The 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is fast approaching and on Thursday, members of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) received a briefing on the preparations that have been made for the eight-day event.
The assembly’s theme will be “The Hope in Our Calling” from Ephesians 1:18 and will be held June 18-25, 2016 in Portland, Oregon
Thomas Hay, associate for assembly operations for the Office of the General Assembly, began his update reminding the committee that this assembly will be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the denomination’s Confession of 1967.
One of the phrases from that confession, said Hay, “has been on my heart: ‘In each time and place there are particular problems and crisis through which God calls the church to act.'”
Hay said that “This seems to be an assembly at a particular time in the church … and I think it will be one that responds with action.”
The General Assembly will include:
- 594 commissioners
- 152 Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADS)
- 20 Theological Student Advisory Delegates (TSADSs)
- 8 Missionary Advisory Delegates (MADs)
- 15 Ecumenical Advisory Delegates (EADs)
Hay said that along with the Bills and Overtures Committee, there will be 12 other committees doing the work of the assembly. The committees and some of the business they will debate include: (General Assembly business can be found on the pc.biz web site.)
- GA Procedures — per capita and standing rules
- The Way Forward — reviews of the PMA and OGA; overtures considering merging the OGA and PMA; the overtures from Foothills Presbytery
- Mid Councils — business dealing with synods
- Church Polity/Ordered Ministry
- Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
- Middle East Issues — recommendations on both divestment and non-divestment and the reports from the Middle East Task Forces
- Immigration and Environmental Issues – considering action on U.S. immigration and international refugee issues; business on the environment and climate change
- Mission Coordination – this is GA lingo for “budget”
- Social Justice Issues – this will likely include recommendations from presbyteries on social movements like “Black Lives Matter,” business from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness policy and task forces on criminal justice reform, U.S. drug policy, tax reform.
- Peacemaking and International Issues – ongoing concerns about war in the Middle East and religious persecution globally will likely arise. Overlap with Immigration and Environmental Issues committee is expected.
- BOP, PILP, PPC, Foundation — Board of Pensions, Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, Presbyterian Publishing Company and the Presbyterian Foundation
- Theological and Church Growth Issues and Institutions — The revision of the Directory of Worship; redefining marriage and other calls for theological reflection on who we are and what we are as a church.
Hay said that the Riverside Conversations — a pre-General Assembly event which at past assemblies were discussions of business before the General Assembly — would instead this year be a part of COGA’s Church-wide Conversations, an effort to the members of the denomination to talk about the identity and purpose of the PCUSA.
During the first plenary session of the assembly, Moderator Heath Rada will give his report on his “Call to the Church,” a new moderator will be elected on the first night of the assembly and the final vote on adding the Belhar Confession to the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions is planned for Wednesday afternoon. This assembly will also elect a new Stated Clerk to replace Gradye Parsons who has announced his intent to retire following the GA.
Hay said that a small group from the OGA has been asking how to connect Belhar with the Confession of ’67. A representative of that group said that C’67 talks about the brokenness and racial division in society and Belhar speaks of racism in the church. Both speak to the church and wider society.
She said there are plans to “invite people from different communities to tell their story on how the church became a perpetuator and mediator in racism.” Those stories would be connected with a portion of C’67 or Belhar considerations and then the assembly would have prayer.