From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 07:32:50


                         by Alexa Smith 
DALLAS--Listening sessions will be held at the end of each General 
Assembly Council (GAC) meeting this year. 
     That decision was made by the council's executive committee 
Jan. 6 after a lengthy discussion on how major church policy 
questions get discussed -- particularly in settings that risk 
becoming contentious. 
     The committee's decision effectively canceled a planned Jan. 
20 gathering of General Assembly staff members and leaders of the 
Presbyterian Renewal Network (PRN), a coalition of 13 self- 
described "renewal" organizations in the church. 
     PRN had proposed an agenda for the gathering that included 
conversation about two network-produced papers: "Homosexuality and 
the PC(USA)" and "PHEWA and PW versus Renewal Groups and the 
PC(USA)."  PRN also proposed the denomination's moderator reflect 
on presentations built around the two case studies. 
     The new listening sessions are to include General Assembly 
staff, GAC members and any individuals and groups who wish to 
participate.  The council will review the effectiveness of the 
listening sessions at year's end. 
     "These are hearings ... no implied promise of action of any 
kind," said executive committee member the Rev. D. William McIvor 
of Spokane, Wash., who argued that a "general invitation" prohibits 
"self-selected" groups from obtaining any kind of privileged status 
for policy conversations. 
     GAC executive director the Rev. James D. Brown told the 
executive committee it may be problematic to meet with some 
coalitions "because pressure is applied [by them]" while "others 
in the church are not invited" in on the conversation. 
     Brown said, too, that reconciliation efforts under way now 
with the Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) focus on some of the same 
concerns PRN has raised -- and the PLC is part of the Renewal 
     Leadership of both the PRN and denominational staff met for 
prayer and conversation during a meal last fall as part of the 
network's semi-annual meeting.  At that time the Jan. 20 date was 
     But Brown told the executive committee the Staff Leadership 
Team (SLT) had "become uneasy" about the "quasi-governance" tone 
of the proposed January agenda and said he believes the church's 
elected leadership needs to participate rather than just staff. 
     Executive Committee member Richard M. Schlobohm of Mill 
Valley, Calif., said there is not a better way to "alienate staff" 
than to invite groups to "castigate" them -- and that to "openly 
consider effectiveness of staff" in such gatherings goes outside 
denominational personnel policies. 
     "It's got to be a civil, or Christian, gathering," he said. 
     The Rev. Cliff Kirkpatrick, director of the Worldwide 
Ministries Division, said he did not believe the primary intention 
of the network is to press staff issues.  But, he cautioned, "it 
is a very slippery slope" when conversations about staff get under 
     Moderator the Rev. Robert W. Bohl said the alternative of an 
open forum is "much healthier" because it does not cater to one 
constituency and does not allow any one group to assume a quasi- 
governance stance. 
                         # # # 

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  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
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