From the Gallery: Some Actions of 211th GA (1999)
Report and Commentary by Presbyterians Pro-Life
Posted August 20, 1999
Prior to G.A., renewal groups agreed to hold up the Great Ends of the Church as an objective standard for assessing the significance of the business before the G.A. as well as for desired outcomes, believing the welfare of the Church goes beyond our own personal preferences. On that basis, the following items of business are emphasized.
The church's moral stance in regard to problem pregnancies and abortion
The Moderator election
The General Assembly Nominating Committee process and the Permanent Judicial Commission election in particular
Challenges and opportunities related to the constitutional stance of the Church on sexuality
Revised Form of Government (of the Book of Order)
Women's ministries program area
Ecumenical relationships in the form of COCU
Efforts to control the business coming to General Assemblies, and how decisions of G.A.s are carried out
Other decisions that may be of interest
The church's moral stance in regard to problem pregnancies and abortion
PPL supported four initiatives to this Assembly, and opposed one recommendation coming from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) (on mergers involving Catholic hospitals). The four initiatives dealt with a definition of "policy," withdrawal from The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), adoption, and rewriting the sexuality curriculum. The outcome on the curriculum is reported below under the subject of sexuality.
Ovr 99-43 (Missouri Union) on defining "policy": The Assembly disapproved the overture, leaving denominational offices the option of determining policy on any matter through interpretation of G.A. statements and resolutions over many decades.
Ovr 99-44 (Donegal) on RCRC: The Assembly disapproved the overture calling for PCUSA to withdraw membership in and financial contributions to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Ovr 99-45 (Donegal) on adoption: The overture was approved as amended [the amended version was essentially the wording recommended in the advice & counsel memorandum from denominational advocacy and advisory committees]. The effect of the amendments were to redirect requests from an active to a passive mode on adoption, by removing wording that would have actively led toward adoptions of older and difficult to place children.
The amended version overtures the PCUSA
to take specific steps to encourage Presbyterians to become more involved in providing foster care and/or adoption of children with special needs who currently reside in Presbyterian-related children's homes or other foster care facilities and to provide support for foster and adoptive families, taking at least the following measures:
1. Direct and equip with the necessary resources already existing entities within the denomination, namely the Child Advocacy Office and the Presbyterian Child Advocacy Network to:
a. Make available a list of Presbyterian-affiliated children's homes with populations of children eligible for adoption;
b. assist in making known to Presbyterians the availability of those children for adoption and the needs of older and special needs children in foster care through presbytery newsletters, Internet pages, and local church communication networks.
c. assist in bringing prospective parents together with children eligible for adoption;
d. encourage local churches and presbyteries to offer support for church members building their families through adoption of older and special needs children;
e. make known the availability and the process for obtaining a Shared Grant offered through the presbytery and the Board of Pensions in cases where financial needs can be relieved.
f. develop and cultivate resources within the PCUSA to support and prepare families receiving older or special needs children into their families.
2. Direct the already existing entities within the PCUSA to share information with special organizations or groups of Presbyterians that have a ministry commitment to adoption and that Presbyterians be encouraged to establish programs to encourage adoption in cooperation with local social services.
Recognize that Presbyterian-affiliated children's homes have served and continue to serve many children who are not appropriate for adoption or who are in need of temporary placement outside of their homes, and that the PCUSA continue to financially support these important ministries of the church.
Report # 25.194-196 (related to hospital mergers): Direct the Presbyterian Washington Office to respond to legislative proposals that would erode access to reproductive services for women and men . . . [ the request that came to the assembly committee stated "access to a full range of reproductive services," but the committee amended it to "access to reproductive services" and the amended version was approved by the GA]
CR 99-15, on implementing the 1992 abortion policy, was introduced by commissioner Zolton Phillips who served on the task force that produced the 1992 abortion policy and signed the majority report. The CR expressed dismay that the policy has not been properly implemented. The CR was referred by the Assembly to the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.
(See 210th GA Report on Implementation of the 1992 Abortion Policy)
The Moderator election
Freda Gardner was elected by the 1999 General Assembly as Moderator. She was a skillful moderator at the Assembly; she exhibited patience and humor and should be credited with clarity in the process. As Moderator, Ms. Gardner will appoint members of the General Assembly Nominating Committee, and the moderators and vice-moderators of each of next year's General Assembly committees. She will serve automatically on the General Assembly Council for three years.
Ms. Gardner attended the Voices of Sophia (VOS) breakfast at G.A. after her election. A woman pastor observer at the breakfast reported on the Voices of Orthodox Women (VOW) webpage Moderator Gardner's account of waking on election day with every woman's dilemma of what to wear. "So I asked Sophia--Sophia, what should I wear? And she [Sophia] said, Pants!'" The observer continued,
Moderator Gardner then went on to thank VOS for their support. She acknowledged that when her name was first put into nomination, "Voices" called her with glad congratulations, and immediately said in effect, "Freda, we can come up close and personal during your campaign, or we can stay back." The future Moderator regretfully accepted "Voices" gracious offer to stay out of her public image. But now she could joyfully say--with her arms outstretched-- "Come close!" ...What this means, of course, is that we now have a Moderator, who represents our denomination worldwide, who embraces Sophia.
The continuing influence of G.A. Moderators on the Church after the Assembly ends makes that election a crucial matter.
The General Assembly Nominating Committee (GANC) process and the G.A. Permanent Judicial Commission (GA-PJC) in particular
Ordinarily one-third of the members of the GA-PJC are elected for six-year terms every two years. This year resignations increased the number being elected to seven of the sixteen-member commission. No information regarding the GANC slate was available prior to the opening of the G.A. Three nominations from the floor (which the GANC refers to as "challenges") offered commissioners any choice about whom they would elect. In the cases where GANC nominees were not challenged, the only information provided about the candidates on which voting could be based was name, gender, racial/ethnic classification, age range, presbytery, synod, and clergy/elder status. Nominations from the floor required 24 hours advance notice. Therefore, unless the name was properly submitted at least 24 hours before the election and met the selection criteria, there was no choice but to elect the GANC's candidate.
Since the Book of Order requires the PJC to be composed of ministers and elders in numbers "as nearly equal as possible," one from each synod (D-5.0101), if the GANC's candidate is an elder, the OGA required that all challengers for that position be elders. Because the slate was not released until the Assembly, one challenger who would have been a clergy challenging an elder was disqualified.
This year, when a GANC-endorsed candidate was challenged by a nomination from the floor, one three minute nominating speech was allowed followed by one three-minute speech for the GANC nominee. This rule was proposed by the Stated Clerk's office, adopted by the Bills & Overtures committee and then accepted by the body as a whole. Commissioners were warned that the speeches could only elaborate on the strengths of the nominee and could not raise questions about or point out shortcomings in the opponent. Questions from the floor by commissioners regarding nominees' experience on judicial bodies were not answered, since questions were ruled not to be in order
Challenger Christopher A. Yim defeated the GANC's candidate Albert G. Butzer, III by a vote of 270 to 241. The two other challenges failed.
Summary: The GANC is a Moderator-appointed body. The committee brings a slate of candidates for the PJC, one nominee for each synod in which a vacancy is to be filled. The slate of candidates--even whether the candidate for each synod is a minister or an elder is secret until after the G.A. begins. No information is provided about the candidates unless there is a nomination from the floor. Nominations from the floor must match the GANC nominees elder to elder and clergy to clergy. A floor nomination form must be completed and submitted 24 hours prior to the election and the candidate must have given consent to run. Questions about the candidates are not allowed.
Arguable conclusion: The General Assembly is allowed to know little or nothing about the people it elects.
Challenges and opportunities related to the constitutional stance of the church on sexuality
The General Assembly received several overtures related to sexuality.
Overture 99-46 on rewriting the sexuality curriculum
Overtures 99-56, 34, 73, and 64 on conversion therapies for those tempted by or engaged in homosexual behavior
Overture 99-74 on the feasibility of providing benefits from the denomination's pension and benefits plan to same-sex couples
Sexuality curriculum: an amended minority report was approved (items were approved on the floor to amend significant portions). The final action read that the G.A.
1. reaffirms to the churches of our denomination its commitment to biblical standards of sexuality and marriage;
2. the current sexuality materials be used and that the GAC and CMD be instructed to rewrite and revise the material in light of our concerns for our biblical and constitutional standards and reformed tradition;
3. that the revised materials should place emphasis on abstinence and sexual purity in all materials, teaching God's forgiveness in Christ to all who repent and reflecting the official PCUSA stand on sexual behavior;
4. directs the GAC and CMD to see that the Scriptures that are related to topics in the material be printed in the corresponding places in the curricula;
5. directs that revisions consistent with recommendations 2, 3, and 4 above be accomplished and reviewed for compliance by the GAC prior to any reprinting of the curriculum, and report to the 213th General Assembly (2001).
(See 210th GA Report on Youth Sexual Purity)
CR 99-1 (study & adopt strategies for decreasing hate, harassment, and discrimination against homosexual persons in society) answered by action taken on overture 99-64
Ovr 99-56 (New York City) in response to this overture, that the 211th GA (1999) approve the following:
The 211th GA (1999) affirms that the existing policy of inclusiveness welcomes all into membership of the PCUSA as we confess our sin and our need for repentance and God's grace. In order to be consistent with this policy, no church should insist that gay and lesbian people need therapy to change to a heterosexual orientation, nor should it inhibit or discourage those individuals who are unhappy with or confused about their sexual orientation from seeking therapy they believe would be helpful. The PCUSA affirms that medical treatment, psychological therapy & pastoral counseling should be in conformity with recognized professional standards.
The 211th GA (1999) directs the Stated Clerk to communicate this decision in a pastoral letter to all ministers of the Word and Sacrament, clerks of session, and presbytery and synod stated clerks, and to national and international ecumenical bodies of which the PCUSA is committed in covenantal relationship through the formula of agreement, and with COCU.
Ovr 99-34 (Detroit) answered by the action taken on overture 99-56
Ovr 99-73 ( Prospect Hill) answered by the action taken on overture 99-56
Ovr 99-64 (Western Reserve) "approved and referred to GAC to be accomplished through its existing budget." [on the floor they deleted from the end of that sentence "and further that the GAC be instructed to include representatives of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered population in carrying out these directives" and in item 9 they extended the categories in the overture besides "gay or lesbian" to include "victims of race, color, national origin, religious, sexual orientation, gender, or disability."
G-6.0106b (fidelity and chastity amendment to the Book of Order) challenges
Ovr 99-2 (Milwaukee) The committee recommended approval of this overture to remove G-6.0106b from the Book of Order. The adoption of this overture or either of the other two overtures (99-27 and 99-30) would have required another round of votes by presbyteries. When the committee's recommendation came to the floor, the GA instead approved the minority report which stated:
In response to overture 99-2, that the 211th GA (1999)
1. Instructs the Stated Clerk to make available to all presbyteries, sessions, and interested Presbyterian groups resources that assist in the development of conferences and discussions on "The Nature of the Unity We Seek in Our Diversity," within the Presbyterian polity and theology;
2. Declares that overture 99-2 be answered by action on this motion; and
3. Directs the Stated Clerk to recommend to the 212th GA (2000) that all business related to G-6.0106b be referred to the 213th GA (2001), so that the study and dialogue can be completed.
Ovr 99-27 (St. Andrew) answered by action taken on 99-2
Ovr 99-30 (Philadelphia) answered by action taken on 99-2
Pension and medical benefits for same-sex couples
Ovr 99-74 (Twin Cities Area) same-sex couples benefits was amended, then disapproved. (...to request the Board of Pensions to explore the feasibility of implementing the policy of the church by providing lay employees who are members of the benefit plan and members of same-sex couples in long-term committed relationships the same benefits accorded to married couples, and to report its findings to the 212th GA )
Revised Form of Government (of the Book of Order)
The Advisory Committee on the Constitution (ACC) task force report offered three options to the G.A., two to continue their work in some form and one to end the project. Alternative Number 3 was approved as amended:
It is the will of the 211th GA (1999) that this project be ended, the Advisory Committee on the Constitution recommends that
a. the Foundational section of the draft revision of the Form of Government be referred to the Advisory Committee on the Constitution for revision and submission to the 212th GA (2000) for consideration as a study resource and
b. The Advisory Committee on the Constitution be discharged of the 1993 and 1997 referrals [to prepare the drafts that came to this GA]
Women's Ministries Program Area
This denominational office includes Women's Advocacy, Presbyterian Women (PW), and the National Network of Presbyterian College Women (NNPCW), among others. It is the office that awarded Women of Faith awards to lesbian Presbyterians Jane Spahr and Letty Russell this year. All three recipients are supporters of the ReImagining movement. This program area is lodged in the National Ministries Division (NMD) of the General Assembly Council (GAC). The director of NMD rescinded the awards. The executive committee of the GAC met by conference call and restored the awards. The full GAC, meeting in Fort Worth prior to the General Assembly, voted to uphold the executive committee's decision by a one vote margin (40-41). That is surely a vote of no confidence.
NNPCW (National Network of Presbyterian College Women) 20.049 and others:
the committee report was approved as amended. The amendment added "by the NNPCW" and "with NNPCW consultation" in the item below:
--instruct the NNPCW that the resource material "Young Women Speak" not be reproduced and that new discussion resources be developed that conform to the biblical and confessional standards of the PCUSA, while recognizing a balanced representation of the opinions of other Christians; that this material be developed by the NNPCW in conjunction with three persons appointed by the National Ministries Division, with NNPCW consultation (a Reformed theologian, a biblical scholar, and a specialist in curriculum development)
Ovr 94-42 (Huntingdon), to defund the NNPCW, answered by action taken on the report.
(See index of NNPCW-related articles)
CR 99-2 on review of Women's Ministry Program Area referred to the GAC with comment, and to report back to the 212th GA (2000).
Comment: That the regular review of the Women's Ministry program area be completed by the end of February including a review of the theological balance of programs and materials.
Because the GA has a responsibility to . . . superintend the agencies . . . necessary for its work, . . . (BOO G013.0103h) and to warn or bear witness against error in doctrine . . . (BOO G-13.0103p), the 211th GA (1999) of the PCUSA, [it]
1. instructs the Executive Committee of the GAC to establish a fact-finding committee that would be composed of members of the General Assembly Council, excepting anyone representing organizations associated with the Women's Ministries program area or the National Ministries Division, to look into the concerns and questions raised in this commissioners' resolution;
2. instructs the fact-finding committee to invite representatives of the Women's Ministries program area and the national Ministries Division, as well as all other interested Presbyterian individuals and groups, to present factual information related to concerns and questions regarding the advocacy and program activities of the Women's Ministry program area, including but not limited to those mentioned in this commissioners' resolution, and the conformance of said advocacy and program activities to Scripture and the Constitution of the PCUSA;
3. instructs the OGA to create a commissioner committee to focus on this issue at the 212th GA (2000) to receive the report of the special fact-finding committee, including all of the information submitted to it by GA entities, other groups, and individuals;
4. instructs the commissioner committee to review the report, hear testimony from groups, individuals, entities, and those that have submitted materials to the fact-finding committee, and make recommendations for action to the full assembly meeting in Long Beach, CA in the year 2000.
Ecumenical relationships related to COCU
Report #40.001-.007 Churches Uniting in Christ (COCU renamed)
40.002 PCUSA "agrees to enter into new relationship to be called Churches Uniting in Christ' " (CUIC abbreviation pronounced "quick")
40.005 will send sections 3 and 4 of Report of Eighteenth Plenary of the Consultation on Church Union as a "Received Statement of Ecumenical Guidance" to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes. The new structure will be inaugurated in January 2002 if other denominations are willing to join. If others do not approve it, we voted to maintain a "continuing relationship." Presbyteries will be asked to approve the "Visible Marks of Churches Uniting in Christ, which includes "Scripture and Tradition" in items 1 and 4. Item 9 specifies "continuing structures" to be established for "holding churches mutually accountable to the commitments they have made." The roles of bishop and ruling elder, as well as the nature of the "structures" to be established will be decided later. (40.006 GA also approved the "Call to Christian Commitment and Action to Combat Racism" which was adopted by the Eighteenth Plenary.)
33.011-.013 created a General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations, with members elected at this GA. The Stated Clerk was instructed to add a new section to Standing Rule E stating the purposes, functions, and composition of this committee.
Efforts to control the business coming to General Assemblies, and how decisions of G.A.s are carried out
Non-commissioners: There were 125 G.A. staff, 525 elected members, 300 middle-governing body staff, and 40 theological staff at the Assembly, for a total of 990--more than the total number of observers (900). They outnumber voting commissioners almost 2:1 (there were 560 commissioners this year).
Nominating Committee slate: There is no reasonable explanation for why candidates for office are not known until after the G.A. meeting has begun, or for why so little information is available to commissioners regarding the candidates. G.A.s are electing people for important offices whom they do not know.
The Office of the General Assembly:
for the first time, this year organized the reports so that Advice & Counsel material from advocacy and advisory committees was filed with the official Assembly business to which they referred, making them more prominent than in the past and giving them the appearance of official status. In more than one instance the material was put forth in committee as if it were the only proper response to the overture or recommendation. These are not documents of information; they are advocacy, and they constitute undue influence on the committee process.
in one case at least, sent commissioners back three times to rewrite their commissioners' resolution on the Women's Ministries Program Area. The demands of the OGA staff constituted interference with commissioners' right to submit resolutions. Commissioners have only 24 hours to submit their resolutions and the OGA gave the impression that they were determined to keep rejecting the resolution until time ran out. Commissioners persisted and finally met the deadline.
rewrote the minority report from Church Orders and Ministry in response to the committee's recommendation of overture 99-2 to remove G-6.0106b from the constitution. The Stated Clerk's office insisted that wording be added to the minority report to say that the reason overtures on this subject would be referred so that the dialogue and "study" could be completed. Not all members who signed the minority report agreed with that addition, and at least one asserted that there was no substantive discussion of "study" during the committee meeting. It is a requirement that "the moderator of the committee shall affirm in writing that the positions expressed in a written minority report were presented to the whole committee during its consideration of the matter...."
Both Bills & Overtures and the G.A. Procedures committee tend to deal with the rules and processes that affect what business gets to the Assembly, how it gets there, and how it is treated once it arrives. This year we saw actions both in and outside that committee that have important ramifications for the Church.
For example, the Assembly begins by allowing debate speeches of three minutes in length and no limits on the time for reports. It has been typical in recent years to save the most substantive business until late in the Assembly. It is also typical to limit debate and time as the Assembly progresses. This year, debate speeches had been cut in half to 1-1/2 minutes by the end. A motion by Bills & Overtures to limit reports to 20 minutes per topic was rejected by the Assembly, but ordinarily commissioners, exhausted by long days, agree to any limits suggested. (When the 1-1/2 minute limit per speech was proposed there was an amendment that since commissioner time was decreased 25%, time for the various presentations from the platform also be decreased by 25%. That amendment motion failed and the 1 ½ min limit passed.) This year the Assembly finished its business early in spite of refusing the time limit on reports. Further limitations on the power of commissioners which, perhaps unknowingly, the Assembly accepted, were:
Report #12.039 amended standing rule B4a to delete the sentence, "The member presenting a motion or submitting a report has a right to close debate."
#36.003 Directed the OGA to make maximum use of the consent agenda in planning the docket for the plenary sessions. (This is probably referring to a consent agenda of items to be approved by the assembly in plenary that do not go through the committee. Although permission was given several years ago that not all business would have to be referred to a committee, this was the first year business went directly on a GA consent agenda without committee consideration. These were mostly approvals of responses to referrals. The Stated Clerk announced in plenary that there were 300 or 400 items approved that way during the first plenary session this year, without being reviewed by a committee.
#36.006 Directed the OGA to report to the 212th GA (2000) a proposal that would authorize committees of the GA to take final action on certain items of business and report the action to the plenary session, thereby providing a greater amount of time for deliberation of the plenary session.
#36.007 Directed the OGA to support the continuing study of the feasibility of biennial meetings of the GA and provide funding to GA through the Council of the Assembly, if approved, no later than January 2001.
Other decisions that may be of interest:
Committee 2. GA Procedures
36.005 Directed all agencies of the General Assembly to work with the OGA in its efforts to reduce the volume of business to come before the General Assembly.
Restructuring--Amendments are being sent to the presbyteries to implement the new structure. The GAC would be renamed the Mission Agency (MA). It would keep its current membership two years, then downsizing would be considered. The COGA (Committee on the General Assembly) would be renamed COA (Council of the Assembly). It would consist of 21 members: 9 commissioners from GA (3 from 99, 3 from 98, 3 from 97), 3 GA moderators (from 99, 98, 97), 5 elected representatives (elected by and representing "mission agencies") and 1 each from the other 4 organizations (Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program PILP, Board of Pensions BOP, Presbyterian Church Foundation PCF, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation PPC). The sample organizational chart showed COGA and part of GAC functions related to staff of OGA and Stated Clerk. The new chart shows only COA related to staff of OGA and Stated Clerk, with Mission Agency in the "programmatic & corporate" section along with PILP, BOP, PCF, PPC.
Approved GA meeting in Sacramento June 11-18, 2005.
Committee 3. Church Polity
12.068B all constitutional amendments sent to the presbyteries last year were approved.
12.053 & others: Will send to presbyteries changes in Rule of Discipline so that two PJC members are designated to review any petition for review of the procedures of the investigating committee. The two would not participate in the PJC decision.
16.008-.009 question on per capita: "If churches refuse to pay their portion, does the presbytery have the responsibility to pay the full amount irrespective to the specific collection from churches, as long as funds are available within the presbytery?" The ACC recommendation "that the 211th GA (1999) answer this question in the affirmative" was approved.
Amendment to the Book of Confessions: Final GA approval was given to strike the current text of the Nicene Creed and insert the contemporary version.
Committee 5. Church Orders & Ministry
12.068a commissioners encouraged to actively promote "The Nature of the Unity We Seek in Our Diversity" conferences to be held over the next two years.
CR 99-17 was approved with amendment and comment. Amended item 2 reads:
2. encourages presbyteries or groups of Presbyterians to include the "Historic Principles, Conscience and Church Government Policy" in the local conferences on the Nature of the Unity We Seek in Our Diversity.' Comment: Although not all on the committee agree with the rationale given for the resolution, we would like "Historic Principles, Conscience and Church Government Policy" available as a resource for conferences on "The Nature of the Unity We Seek in Our Diversity.
CR 99-18 was approved with amendment. Amended item 3 reads: "urge each session to convene at least one meeting open to their congregation and all other interested persons to discuss and consider the issues addressed by the Dialogue." (the reporting aspect was deleted on the floor)
Committee 8. Christian Ed & Curriculum Publishing
CR 99-14 on Promise Keepers was disapproved. It read:
1. commends the organization known as the Promise Keepers for its Christian witness to men in our denomination;
2. challenges Promise Keepers to take up, in addition to its current promises, the challenge of combating all forms of discrimination against women as a witness to biblical equality;
3. instructs the Stated Clerk to communicate this resolution to the congregations of the PCUSA, to Presbyterian Men, and to the leadership of Promise Keepers
Committee 9. Theological Issues & Institutions
Overture 99-24 (Book of Order revision to require inclusive language about God to be used in worship) was disapproved
Committee 11. Mission Coordination
20.040 and others: revised Manual of Operations/Manual for Mission was approved (and reflects new structure)
Committee 12. Mission Budgets
Ovr 99-22 (Utah) Request for additional funding for the Washington Office was disapproved.
Committee 13. On Life in a Global Community
"Building Community Among Strangers" was approved for with some amendments
Committee 15. Pensions, Benefits & Presbyterian Publishing
29.034 Robert W. Maggs Jr was confirmed as president of the Board of Pensions without any questions or opposition in committee or on the floor. It had been publicized before GA that he is an elder at Third Presbyterian, a More Light church in Rochester, NY. He told the committee that when his family moved to New York they joined Third Pres, which has been the church of his wife's family for more than 100 years, that his 2 children were baptized and confirmed there, 1 was married there, and a grandchild was baptized there. He is reported (Layman story) to have said he has no opinion on sexual practices and ordination standards or on same-sex "holy unions" and would have to study them before forming an opinion.
CR 99-6 (resolution critical of including Lay Committee in Presbyterian Publishing Corporation's "Pipeline series.") "That the resolution be disapproved with comment."
1. Understanding that the 1993 GA deliberately established the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation as a separate Corporation, it is inappropriate for the Assembly to micro-manage the decisions of the Board of Directors of that Corporation.
2. Through the "Pipeline Series," the PPC has offered to advertise, catalog, warehouse, and fill orders for special organizations within the PCUSA or other organizations composed primarily of Presbyterians. PPC does not endorse the materials produced by any group but only provides a retail service.
3. The resolution as written places the GAC in the role of critic of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and PPC in the role of defender of the Presbyterian Lay Committee These are not desirable roles for either the GAC or the PPC. Further, the resolution excludes the Presbyterian Lay Committee from the consultation.
(A minority report hostile to the Lay Committee was proposed which would stay implementation of any business arrangement with the Lay Committee until after a review this year followed by action by the 2000 GA) (Debate did not adequately explain the difference between the committee and minority reports. The vote to substitute the minority report for the committee report failed by 260 yes to 263 no. The committee report then was approved 330 yes to 189 no.)
There was a lot of apprehension about this Assembly going in. Perhaps it is accurate to say that the causes of apprehension were contained, but much is deferred to the future.
The presbyteries will not be asked to vote on a change to G-6.0106b this year--but apparently Milwaukee Presbytery has said they will send their overture every year to delete that paragraph from the Book of Order.
There was a successful challenge to the PJC nominations, but the effect on the rulings by that body is still to be seen.
The attacks on conversion therapy were deflected this year, but the Gospel's power to change lives is clearly a stumbling block to those who seek to normalize homosexual behavior.
There is a call for the youth sexuality curriculum to conform to biblical and confessional standards but a future G.A. will have to judge whether that call is answered faithfully.
There will be an investigation of the Women's Ministries Program Area that will require the participation of Presbyterians who want to see change in that arena, and follow up at the next G.A.
A lot of potential good for the church was accomplished by this year's G.A. But many of the outcomes still lie ahead of us and will require vigilance and perseverance. We must continue to develop initiatives and strategies for continued reform and renewal of this denomination. The work has just begun.
A final note regarding observers at the Assembly. One very active and effective commissioner this year commented on the help he received before and during the Assembly that he felt made him much more effective in this unfamiliar role of G.A. commissioner. He said he was reminded of the story of David's pursuit of the Amalekites after they burned his city of Ziklag, plundered it and kidnaped the women and children. Three hundred of David's men stayed with the baggage, as the others engaged the enemy, recovered their goods and rescued the captives (1 Sam. 30). David declared that those who stayed with the baggage would share equally with those who went ahead into the fight. The commissioner compared that event to those who cannot engage the Assembly in debate and voting, but who serve behind the lines. It is true. There is a host who serve as "baggage carriers" at the Assembly and give invaluable support to commissioners, some in serving food and moving chairs, and many with their prayers. We need to thank God for those who come willing to offer themselves to the most menial tasks in order to make a team work at G.A.
And we need to thank God for those who come and give testimony to committees. That simple, sometimes only a one-minute witness, can be significant in raising issues and helping shape commissioners' thinking on the business before the Assembly.
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