The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is receiving an interim mission work plan that needs General Assembly approval before implementation. Presbyteries have sent more than 50 overtures for GA consideration. The opportunity to apply to serve as the next stated clerk of has passed. The Advisory Committee on Social Witness policy is finalizing reports with recommendations and candidates are emerging for the office of moderator. It must be time for us turn our collective attention to the 222nd General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to be held in Portland, Ore., June 18-25, 2016.
Calendaring toward Portland
Working “back” from the June 18 start date, here’s the proverbial lay of the GA business landscape:
- 120 days is February 19 – this is the deadline for “reports” (which come the assembly from special committees, task forces, advocacy committees as well as the six agencies of the GA). This is also the deadline for overtures that seek to change the Constitution. Those overtures must be submitted by at least two presbyteries, which pushes the timeline “up” for the originating presbytery because they will need another presbytery’s concurrence prior to the 120-day deadline.
- 60 days prior is April 19 – this is the deadline for overtures with financial implications. Those overtures must also be submitted by at least two presbyteries, which pushes the timeline “up” for the originating presbytery because they will need another presbytery’s concurrence prior to the 60-day deadline.
- 45 days prior is May 4 – this is the deadline for “communications” (which may be directed to the G.A. from several sources, must be postmarked to the Stated Clerk by the 45-day deadline, but this form of business is often not known to commissioners prior to the Assembly). This is also the deadline for overtures with no financial implications and that do not seek to amend the Constitution. Those overtures must be submitted by at least two presbyteries, which pushes the timeline “up” for the originating presbytery because they will need another presbytery’s support prior to the 45-day deadline.
What will this year’s GA be like?
The OGA would like to make the Assembly a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Confession of 1967 combined with the inclusion of The Belhar Confession in the denomination’s Book of Confessions but financial and organizational stress are likely to dominate. The identity and purpose of the PCUSA and therefore, its mission, strategies and organizational configuration, are all being reconsidered by 222nd GA.
This General Assembly will not only elect a new moderator and stated clerk, but will act on several proposals for the consolidation of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly in an effort to right-size the structure as the denomination continues to constrict numerically. Although the statistical report for 2015 is not expected to be released until just before the GA in June, the reality of churches being dismissed, dissolved and disaffiliated cannot be ignored. The GA may also fill the PMA Executive position vacated by Linda Valentine in July 2015. Tony De La Rosa is currently serving as the Interim Executive Director.
Overtures: This is just the second time around for the required concurrence process for submitting overtures to the General Assembly. It is different from “the way we’ve always done it” but having done it this way in 2014, no one can actually protest that “we’ve never done it this way before!” This is now the way we do it.
While more than 50 overtures have already been received by the Office of the General Assembly for consideration by the 22nd G.A., it is expected that fewer than 50 overtures might make it through the gauntlet to the assembly.
Without question, the majority of business for the GA will originate from advocacy committees, entities and agencies of the General Assembly itself. In addition to business expected from PMA, OGA, The Board of Pensions, Foundation, Presbyterian Publishing, and the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, there will also be business from the:
- Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy
- Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns
- Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns
Now is the time to:
- Familiarize yourself with resources from the Office of the General Assembly and PC-Biz.
- Familiarize yourself with and participate in your presbytery’s process for electing commissioners. Once your commissioners are identified, share that information with those who share your perspective on the matters before the assembly.
- Download and familiarize yourself with the Standing Rules, Guidelines and Policies, and Organization for Mission for the 2014 G.A.
- It is likely too late to initiate an overture at the session level, but you might consider working toward a concurrence by your presbytery with overture(s) from other presbyteries as all overtures now require the support of at least two different presbyteries to be heard by G.A.
- Become equipped to participate by utilizing sites like: www.gahelp.net
- Pray ardently, regularly and specifically for the 222nd meeting of the General Assembly.
Editor’s note: The Presbyterian Lay Committee looks forward to covering the 2016 GA in Portland. Comment here, send us a message on Facebook or Tweet us and let us know you’ll be attending. The week of the assembly watch our nightly video reports on Layman.org