From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Review Committee Abandons Biennial General Assembly

Date 04 May 1996 15:27:15


96085       Review Committee Abandons Biennial General Assembly 
          Proposal; Seeks Increased Representation, Management Study 
                      by Jerry L. Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--With just one more meeting scheduled before its reporting 
deadline of April 1, the General Assembly's Committee on Review (CR) worked 
feverishly here Feb. 22-27 to nail down its recommendations to the 208th 
General Assembly this summer in Albuquerque. 
Annual Assemblies, but with restricted business every other year, 
     After finding virtually no support for biennial meetings of the 
General Assembly except among national staff members, the committee is 
poised to recommend that the Assembly continue to meet annually -- but with 
a new wrinkle. 
     The committee voted unanimously to recommend that in even-numbered 
years, beginning in the year 2000, "no more than two working days will be 
devoted to ecclesiastical matters on which commissioners must vote."  The 
rest of those Assemblies would be given over to worship, mission education, 
theological reflection, leadership development and the building of trust 
and unity in the Presbyterian Church. 
     Business in even-numbered years would be restricted to the election of 
the moderator and members to serve on General Assembly-level entities, 
approval of budgets, judicial matters and the report of the stated clerk. 
"There would be no committees -- all business would be done in plenary as a 
committee of the whole," said Jean Elliott of the Synod of The Trinity, who 
chaired the work group that developed the recommendation. 
   No restructuring proposed; representation changes suggested 
     After spending considerable time discussing Overture 95-74 (from 
Western Colorado Presbytery), the committee decided not to propose any 
restructuring of the General Assembly entities. It also decided not to 
propose that members of General Assembly-level entities be elected directly 
by presbyteries. 
     In its rationale, the committee outlined the lengths to which it has 
gone to solicit input from throughout the church about the need to 
restructure and concluded that "the restructuring suggested in Overture 
95-74 is not in the best interest of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)." 
     By unanimous vote (with one abstention), the committee recommended 
that presbytery representation on the GAC be increased by replacing the 
existing 25 at-large slots on the Council with presbytery slots.  The 
additional presbytery slots would be added immediately, with the at-large 
slots phased out over the next three years as those terms expire.  Such a 
move would increase presbytery representation on the Council to 50 seats. 
     The General Assembly Nominating Committee (GANC) would be preserved. 
Presbyteries would be asked to submit three names to the GANC, from which 
one would be proposed for election by the General Assembly. 
     The CR is also proposing that 15 at-large seats be added to the 
Council, raising its membership from 72 to 87 (once the current at-large 
slots are phased out in favor of increased presbytery slots) in order to 
give the GANC the needed flexibility to fulfill the inclusiveness 
requirements of the "Book of Order." 
     To further strengthen the sense of participation and representation by 
governing bodies in General Assembly entities, the committee is 
recommending that all persons put forward for service on Assembly-level 
entities be appraised by their governing body of membership; that, when 
elected, they be formally commissioned by their governing body; and that 
provision be made for them to formally report back to their governing body. 
     The committee also is proposing that more than 500 subcommittee and 
task force appointments that are now handled directly by GAC-related 
entities be made part of the GANC nominating process. CR chair Jay Poppinga 
of the Synod of the Northeast noted that the GANC processes 315 nominations 
"while these other 521 persons involved in making or executing General 
Assembly policy go through no nominating process at all."  Poppinga said, 
"This is a situation that needs to be corrected."  
     The motion to recommend pulling those appointments into the formal 
nominating process passed unanimously. 
      Outside consultant to conduct management study sought 
     Mindful of several conflicts that continue to plague Assembly-level 
operations (see other stories in this issue of "NEWS BRIEFS"), the 
committee voted 12-1 with one abstention to recommend that an outside 
consulting firm be employed "to study all aspects of the Office of the 
Executive Director of the General Assembly Council (GAC) and the Corporate 
and Administrative Services (CAS) Office of the GAC." 
     Noting that some of the conflicts are between the GAC and other 
Presbyterian Church entities (except the Board of Pensions), the 
recommendation asks that the study include an examination of the 
relationships of the executive director's office and CAS with the 
Presbyterian Foundation (PF), the Office of the General Assembly (OGA), the 
Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) and the Council's three ministry 
     The Rev. Robert Nicholson of the Synod of Alaska-Northwest said, 
"There's something deep down so radically wrong that people feel like 
things are constantly in a crisis mode." 
     The CR is proposing that a five-member committee -- comprised of the 
elected chairs of the Foundation board of trustees, the PPC board, the 
Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, the GAC and the Board of 
Pensions, with the pension board chair as chair of the committee -- hire 
the consulting firm, receive its report and make recommendations based on 
the report to the General Assembly. 
Committee sides with Congregational Ministries on curriculum responsibility 
     The committee voted 11-1 to recommend that "the entire curriculum 
enterprise of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) be lodged in the 
Congregational Ministries Division (CMD) of the GAC." 
     In its rationale for its recommendation, the CR noted that both the 
Presbyterian Publishing Corporation and CMD agree that their current 
partnership to develop, produce, market and distribute curriculum "is not 
viable beyond 1996." 
     The CR rationale concludes: "Providing curriculum materials in the 
final analysis is a ministry of the denomination for its congregations. 
Therefore, it should be under the sole control of the GAC, and...of the 
GAC's CMD." 
             Elevation of role of theology advocated 
     Though the specifics of its proposal have not been completed, the 
committee will propose a more prominent office of theology and worship in 
the denominational structure.  The Rev. Robert Lorimer of the Synod of 
Lincoln Trails told the Presbyterian News Service, "We need to elevate the 
theology department so that our mission follows our theology." 
     Betty Moore of the Synod of South Atlantic concurred.  "Theological 
hunger is an overarching concern in the church today and has historically 
been an overarching umbrella for the work of the whole church.  A more 
prominent office of theology will lift the visibility of the importance of 
theology in the whole life of the church." 
     The committee also approved a recommendation from its work group 
addressing theological matters, chaired by Lorimer, to "call the church to 
a year of prayer, confession and self-examination...." 
     Lorimer said Presbyterians "must reclaim their faith by returning to 
the source documents for such a task -- the Bible, the  Book of 
Confessions,' and the  Book of Order.'"  They are, he said, "readily 
available to all Presbyterians." 
                  Other proposals going forward 
     Numerous other proposals are being brought forward from the CR to the 
General Assembly. Among them are recommendations to 
        establish a nine-member Committee on Governing Body Relationships 
"to create and nurture partnerships between the General Assembly and middle 
governing bodies 
       develop a "staff-in-residence" program whereby a General Assembly 
staff person would be assigned to a presbytery that requested such a person 
"to help facilitate/broker GA-level resources to the local level 
       expand the consultative process whereby middle governing bodies are 
involved in the development of the General Assembly mission budget 
       conduct a systematic review and evaluation of every General 
Assembly-level program "at least every two years."    

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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