From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:59:00


                       by Jerry Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--After several years that have featured spirited debates on 
highly charged social issues--such as abortion and human sexuality--the 
207th General Assembly (1995) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seems 
poised to devote the bulk of its attention to the denomination's 
     Included in the 700 items of business on which the 574 elected 
commissioners will be asked to vote are: 
     * A major revision of the Rules of Discipline, the constitutional 
policies and procedures that determine how disputes, instances of disorder 
and allegations of wrongdoing are adjudicated in the church courts. A key 
new element of the rules encourages the use of mediation and/or 
conciliation as an alternative to formal judicial process. 
     * A new "call system" for matching church professionals seeking jobs 
with congregations and other employing church agencies seeking pastors and 
staff members. The new system, replacing one that has been in use since 
1972, is designed to reduce the amount of time it takes to fill vacant 
positions, simplify the paperwork required to fill positions, and encourage 
career development of church professionals. 
     * A recommendation that administrative fees be deducted from all 
designated gifts to the denomination's mission budget. Currently, 
administrative costs of handling all contributions are absorbed by the 
unrestricted portion of the General Assembly budget, a portion that is 
     * A series of constitutional amendments that will enable the 
denomination to implement its participation in the Church of Christ Uniting 
(COCU) "covenant communion." The amendments would create the offices of 
"representative bishop" and "representative elder" to facilitate 
Presbyterian cooperation with other COCU churches that have bishops and do 
not have ordained elders.  If approved by the Assembly, the amendments go 
to the presbyteries for their vote.  A majority of presbyteries must vote 
to approve the amendments in order for the changes to become part of the 
"Book of Order." 
     *Creation of a subsidiary corporation that will sell Certificates of 
Deposit to Presbyterians, the proceeds from which will be used to fund a 
greatly expanded program of new church development and church 
redevelopment.  Similar programs in other denominations have generated as 
much as half a billion dollars for such causes. 
     * Election of a committee to conduct a quadrennial review of the work 
of the General Assembly Council (GAC), the 68-member elected body that 
oversees the programmatic work of the denomination between General Assembly 
     * Election of a search committee to find a successor to General 
Assembly stated clerk the Rev.  James E. Andrews, whose third and final 
four-year term concludes next year. A new stated clerk will be elected at 
next year's Assembly. 
     Despite the heavy concentration of internal matters, commissioners 
will have a number of mission program and social concerns to consider. 
     A major policy paper on the theology of Christian vocation and issues 
of work in the United States will be back before this General Assembly 
after being referred to the their Advisory Committee on Social Witness 
Policy for more work by last year's Assembly. Commissioners concluded the 
paper was too complex and too pro-labor. The reworked paper outlines 12 
principles for attaining what it calls full, fair, sustaining and 
participatory employment and includes a host of recommendations for how the 
church, government, business and labor can implement them. 
     Following on the heels of the wildly successful "A Year With Africa" 
mission emphasis, the GAC is recommending that the next geographical focus 
be on Latin America.  "A Year With Latin America" would commence in 1997, 
after a year of study and preparation by Presbyterians.  The Africa 
emphasis is scheduled to conclude with next year's Assembly. 
     Revitalization of U.S. urban areas and the role of the church in inner 
cities is the subject of a special report, "Urban Strategy to the Year 
2005." The report calls for a vast network of information sharing, linkage 
with other community-based and religious organizations and stepped-up urban 
ministry training for pastors and lay leaders. 
     The Assembly will also be asked to approve "Call to Healing and 
Wholeness," a special report that suggests ways to implement recent 
health-care policy statements adopted by previous General Assemblies. The 
paper recommends that the Assembly designate the first week of April each 
year as "Health Awareness Week" in the church. The Presbyterian Church 
(U.S.A.) has long advocated universal access to health care for all 

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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