With its recommendation for synod reconfiguration adopted, the Mid-Council Commission 2 (MCC-2) will be seeking ways to market the proposal prior to the gathering of the 221st General Assembly (GA) in Detroit, Mich.
During a three-day work session in Dallas, Texas, earlier this week, the 15-member panel finalized the recommendation that will reconfigure the current synod structure.
The plan calls for synods and presbyteries to restructure boundaries to reduce the number of synods from 16 to eight. Those changes are to be completed by the meeting of the 222nd General Assembly in 2016. If not, an Administrative Commission is to be formed by that assembly to assist in making the changes before the 223rd GA.
On the final day of its meeting the MCC-2 discussed promotion of the recommendation, which will go through some copy editing regarding grammar and punctuation, prior to submission to the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) by Feb. 14.
Ways to market the proposal
Their aim of delivering the message through multiple channels led to discussion of providing a YouTube video, speaking at presbytery and/or synod meetings and addressing the issue through various conferences, some of them taking place even after the GA June 14-21.
The Rev. Liza Hendricks , recently introduced as the transitional general presbyter for the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia, suggested speaking at presbytery gatherings scheduled between now and June as one way to promote the MCC-2 recommendation as well as addressing the matter at the Polity Conference scheduled for Oct. 19-21 in Louisville, Ky., noting that it still would be fresh on the minds of many who would be involved with making such a transition.
“If the GA passes the measure, we can piggyback discussions to help launch the process by making a presentation to engage others in the conversation,” she said.
At various intervals during the MCC-2 conference, executive and stated clerk for Synod of Mid-America Landon Whitsitt recorded footage of panel members speaking about the recommendation that he plans to turn into a video that explains what is being suggested and why.
“The idea is to produce a video, to put our faces in front of the (PCUSA) church and essentially tell the story of how we got to this place,” Whitsitt explained. “It will let people know about the report and that those who put it together can be trusted. It will show that our work has been intentional and done with faith.”
The commission also noted the use of social media and various media outlets such as Presbyterian News Service (PNS) to promote the recommendation.
It all will be done to “generate positive momentum,” said Redwoods Presbytery Ruling Elder Ariel Mink, who serves as co-moderator of MCC-2 along with the Rev. Byron Wade of New Hope Presbytery.
The commission also authorized Mink and Wade to call on other panel members and take appropriate steps to organize the presentation that will be given at GA.
The Homestead overture
Marketing the recommendation and having a plan for presentation during the given time on June 15 could prove to be pivotal for passage of the measure by the General Assembly, especially with an overture seeking consultation before possible reorganization of synod or presbytery boundaries already on the table.
Homestead Presbytery, part of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies in eastern Nebraska, has approved an overture (Ovt 28) asking the 221st GA to respond to any plan for comprehensive reorganization of synod or presbytery boundaries by encouraging presbyteries, either individually or jointly to consult with their synod and surrounding presbyteries regarding what functions are appropriate within their respective synod and whether boundaries of their synod or any of the affected presbyteries should change to meet the needs of congregations in the affected region, pursuant to sections G-3.0403c and G-3.0404 of the Book of Order.
The rationale for the overture indicates that presbyteries and not the General Assembly first created synods, and it is reasonable that decisions regarding the appropriate functions, operations and boundaries of synods are best left to the affected presbyteries and synod(s).
The overture makes note that there is widespread recognition that the needs of presbyteries and congregations vary greatly and there is not a “one size fits all” way to address those needs. It also indicates that any functions reduced or eliminated for synods have to be handled by presbyteries, hence the desire to have presbyteries initiate any needed changes in their regions rather than having the GA determine a solution for the church as a whole.
A move made to better the future
MCC-2 members expect that there will be some opposition to the recommendation they are proposing but they are hopeful that it will spark discussion about an appropriate structure to use going forward.
“Folks who are opposed to this report ought to be encouraged to engage in discussion if our report creates an appropriate synod structure for the 21st century or if there is a better way to do it,” Scioto Valley Ruling Elder Jim Wilson said.
This is not the first time there has been a call for changes in the structure of synods. A recommendation for the elimination of synods as ecclesial bodies brought by Mid-Council Commission 1 was voted down by the 220th GA in 2012, prompting the formation of MCC-2 to further discuss, refine and bring recommendations to the 2014 GA meeting that consider the composition and organization of mid-councils.
The Rev. Eileen Linder, of Palisades Presbytery, referred to the passage of Scripture from Joshua 3:5 when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River in observing rationale for making such a recommendation.
“We’re not doing this just because we like rearranging the deck chairs,” Lindner said. “I think this is a way to consecrate ourselves, to be ready, able, acceptable and in a position to receive the wondrous things the Lord will do.”