Tag Archives: General Assembly

Moderator Designate For The 2018 Church Of Scotland General Assembly

As the build up to the next GA Season keeps moving, this past week brought another Moderator Designate announcement, this from the Church of Scotland.

Rev Susan Brown of Dornoch Cathedral.

The selection committee has decided and the Kirk has announced that The Rev. Susan Brown, minister of Dornoch Cathedral, will be the next Moderator of the General Assembly. She is a native of Penicuik, Midlothian, and did her ministerial training at New College, Edinburgh with a Bachelors degree and a post-Graduate Diploma in Ministry. Following her probationer work at St. Giles she was inducted at Killearnan on the Black Isle, near Inverness, where she served for 13 years. From there she moved up the coast a bit to Dornoch Cathedral where she has been for the past 19 years.

Rev. Brown has served the Kirk at the national level as the vice-convener for both the Ecumenical Affairs committee and currently the World Mission Council. She also served for ten years as a regular member of a lifeboat crew for a local association. And her love of the outdoors, and these days particularly golf, led her to write a spiritual reflection for each hole of the nearby Royal Dornoch course and these are included in the course guide and gained a bit of international attention. In 2011 she was appointed as Chaplain in Ordinary to HM the Queen.

Her husband Derek is also in the ministry, serving as a hospital chaplain in Inverness and as the lead chaplain for NHS Highland. They have two adult children, a son who is a novelist who was recently recognized by the Scottish Book Trust with a New Writers award, and a daughter who is a graduate in social anthropology.

Rev. Brown says of her moderatorial year:

My theme during the year will be walking alongside people. When you walk alongside people, you listen and you exchange stories. It gives us a chance to talk more deeply than when we are face to face.

This coming moderatorial year for Rev. Brown will have a number of anniversaries of note, not the least of which is the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Church of Scotland. (For those counting, she will be the fourth woman to serve as Moderator of the Kirk GA.) The year will also include some significant centennial anniversaries related to WWI, including the commemoration of the armistice in just over a year’s time.

And finally, no biographical sketch of Rev. Brown would be complete without noting another distinction that she has, that of being the pastor that married the entertainer Madonna and Guy Ritchie and later baptizing their son Rocco.

Besides the Kirk article, there is significant mainstream and Christian media coverage of her appointment including The Scotsman, BBC Scotland, The Northern Times, Daily Record, and Premier Christianity.

Susan Brown can be followed on Twitter at @VicarofDornoch. And you can hear her preach on the Cathedral web site, although it appears on the current sermon is available and no online archive is available. Today’s sermon is based on the calling of Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:1-10 and you have to see a bit of self-reference in her second line “The story offers a great reminder of how God can, and will, use anyone at all – no matter how young or old, no matter how full of wisdom or yet to learn.”

And so, as Rev. Brown begins her preparation for the Assembly in May and her moderatorial year as a whole, we offer our congratulation, prayers and best wishes. And if everything falls into place, I am looking forward to being present in person for your installation and your time leading the Assembly. May God’s blessing be upon you and God’s Spirit granting you wisdom and strength for what lies ahead.

Moderator Designate For The Free Church Of Scotland 2018 General Assembly

There is a certain cycle to each year as in the late months of one calendar year and the early months of the next we begin to anticipate the upcoming general assemblies with moderator designates and moderator candidates, overtures and memorials, and reports. We then enter Assembly Season and see what transpires in the meetings. That is followed by the time of reporting back and presbyteries voting on descending overtures to make changes under the Barrier Act or to the Books of Church Order, Order, or Forms. (Or the Code.) And somewhere in the midst of that it starts all over again.

Well, with the first Moderator Designate announcement the cycle begins again…

Late last week the Free Church of Scotland announced that The Rev. Angus MacRae had been selected as the Moderator Disignate for their 2018 General Assembly in May.

Rev. MacRae is the pastor of Dingwall and Strathpeffer Free Church in Ross-shire where he has been for the last sixteen years. He was ordained to a call at Kilwinning Free Church, Ayrshire in 1992 and came to his present placement from there. His higher education was completed at Edinburgh University and Free Church College (now Edinburgh Theological Seminary). He was born in Glasgow and grew up in Laxdale, Isle of Lewis.

Rev. MacRae has been serving as the chair of the Board of Ministry, experience that is reflected in his published statement where he says:

This decade has seen vibrant growth and renewal in many local churches and the denomination as a whole is united and encouraged. I am thankful for a steady stream of new leaders in training. Our churches and Seminary are working together to meet the needs of existing churches and an exciting movement of new church plants around Scotland.

He continues in his statement to talk about the ongoing work of the General Assembly:

The General Assembly is not just a talking shop. It is an opportunity for leaders to meet together in God’s presence. Our vision is to work together to bring the message of an unchanging gospel to all the people of our land. We do this individually, together in our local churches and in gospel partnership with all those who respect the authority of the Bible as God’s message for truth for every age.

The press release also tells us he “supports international mission and has a particular interest in East Asia and the work of OMF International.”

You can see more about his parish ministry on the Dingwall Free Church Facebook page as well as their YouTube channel of sermons, most delivered by him.

Rev. MacRae’s wife Ann is a doctor specializing in the treatment of addiction. They have three adult children.

Our congratulations to Rev. MacRae on his selection to this unique form of service to the church and our prayers and best wishes as he prepares for his moderatorial year. And on a personal note, I hope to be present in the gallery when he is installed in May and look forward to worshiping with the GA that evening.

May God’s blessing be upon you as you undertake this ministry.

37th General Assembly Of The Evangelical Presbyterian Church

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:

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.

As for individuals, strong live tweeting going from Matthew Everhard (@matt_everhard), Joshua Brown (@PastorJoshBrown) and Heather Strong Moore (@StrongHeather).

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.

45th General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In America

The 45th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America convened their plenary sessions last night, 13 June, in Greensboro, North Carolina and will continue through noon on Friday 16 June. In their first action following worship they elected RE Alexander Jun the Moderator of the Assembly. The theme of the Assembly is “Come To The Table.” 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. [Tech note to the GA organizers – it is once again the case this year that you might want to change the title in the GA docket PDF properties so it no longer says “40th General Assembly.”] A more general schedule of events is also available. There is a nice page with links to all the forms and schedules for the meeting. And the Zika Virus Advisory is still on the web site, although I don’t think it is as applicable this year as it was last year in Mobile.

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, you will probably want to keep an eye on the byFaith Magazine Facebook page. There are numerous opportunities to follow the meeting on Twitter including the official feed from byFaith (@PCAbyFaith). The hashtag for the Assembly is #pcaga. For pictures, keep an eye on the PCA Flickr site.

Other related Twitter accounts include Reformed University Fellowship (@RUFnational), PCA Discipleship Ministry (@PCACDM), and the Mission to North America (@pcamna). I would also include in this group the denomination’s schools, Covenant College (@CovenantCollege). and Covenant Seminary (@covseminary).

As for individuals to watch – round-up the usual suspects. Some who will be at the meeting and are, or will probably be tweeting include Fred Greco (@fredgreco), Ligon Duncan (@LigonDuncan), Sean Michael Lucas (@SeanMLucas), Melton L. Duncan (@MeltonDuncan), and Jemar Tisby (@JemarTisby) and his Reformed African American Network (@RAANetwork). Having included one organization there I will also mention Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing (@prpbooks) and Reformed Theological Seminary (@ReformTheoSem). (And as a note, there are other Twitter accounts for the different RTS campuses.) Let me also include Jim Moon Jr. (@jimmoonjr) and Allan Edwards (@edwardsae1) who in past years has given us the Bingo Card and the Selfie Scavenger Hunt. And for a Twitter feed that is posted decently and in order there is the @PCAPresbyter himself.

Regarding business to the Assembly, from the social media chatter the hot topic will be the Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Women Serving in the Ministry of the Church. This report was authorized by the last GA and attempts to balance a recognition of women’s gifts for service in the church with the PCA’s understanding of the complimentarian nature of ordained office. It comes with a pastoral letter and nine recommendations. Among those recommendations is one that says:

3. That sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly strive to develop, recognize, and utilize the gifts, skills, knowledge, and wisdom of godly women in the local, regional, and national church, and particularly consider overtures that would allow qualified women to serve on appropriate committees and agencies within the church.

There is another recommendation that, after quoting the Book of Church Order adds:

6… Thus, for the well-being of the church, the committee recommends that sessions and presbyteries select and appoint godly women of the congregation to assist the ordained leadership; these godly, unordained women have often historically been referred to as deaconesses.

This one is sure to elicit a discussion about the nature of deaconesses and any parallels it may have to the ordained office of deacon. An opportunity to recognize and incorporate all in a more inclusive ministry or the camel’s nose under the tent? This report is docketed for 2:45 PM EDT on Thursday afternoon.

That report will be preceded at 2 PM by the Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Racial Reconciliation, a continuation of a discussion that began two years ago and as part of last year’s discussion this Ad Interim Committee was formed.

Having the news update from Monday, we know the recommendations of the Overtures Committee (OC) of Commissioners and can anticipate a few other items of business. Overture 2 was advanced on a divided vote and will come with a minority report. It would give the BCO section on Solemnizing of Marriage full constitutional authority and is aimed at “strengthening the PCA’s public witness to a biblical definition of marriage.” Overture 16 was advanced with a near unanimous vote and would add a requirement that congregational meetings for a church to withdraw from the PCA would have a higher quorum requirement of one-half of the members. And Overture 18 has both practical considerations and polity nuances for the polity wonks in the audience. It would require requests for ad-interim or study committees come only by presbytery overture. The rationale for the overture argues that assembly business, particularly those items strongly connected to doctrine, should be bottom-up and not top-down. In other words, business like this should be generated from the presbyteries not committees of the higher judicatories. It also points out that having it come as presbytery overture provides a path that allows assembly debate, amendment and perfection of the requests.

All this and more is on the table for the next three days. It should be an interesting meeting and a barometer, or maybe a Rorschach test, of where the PCA is at the present time. Be ready to read the tea leaves.

Our best wishes to the commissioners and leaders of the PCA General Assembly for this important meeting and prayers for your discernment the next few days. May the Spirit guide you in your work.

2017 General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Ireland

bushAt this point it seems a bit like juggling where you keep adding one more ball to the collection that are in the air. It started with the OPC General Assembly. Add the 143rd GA of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Today we add the next one…

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland convened their 2017 General Assembly in Belfast a little while ago with a worship service and the installation of the new Moderator, the Right Rev Dr Noble McNeely. The Assembly runs through Friday 9 June. With the meeting under way here is some info to help follow along:

  • The live stream is embedded in the main Assembly page and further down the page a few of the streaming highlights for the week and even further down a summary docket of report dates and times.
  • The special Wednesday evening program is themed “Everyday Disciples” – the new Moderator’s theme for the year – and will be live streamed. In addition, following the Assembly’s adjournment there will be the traditional Youth Night on Saturday evening, which will also be live streamed. It’s theme is “(UN) Faithful – A faithful God and His unfaithful people, lessons from Hosea
  • More background for the Assembly can be found on the Assembly Resources page and the reports coming to the Assembly can be viewed individually on the Reports Page or as a whole by downloading the Blue Book.
  • The polity documents include the main document, The Code, as well as the helpful A Guide to Assembly Procedure.
  • The News page will carry official press releases and news items including the pre-Assembly press release which contains a rundown of the major moments and business at the Assembly this year.

There are plenty of social media contact points for the Assembly, beginning with the official Twitter account @PCIAssembly which always provides a detailed and comprehensive report of the Assembly. Please note the comprehensive part, because the level of detail can make the feed very busy. This is generally a good thing but you have been warned that the number of tweets will be very high. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) The official moderator’s feed at @PCIModerator has become a great source as well. We will see if Rev. McNeely tweets during GA and how much he shares in his moderatorial year. (He does have an almost unused personal feed @mcneelynoble, but I don’t think we will see much there this week, or maybe even this year.) The official hashtag for the Assembly is #pciga17. And it is worth keeping an eye on the PCI Facebook page as well.

Other ministries of the church that have Twitter accounts are Presbyterian Women (@PWinIreland), Mission Ireland (@MissionIreland) and PCI Global Missions (@PCIOverseas). Fair warning that I have included the latter two only for the sake of completeness, but they have been dormant for a while.

The other set of social media contacts to keep an eye on are those related to the Youth Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. They can be followed at a couple of different Twitter handles including the Youth Assembly account for PCI SPUD (@pcispud), and the Youth and Children’s Ministry account @PCIYAC. They have previously hosted Fringe Events and you can watch their Facebook page to see what they might be up to this year.

My list of others to watch for interesting and useful updates always starts with outside reporter and insightful commentator Alan in Belfast (@alaninbelfast). He has indicated that he won’t be around the GA as much this year, but still worth keeping an eye on his feed. For those active in leadership in the church I would point to former Moderator Rob Craig (@RobCraig54) and Cheryl Meban (@cherylmeban) who is active with WCRC and PCI board leadership. So far there seems to be potential from Stuart Morrow (@stuart_morrow), Niall Lockhart (@BallyhenryPres) and Ballygilbert Church (@ballygilbert). And while the PCI does not send a representative to Edinburgh for the Church of Scotland GA, the Kirk Moderator is present at this Assembly and tweeting @ChurchModerator. Will update with others as appropriate. UPDATE: To this list I would add Peter Bovill (@peterbovill) as he had been actively contributing to the feed. And while I have not seen him on the GA feed, please note the recommendation in the comments below for ongoing comments about the PCI.)

In looking at the business of the Assembly a few reports caught my eye. One of these is from the Council for Congregational Life and Witness. In looking at fostering revival in the denomination they are presenting the goal as Fruitfulness and many of the actions in agricultural terms. For example, one of the action items is “Clearing the ground for fruitfulness – Asking the hard questions.” I am encouraged when the stage is set to realize there are no easy answers and that change, particularly rebuilding from a biblical foundation, is called for. A consideration that plays into this and which is mentioned in multiple reports is the decline in those training for the ministry. (see the Council for Training in Ministry report) Another interesting report is the on Relationships with Other Denominations which is Appendix 3 in the General Council Report (starting on the 107th page in the Blue Book). One of the denominations discussed is the relationship with the Church of Scotland and it’s trajectory (and that is the word used in the report). The report also contains the PCI position on human sexuality and marriage (page 114). And the report presents a possible path to work through the differences in the section titled Principles for Pursuing Mutual Reform. It will certainly be an interesting discussion.

As always, our prayers are with the Assembly and the Moderator for the work ahead and their discernment and guidance by the Holy Spirit. We look forward to following their work.

143rd General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Canada

Presbyterian_Church_in_Canada_(logo)We may be in the single busiest week of this year’s General Assembly Season – again with two live streams – and with one GA in progress now the second of the week, the 143rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, is just about to get started.

The first sederunt of the Assembly has just begin with worship and installation of the Moderator, and the meeting will continue through Wednesday 7 June, 2017. It is being hosted by the Presbytery of Kingston and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Opening worship will be at the church and the business sessions will be in the gym of the Athletic and Recreation Centre at Queen’s University.

A few things to know to help follow along:

  • There will live streaming of the Assembly meetings and they are typically archived afterward
  • From the GA 2017 page you can download the full and final Book of Reports. The daily schedule is found on page A-1 (the 5th page) of the packet and a more detailed docket begins on page C-1 (the 11th page in the packet). The Supplementary Reports is available there as well. Also downloadable from that page is a good Summary of Reports piece that gives an overview of the meeting.
  • Official news updates are available on the news feed. While we will miss the reporting from the Presbyterian Record, which ceased publication in December, we can probably expect follow-up after the meeting in the new PC Connect e-newsletter.
  • I anticipate there will be daily GA Briefings and probably video recordings of the sederunts posted regularly. The Briefings, a summary of each sederunt, will probably be are available on the GA 2017 page and the videos archived on the Live Stream Page.
  • The General Assembly Resources page is where you will find the important doctrine and governance documents including the Book of Forms and a link to the Acts and Proceedings page.

The theme for the meeting is “Yesterday, Today, Forever”, taken from the phrase in Hebrews 13:8.

The Assembly can be followed on social media through the PCConnect Facebook page and through their official Twitter feed @PCConnect. The hastag for the meeting is #pccga2017. The Presbyterian Record Flickr feed is still there but not clear it it will be updated. Let’s see if anything appears there or watch the Facebook page. UPDATE: Yes, there are pictures but they are on the PC Connect Flickr feed – sorry to overlook that in the original post.

In early Twitter action I would point to Jeff Loach (@passionatelyhis) (but he may be too busy at the front table) and Scott McAndless (@A_Nobel_Theme) who appears to be blogging the GA. I have not included some of the usual suspects as I don’t know their status but will update as things get rolling. UPDATE: A number of individuals with great Twitter feeds this week beginning with First Presbyterian Brockville (@first_kirk) who has a nice play-by-play going. Add to that, in no particular order, Matthew Ruttan (@MatthewRuttan), Jacqui Foxall (@JacquiFoxall), Kristine O’Brien (@bloomingrev), and Curtis Wilson (@CurtisWilson4). Thanks to all of you for your efforts on social media for the Assembly.

Again this year a closely watched item is the joint Committee on Church Doctrine (CCD) and Life and Mission Agency (LMA) report with the follow up from last year’s discussion on human sexuality. The 16 recommendations they are bringing can be divided into three general groups: 1) Two “substantive scriptural studies.” One leads to the conclusion that Bible supports the current stance of the subordinate standards; the other argues for a revision to the understanding concerning human sexuality and marriage in particular. These are presented for study and prayerful consideration. 2) Acknowledging that the members of the church have “consulted in good faith” this past year but “recognize that the church has failed to fulfill the resolution ‘to listen to and share the very real pain of homosexuals and their families’ that was adopted by the PCC in 1994 and failed in its call ‘to be a welcoming, nurturing, loving and supportive community.'” and 3) A proposal from the LMA to produce a new study on marriage but in the interim to allow clergy to bless, or not bless, civil marriages according to their conscience. Besides the reports volume there is a Guide to Understanding Reports about Sexuality. [Will automatically download a PDF.] Business related to Sexuality Overtures is docketed for various presentations and times of discernment throughout the days of the meeting and the recommendations and docketed groups are in the Guide linked above.

There are a number of other important business items at the meeting. Many committees and agencies will be reporting on their actions related to the new strategic plan approved by the last GA. The Committee on Church Doctrine will also be presenting a resource on Physician Assisted Suicide. A couple related reports deal with the review of the Pensions Plan and its solvency. An overture last year asked for a study to address the reasons for the decline of the church. In their response the Life and Mission Agency says “Decline is a complex issue and while we can speak in generalities, it is impossible to point to any one thing or factor the church must address in order to reverse the decline. In our current cultural context, all bodies of the church have a collective responsibility to equip the whole people of God to work towards renewal.” They go on and recommend ways to develop Visionary Leadership and Empowering People and Congregations for Ministry as well as recommend resources.

So prayers and best wishes for the members of the 143rd General Assembly and as they address issues so important to the future witness of the church. May you indeed by guided by the Holy Spirit in these substantive matters of witness and ministry.

84th General Assembly Of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church

210px-OrthodoxPresbyterianChurchlogoThe 84th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church will convene today, Wednesday, 31 May, in just a couple hours at Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois. The meeting will conclude no later than noon next Tuesday, 6 June.

This GA does not have live streaming but we usually have the next best thing: There is a tradition of very well done running daily reports for the OPC GA and expecting the tradition to continue watch this page when the assembly gets under way.

The agenda and reports are not posted on-line but you can access the Book of Church Order and the Standing Rules and Instruments of GA if you need background material. There is also a collection of reports from previous GA’s and it is possible that last year’s report on Republication might be the topic of some additional discussion this year.

The OPC has elected to keep a perpetual hashtag for their meeting (no sticking a year or GA number in there) so it should once again be #OPCGA. In terms of who to follow let me list the usual suspects and update once things get rolling.  The list would include Ryan Cook (@ryanlawdawg), “Toad” (@oldprinceton), and Rachel Stevenson (@whatshewrote). It is probably worth keeping an eye on D. G. Hart’s feed (@oldlife), maybe The Daily Genevan (@TheDailyGenevan) will have more, and @chortlesweakly has been commenting in the lead-up to the meeting. Will also include one of their denominational associations, NAPARC.

Since reports and detailed agendas are not available to anyone but the commissioners, it is difficult to highlight any particular business items that will be coming to the Assembly in advance of it being considered on the floor. I would simply pass along the blog post from Rev. Todd Smith at Faith Bible OPC, Brick, NJ, who mentions two items for his congregation to pray about. The first is a number of judicial cases and appeals that the Assembly will have to render judgement upon this week. As that is done in closed session we can expect to hear almost nothing further on that. The second is a concern for a denomination that they are in fraternal relations with which is considering changes to their ordination standards to include the ordination of women. I suspect we will hear more of that as the week progresses.

So prayers for the teaching and ruling elders of the OPC as they spend a week reflecting on what the Spirit is doing in their branch and their discernment of the future. May you indeed discern God’s will in your decision making.

2017 General Assembly Of The Church Of Scotland

Church_of_Scotland_LogoThe GA season is about to get busy…

Tomorrow morning the 2017 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will convene in Edinburgh for their annual week-long meeting. This is the mother church for us Presbyterians and while we now have a number of branches – the good old “split-P’s” – the Kirk can trace their Assemblies back to the original one in 1560.

So if you are interested in keeping track of the business and activities this year, here are the starting points:

  • There will be live streaming of the proceedings and you can connect to the stream appropriate for your device from the media page.
  • Most of the Documents pertaining to the Assembly are linked from the General Assembly Publications page. This includes the Proceedings and Reports volumes, known as the Blue Book in several different electronic formats including the traditional PDF as well as MOBI and EPUB formats for your eReaders. There is also a separate Order of Proceedings. The Daily Papers will contain late-breaking changes and are available on the Papers, minutes, letters, and speeches page. There is an option to subscribe to notifications of new documents being posted. In addition, there is a General Assembly App with versions for Apple iOS and Android.
  • Reports are also available individually from the Reports and minutes page.
  • If you need to refer to the documents about how they do this decently and in order most of those are linked from the Church Law page. This web page also used to have the useful “An Introduction to Practice and Procedure of the Church of Scotland” but it was being revised and seems to have disappeared. While dated, I have a copy of the 2009 Third Edition available from my Resources Site.
  • A brief order of the docketed events and reports can be found on the General Assembly 2017 page.
  • And from the media page there will be regular daily updates in print, audio and video if history serves. And as always, hosted by the Rev. Douglas Aitken.
  • UPDATE: There is also an official photo gallery of the Assembly

What we all want to know of course is how to follow along on social media and there will be no lack of that. You can begin with the Church of Scotland’s official Facebook page as well as the Facebook page for the National Youth Assembly.

On Twitter the starting point is the Kirk’s main feed at @churchscotland and the official hashtag #ga2017. There is an official account for the Moderator of the General Assembly, @churchmoderator, but during the Assembly we will have to see how much opportunity there will be to tweet. And the incoming Moderator, the Rev. Derek Browning, can be followed at his personal account, @DerekBrowning2. Similarly, the Church of Scotland Youth will likely be tweeting at @cosy_nya and the official account for the NYA Moderator, currently Andrew MacPherson, is at @NYAModerator. The church’s official publication, Life and Work, is also a good source for information on the web, on Facebook and on their Twitter feed @cofslifeandwork. In addition, while it is a personal account, you can follow the editor, Lynne McNeil, at @LifeWorkEditor.

I add to this list a semi-official account: I would expect the curated account Church Scotland Voices with weekly rotating contributors at @churchscovoices to be active at GA. And worth mentioning the Kirk innovative ministry incubator, Go For It (@GoForItCofS)

In suggesting personal accounts to follow, let me start with three past Moderators of the General Assembly. The first is the Very Reverend Lorna Hood who is always an interesting read at @revlornascot and has been very active the past few years with projects related to Srebrenica justice and remembrance and this past year has served on the Commission on Parliamentary Reform (@ParlyReform). The second is the Very Reverend Albert Bogle at @italker who has been getting some recent traction with the Sanctuary First ministry (@sanctuaryfirst) and whose charge is now related to online church. Finally, the Very Reverend Angus Morrison (@angusmorrison6) is an interesting and entertaining read and frequently tweets in Gaelic.

In suggesting other personal accounts let me begin with the Rev. Peter Nimmo of Inverness who is a member of the Church and Society Council (@ChurchSociety01) and always a good source of information at @peternimmo1. Others I regularly follow from the Kirk include Darren Philip (@darphilip), Alistair May (@AlistairMay), and Andrew Harris (@aharris2729) . Another who will probably weigh in, whether or not he is in Edinburgh, is Glasgow theologian Douglas Gay (@DougGay). Earlier this spring, in his three-part Chalmers Lectures, he presented some interesting ideas regarding the future of the church and how it might consider restructuring. I will update with more as the Assembly gets under way. (Well worth watching, by the way.)

UPDATE: Found that Peter Nimmo is now able to make the Assembly this year but still worth keeping an eye on his remote observations. Yes, @ChurchScoVoices is being curated by an Assembly commissioner, Scott Paget (@smpaget). Another interesting follow is Marc Falconer (@marcfalconer81) who is also blogging the meeting. And two others there an providing good insight and substantive updates are Louis Kinsey (@louiskinsey) and Paul Middleton (@DrPaulMiddleton).

Once again the Assembly will have its annual Heart and Soul festival on the Sunday afternoon of the Assembly week that will again be happening in Princes Street Gardens near the Assembly Hall. The theme of both the Assembly and the Heart and Soul event this year is “Word of Life,” a theme that has extended to the Assembly as a whole. It is reflected on the cover of the Blue Book and in advance of the meeting groups are encouraged to post a picture to social media with the hashtag #wordoflife. And again this year there will be link-ups with concurrent local Heart and Soul events throughout Scotland. The hashtag for the event will be #heartandsoul but it is worth noting that neither it, nor #wordoflife, are exclusive to this use. There are other fringe events throughout the week, including a public Speak Out event on Wednesday night in advance of the upcoming general election in the UK.

Concerning the business before the Assembly there is a nice summary of each report on the Life and Work site. Two items have hit the news in the days leading up to the Assembly. The first is the report of the Theological Forum, An Approach to the Theology of Same-Sex Marriage. The report presents the opinion that a theological basis does not exist to prohibit pastors from conducting same-sex marriages and recommends that the issue be sent to the Legal Questions Committee for action at a future GA. It also has as part of its deliverance to “Invite the Church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels and in different ways against gay people and to apologise individually and corporately and seek to do better.” The second item is a Joint Report on the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration. The document encourages all parties to work for a just peace in the region and recommends engaging with the Kairos Palestine document. While the report seeks to be balanced and honest about the history of the area, as with other statements about seeking peace in the area not all observers are positive about this report. The Theological Forum report will be the last one on Thursday and the Balfour Centenary is in the middle of the order of reports on Monday.

Lots of other interesting items coming up this year so have a look at the summaries. One that caught my attention is that the Assembly Arrangements Committee is planning to not just live stream the Assembly but to post the recordings for later viewing. The GA Junkies who, like me, are on the other side of the world thank you. [ed. note: And as a preview of coming attractions, I am seriously considering covering GA week in Edinburgh next year in person.]

So here we go as the busy part of General Assembly Season gets underway. There are more coming up in a couple days so there will be no shortage of options.

As for the Church of Scotland and all my friends there, and especially to the (almost) Rt. Rev. Browning, know that you have my prayers for your deliberations and public witness in the coming week. I look forward to watching every minute, even if by “tape delay.”

General Assembly Season 2017

It is May 1st – Already? We have once again returned to the date on my calendar that marks the beginning of the General Assembly Season. Where has the time gone?

This is simply the list – further detail will be necessary on a number of important and interesting items of business that will come before the GA’s this year.

As always, this is the line-up as I know it – I will update as I clarify additional Assembly and Synod meetings.

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62nd General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
18-21 April 2017

 

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Synod
The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia
2-4 May 2017
Mt. Druitt, N.S.W.

 

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Tasmania
16 May 2017 (begins)

 

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General Assembly
Church of Scotland
20-26 May 2017
Edinburgh

 

 

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General Assembly
Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)
22-25 May, 2017
Edinburgh

 

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General Assembly
Free Church of Scotland
22-25 May 2017
Edinburgh

 

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General Assembly
United Free Church of Scotland
31 May – 2 June 2017
Perth

 

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84th General Assembly
Orthodox Presbyterian Church
31 May – 6 June 2017
Trinity Christian College
Palos Heights, Illinois

 

Presbyterian_Church_in_Canada_(logo)143rd General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Canada
4-7 June 2017
Queen’s University
Kingston, Ontario

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
5-9 June 2017
Belfast

 

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213th Stated Meeting of the General Synod
Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
6-8 June 2017
Bonclarken
Flat Rock, North Carolina

 


45th General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in America
12-16 June 2017
Greensboro, North Carolina

 

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Queensland
18-22 June 2017
Fairholme College Toowoomba
Toowoomba
Note: The Presbyterian Church of South Australia will not hold an Assembly again this year and operates as a presbytery of PCQ

 

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142nd General Assembly
Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America
18-21 June 2017
Innisbrook Resort
Tampa, Florida
Concurrent with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church

 

cplogosmallwithtext200x200187th General Assembly
Cumberland Presbyterian Church
18-23 June 2017
Innisbrook Resort
Tampa, Florida
Concurrent with Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America


37th General Assembly
Evangelical Presbyterian Church
20-23 June 2017
Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church
Fair Oaks, California

 

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186th Synod
Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
28-30 June 2017
Indiana Wesleyan University
Marion, Indiana

 

 

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N.S.W. State Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Australia
in the State of New South Wales

3 July 2017 (begins)
Croydon, N.S.W.

 

NYA_0National Youth Assembly
Church of Scotland
21-24 July 2017
Stirlingshire
(Technically not a governing
body, but still an Assembly I track)

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81st General Synod
Bible Presbyterian Church
3-7 August 2017
Edmonton BPC, Edmonton, Alberta

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Victoria
9 – 13 October 2017

 

 

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Western Australia
27 October 2017

 

These are the ones that I am tracking at the moment. I will update as appropriate. If I have missed one, or have information wrong or incomplete, please provide the appropriate information and I will update the list.

And, to make the GA season complete here are two more items…

The first is the series of articles I wrote as an introduction to Presbyterian General Assemblies seven years ago. My GA 101 series consists of the following

GA101: Preface
GA101: Introduction – Why in the world would anybody want to do it this way?
GA101: Connectionalism – The Presbyterian Big Picture
GA101: The Cast of Characters – A score card to identify the players
GA101: The Moderator – All Things In Moderation
GA101: Where does the GA business come from? – Incoming!
GA101: Doing the business of GA — Decently and in Order

Yes, what started as a six part series expanded into seven completed articles with two more unfinished ones (still) in the queue.

And finally, on to the ridiculous. Lest we take ourselves too seriously, a couple years ago I had a little fun with the General Assembly and in the post passed along the GA drinking game and GA Bingo. In addition, Allan Edwards has posted an alternate Bingo card reflecting the polity of the Presbyterian Church in America and Neil MacLennan has created one that reflects the idiosyncrasies of the Church of Scotland. Please play responsibly. 😉

One other thing is that you may have noticed a new tab on the top navigation bar for a Calendar of Presbyterian and Reformed General Assemblies, Synods and Other Events. I have just begun to populate it but hope that within the week I will have most of the items in this post, plus a few more, entered into that calendar. It is an attempt to provide a resource for those times when someone asks about a GA date well before my May 1 date for publishing this list.

So GA Junkies, go for it. It is GA season so enjoy! May you have an exciting experience over the next few months of watching us do things decently and in order!

Moderator Designate For The Presbyterian Church In Ireland 2017 General Assembly

It is the first Tuesday in February and as I begin writing this the 19 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland are meeting to independently vote on the nomination of the Moderator for this year’s General Assembly. There are four individuals who have qualified for the ballot:

  • Rev. Brian Boyd B.Sc., B.D., who has served as the pastor at Kells and Eskylane for the last 25 years. Ordained in 1986 he has served larger church including as convener of the Alcohol and Drug Education Committee.
  • Rev. Tony Davidson B.A. (Q.U.B.), B.D. (Aber.) became the pastor of First Armagh Presbyterian Church in 1994. He has extensive experience with the larger church having been the convener of the Irish Church Relations Committee, Inter-Church Relations Board, Church Relations Committee, and the Nomination Committee most recently.
  • Rev. Charles McMullen, M.A., M. Litt., B.D. currently serves at West Church, Bangor, where he has been since 1999. His service to the larger church includes serving as convener of the Magee Fund Scheme Committee, National and International Problems Committee, and Global Concerns Committee.
  • Rev. Noble McNeely,  B.Ed., B.D. is the pastor of First Holywood Presbyterian Church, a position he has held since 1997. He has been extensively involved in local and church-wide panels and has served as the the convener of the Youth Education and Mission Committee, City Area Committee, Ministerial Studies and Development Committee, Board of Christian Training, and the Council for Training in Ministry.

As a side note, it is a good reminder that the Presbyterian Church of Ireland does span the whole of the isle and while the headquarters is in Belfast in Norther Ireland, Rev. Boyd’s parish of Kells and a previous parish of Rev. Davidson in Limerick are both in the Republic of Ireland.

So the presbyteries have voted and we can say…

Congratulations to the Rev. Noble McNeely, pastor of First Holywood Presbyterian Church who has been endorsed by 10 of the 19 presbyteries. (Picture from his church web site.)

Rev. McNeely was ordained at Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in Belfast in 1982 and before being installed at Holywood also served at First Ballymoney.

He grew up in Crossgar and holds an Education degree from Stranmillis College, with a specialisation in jewellery and silversmithing. From college he taught Craft and Design at Deramore High School (now Balmoral High) in Belfast for two years. He then continued on and earned his B.D. from Union Theological College in 1981.

An interesting note on his wife, Florence, who is a physiotherapist. This is a similar line of work in the caring professions to Claire Sellar, the wife of the current Moderator, who is an occupational therapist. (Probably jumped out at me since my wife is also a physiotherapist.) Noble and Florence have three adult children.

Concerning his nomination, the official announcement quotes him as saying:

I am sincerely humbled. I have served the wider church in a number of roles and I see my nomination as Moderator as another opportunity to serve Christ and His church.

At the same time, I recognise the responsibility that has been entrusted to me and I pray that with God’s help and the prayers of the Church, I will be able to fulfil expectations.

While we expect Rev. McNeely to take over the @pcimoderator Twitter feed, he does have his own @mcneelynoble which is not heavily used. In addition, I could not find one for First Holywood, but the Young Life group there does have a slightly used one at @YLHolywood.

I would note that Rev. McNeely was the strong favorite in the voting with the other thee individuals fairly evenly splitting the remaining nine votes. (Boyd – 3, Davidson – 2, McMullen – 4)

We look forward to hearing more from the traditional press conference tomorrow morning and I will add links here following that event.

UPDATE: The press conference got good media coverage and reports can be read in the Belfast Telegraph – including a post with video clip – as well as the News Letter. Topics reflected in the coverage include a call for politicians to build bridges between the sides and his view, consistent with the current position of the church, that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Our congratulations to Rev. McNeely on his nomination and prayers and best wishes as he prepares for the Assembly and for his whole moderatorial year.