon. There will be Leadership Institute plenary sessions the next two mornings and business will convene Wednesday afternoon. Committees of Commissioners will meet later on Wednesday and Thursday morning if needed. Then the Assembly returns to plenary business sessions Thursday afternoon and running through Friday – as long as it takes to get the work done.
The Assembly meeting will be live streamed and it appears that plenary programs outside the business meeting will be part of the streaming.
There is a lot of information online, most linked through the Documents page. Here are some of the links for information about Assembly business and operation:
- There is the Schedule and the Docket (being issued in daily segments) so you know when the business sessions are and what is being covered.
- There is also the Commissioners Handbook by parts or as a full download from that page if you are a commissioner. There are also two interesting appendices – the statistical report for us data geeks (and also check out the Stated Clerk’s report) and the Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality.
- As the committees of the commissioners work their reports will be linked to the page as well.
- Again, there is an app for that: The EPC has a SmartPhone App to help attendees at the meeting.
- At some point we can expect daily summaries to be posted and I will link here. Also keep an eye on the EP News Blog.
- And don’t forget the current Book of Order and the Rules for Assembly.
As for social media, there is a bit of that out there. There is a Facebook page for the EPC that is currently being updated regularly with Leadership Institute items. The official EPC Twitter feed is @EPChurch and the declared official hashtag (#epc2017ga) has sprung to life. There is also a feed for EPC Student Ministries (@EPCStudentMin) and the Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah (@Jeff_Jeremiah ) -but neither has been active for a while.
A couple of items of business stand out. I mentioned above the Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality, which was provisionally adopted by the last GA and has been under study by the church this year. This is part of ongoing work and the Ad Interim Committee that considers revisions plans for additional work later this year, but the National Leadership Team will be bringing the recommendation that the Paper be approved.. There are two Overtures from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies related to the Report. One would add fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness to the section on the standards for leaders. The other overture would have an Ad Interim Committee consider the Human Sexuality paper and the Sanctity of Marriage paper (not available online) to eliminate duplicate issues between the two documents.
Another interesting report is that of the Ad Interim Committee on Ministerial Education. While there are no action items in that report, it describes the new education requirements beginning on January 1 of this year. These include a fourth ordination exam in original language exegesis and change in specific course requirements. There is also a Mentored Apprenticeship Program that is being tested. Going forward, they hope to clarify the position of Commissioned Pastor.
And the Stated Clerk’s report has a couple of items related to the dynamics of the denomination. One of those is funding the budget and the use of Per Member Asking was reviewed. There was some significant discussion but sticking with the asking for support on a per member basis is currently the plan. The other interesting note relates to the growth in the denomination. Traditionally GA’s have been hosted by individual churches but with the growth there are now a limited number that are capable of hosting the meeting. The Assembly will consider options and provide input on how they should proceed in the future.
With that, I will wish the EPC commissioners well and we will be lifting them up in our prayers as they meet. I am sorry I can not be there this year but I look forward to observing this particular assembly at a future time.