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General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R13-6/25/2016)

Well, here it is the final day of the 222nd General Assembly.  The praise band has been marvelous in providing an uplifting start to each of the plenary sessions.  The upbeat music has lifted our spirits and provided a reason to be joyous.  Even those of us who are banned from the choir can hum along and feel like we are a part of the harmony.

Following the opening worship service the only remaining matter of business was to approve the budget for 2017 and 2018.  Since the commissioners had approved some additional expenses for the next two years there will be a change in the per-capita tax each church pays to keep the denomination functioning.

A motion to further trim the budget was rejected and the commissioners voted decisively to approve a per capita apportionment rate of $7.33 or $7.50 per active member for 2017 including .17 cents for new Financial Implications, and a rate of $7.55 or $7.73 to be effective for 2018 including .18 cents for new Financial Implications. 

Once this final piece of business was completed the hall was prepared for our last worship and communion before returning to the real world of Christian service.

The service had a Korean flavor from start to finish.  The choir, though small, completely filled the assembly hall with their voices.  Each person took communion by intinction after which they were presented with a small ceramic dove tile to commemorate our Portland experience.

Friends, sisters and brothers in Christ that is the conclusion of these commentaries.  From the Oregon convention center it was back the airport and then a four and a half hour flight back to Atlanta and “normal” life once again.  And yes, either you need to have a personality disorder to work for TSA or else they transferred the Atlanta crew out to Portland for our return.

 Bob_Lukat_and_Lauren_Patrus

My first ever “selfie” taken with Lauren Patrus, a Theological Advisory Delegate before leaving






General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R12-6/24/2016)

Thursday’s plenary session opened with a worship service at 8:00 am and finally closed at 11:30 pm.  The session on Friday was only a little better.  The plenary session was opened at 8:00 am with a worship service and adjourned at 11:20 pm.  Even with this “early” adjournment we did not get back to the hotel until midnight.  My roommate, Eric, decided that he wanted to talk about the day’s events, so we finally got to sleep about 2:30 am.  With the Saturday plenary beginning at 9:00am the night’s sleep was somewhat short of the deep-rim sleep that is needed to feel refreshed.  The manifestation of this sleep deficit is that my notes from Thursday contained two errors!

               First, our retiring Moderator’s name is Rada not Radar.  I did not realize that my spell-check had “corrected” my spelling incorrectly.  Second, in the last action it should read with NOT concerning doing business with entities involved with human slavery or child labor.  I apologize for these oversights.

               After the opening worship service the first order of business was to elect a new Stated Clerk for the General Assembly.  The GA nominating committee had conducted an extensive national search for the new Stated Clerk.  The nominee was challenged by the Stated Clerk from the Tampa Presbytery.  The commissioners voted by a four-to –one margin to elect J. Herbert Nelson as the successor for Gradye Parsons as our Stated Clerk.

New_stated_clerk_-_Nelson 

J. Herbert Nelson, newly elected Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian ch (U.S.A.) and his wife Gail

 

 

             



Celebration and good wishes for both the newly elected and retiring clerks dissolved into the business session of the Friday plenary.  It soon became evident that I was not the only commissioner with a sleep deficit or were having a problem following the intricate details of parliamentary procedure.  From time to time one might think that the individual speaking was addressing an issue covered earlier in the GA.

 

Among the actions taken by the majority of the commissioners were the following:

1)      The official name of Teaching Elders was changed back to Minister of Word and Sacrament.

2)      Changes to the manner of electing the Moderator of the GA were rejected.

3)      Changes to the BOO relative to renouncement of jurisdiction were rejected’

4)      The GA decided not to require more than a simple majority for approving changes to the constitution.

 

In a couple of moments of good sense the commissioners took the following actions:

1)      Voted NOT to boycott Hewlett-Packard products.

2)      Voted NOT to completely divest stocks and investments in fossil fuel companies, but to retain enough investment to influence the Boards of Directors of these companies to be more environmentally responsible.

3)      Voted to continue to promote the two-state approach to the Middle-East conflict without endorsing or condemning either Israel or Palestine so that peace-making efforts can continue.

When the plenary session was finally adjourned at 11:20 pm Associate Stated Clerk, Tom Hay revealed that Gradye Parsons had won the staff pool predicting the time for adjournment.  Apparently, there was substantial staff amazement that this General Assembly had been able to complete the business of the GA prior to midnight.

As part of our registration we were given tickets for both a group lunch and a group dinner on Friday.  Now I understand their wisdom in doing so.  If the commissioners had been allowed to go out for lunch or dinner they may not have returned for the subsequent plenary session.  The make-your-own burrito lunch was pretty good, but the vegetarian flautas for dinner left an empty spot in the vicinity of my stomach.  Thank goodness for our Stated Clerk Donna Wells.  She graciously slipped a large supply of candy into our group seating area to sustain us until the plenary was adjourned.


General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R11-6/23/2016)

     Thursday was a day of many surprises and events, some exciting and good, some not so much.  The first event is that I now have a roommate.  Eric Beck from Los Angeles came into Portland to replace a commissioner who fell on her way back to her hotel and broke her arm and was pretty badly injured otherwise.  The accident must have occurred on the walk from the transit station to her hotel.  Eric was available to become her last minute replacement and now he and I are sharing a room.  It is now not so lonely at night…well there are two queen sized beds in the room!  Now there is someone to talk with about what has transpired during the day.

 

     Yesterday was incredible in so many ways.  To begin everyone wore T-shirts celebrating mission activities that were part of their home church’s ministry.  My red T-shirt from mission week was one of the brightest.  I did notice that some of the shirts had a bit of age on them (one shirt was from 2007).

 T-shirt_day

 






     The toughest part of the day was that the plenary session began at 8:00 in the morning and did not adjourn until 11:30 last night.  That means that we did not get into bed until after midnight and the festivities commence again at 8:30 Friday morning!  With the amount of business that still remains on the docket Friday’s plenary session could easily be a repeat of Thursday (Booo, Hisssss).

     The current Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Gradye Parsons, is retiring this year.  His service for the last eight years was celebrated and he was presented gifts commemorating his service.  Each day there has been a special recognition for him and his family.  His replacement will be elected on Friday morning.

Stated_Clerk_-_GA 

Gradye Parsons, who is noted for his collection of bobble-head figures, received on of himself to join his collection.

 

 




     Depending on your perspective, the session Thursday could generate concerns.  I will attempt to offer as neutral a commentary as possible.  The significant aspect of deliberations yesterday and on Friday is money.  The denomination cannot undertake any new programs or activities without either diminishing or terminating another activity, reducing the number of employees, or increasing the denomination’s per-capita tax.  The impact is that most of the actions approved were “symbolic” in nature, but not without impact.

 

The five committees business handled on Thursday were the following: GA Procedures, Mid-Councils, The Way Forward, Mission Coordination, and Social Justice.  Among the actions approved included the following:

1)      Necessity of all entities adoption of child abuse and dependent individual’s protection policies.

2)      Backed away from wholesale restructuring of Synod restructuring.  While approving changes in some Synod, particular some Western Synods.

3)      Organized two very important commissions.  The first commission is to vision what the church will look like in future years.  This is to be done in view of the demographic survey conducted by the former Moderator, Heath Radar.  (This survey can be accessed on the General Assembly website under “When We Gather at the Table”)  The second commission is charged with a shorter term mission of looking into the problems that exist between and within the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency.  All of the overtures relative to restructuring were declined in preference to the formation of these two commissions.

4)      The motion to spend $5,000,000 to assist young black men was modified to eliminate the money but to attempt to achieve the goal anyway.

5)      The GA voted to issue apologies to two communities for injustices, discrimination, harm, and other injuries inflicted on them by the church and members of the church.  These two groups are the Native Americans (both American Indians and Alaskan natives) and the LBGTQ community.

6)      The denomination decided they would do business with any entity that is involved in human trafficking or slavery.

 

Friday is promising to be yet another long and contentious day of debate.


General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R10-6/22/2016)

Business got under way today in a major way as the General Assembly met in its 4th plenary session.  This session turned into a history-making experience.  The action taken during this session successfully expanded our constitution by adding the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions. 

 This process began when the last GA voted to send the Confession to the churches for study and consideration.  Once 2/3 of the Presbyteries voted for approval the Confession had to have final approval by this GA in order to become a part of our Book of Confessions.  Since all the previous steps had been completed, all that was necessary was this final vote.  The GA voted overwhelmingly in favor, accompanied by much singing, praying, and celebration.  We were fortunate to hear comments from two church leaders from South Africa including Alan Boesak who along with Desmond Tutu led the opposition to apartheid during the 1980s.

speakers

Alan_Boesak

 




Photo of assembly following vote and address by Rev. Alan Boesak, close-up of Rev. Boesak

 


 

 


The other major event from this session was the approval of a major revision to our Book of Order (BOO).  This portion of the BOO has only been revised twice before in 1960 following the reunion of the Northern and Southern Presbyterian Churches and in 1989 since its first adoption in 1789.   For the last several years a taskforce has been dedicated to revising the worship portion of the Book of Order.  Most people probably do not know very much about this portion of our BOO.  This section is sandwiched between the governance and discipline portions of the BOO.  The section of the governance portion is designated by the letter G preceding the section number.  The section of the discipline portion is designated by the letter D preceding the section number.  The entire worship portion is designated by the letter W preceding the section number.  A couple of the significant revisions include a shortening of the length of the section by more than 9,000 words.  The other revision is in the organization that brings together the theology and practice portions of the former worship section together, whereas they were separated previously.  The electronic version of the BOO will include hyper-links to reference materials and video examples to provide additional clarity of issues relative to the theology and practice of worship.

 The GA also voted to endorse as “fact” the theory of evolution.  Several commissioners including this one pointed out that science accepts theory as valid only as long as the last experiment validates the theory.  All it takes is one experiment or observation to prove a theory incorrect, but our denomination has chosen to ignore this liability inherent in every theory.

 Other actions taken passed 13 other overtures, denied one overture, and via the consent agenda at the beginning of the session passed 56 other resolutions and overtures.  This sounds like a lot of progress, which it is, but there is a ton more to be some…a lot of which is quite controversial.

 It is late and tomorrow will have three separate sessions of business.  It will be a colorful day as each commissioner will be wearing a T-shirt celebrating mission work that is going on in their congregation.  I will be sporting a mission week T-shirt from last year, since this year’s shirts did not arrive in time for my departure for Portland.  As Dianne Hooten pointed out, the shirt does not have a date on it so I can claim it is completely current.  Hope mission week is going well for everyone’s participation.


General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R9-6/21/2016)

Tuesday was the final day for committee meetings.  There was the customary Bible study to begin the day.  Our committee approached the study on a participatory basis.  Different individuals were asked to conduct various portions of the study time.  As you can imagine when you have 40 people gathered together there is going to be a diversity of style and interpretation…boy, were there differences!  The passage we studied was from Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas split up over John Mark.  Several times I had to refer to the passage to be sure we were still talking about the same subject.

 

After the Bible study we heard a report from the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (PILP).  Even though the report was a typically dry executive summary type report, the programs being offered to churches, presbyteries, and individuals were really exciting.  For most of the people in attendance the programs were previously unknown.  We even had a few people who made appointments to talk with one of their representatives to take advantage of their investment opportunities.

 

After lunch the committee met again to exchange impressions of the committee experience and identify some of the things that they would be taking away from the assembly to share with their churches at home.  The final activity was to celebrate communion together.  With so many teaching elders around the room this was not a problem.

 

The best part of this day has been an afternoon—about 2 ½ hours--without a meeting commitment.  That means most commissioners will be able to get a good night’s sleep before the plenary session tomorrow.

 

The absolute highlight of my day was a 30 minute conversation that nearly cost me my lunch break.  One of the volunteer couples that were present to assist those who had a “lost” look asked me if I needed assistance.  First I was amazed that they thought I looked lost, but I asked them how well they knew Portland.  It turns out that they are from the far reaches of the Presbytery and knew little about the city of Portland.  They turned out to be very well grounded in Oregon and we had a lot in common.  The husband loved my “Five Finger” Vibram shoes.  He also sported a full beard and shoulder-length hair.  It turns out his daughter-in-law earned a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in microbiology and worked at Emory as a professor for several years before joining them here in Oregon.  They had visited Atlanta many times and we had been to many of the same places and restaurants—he even knew where Morrow was located.  Yes, I did grab a fast burger and got back in time for the afternoon committee meeting.

 Looks like the real fun will begin tomorrow.


General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R8-6/20/2016)

      Monday and Tuesday are devoted to committee meetings for each of the 14 committees to conduct the business assigned to them.  Committee 13 is charged with the oversight of the Board of Pensions (BoP), the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC), the Presbyterian Foundation (Foundation), and the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (PILP).  Monday was the day we heard reports from the PPC, Foundation, and BoP and handled any items of business relative to these three agencies.  On Tuesday the committee will concentrate on the PILP.

     The day began with a 30 minute worship service that was refreshing for the mind and the spirit.  This inspiration would soon wane as we sat through a total of nine hours of reports, video presentations, discussions, Q&A, and a bad case of “fanny fatigue.”  The only excitement came from a commissioner resolution brought by an unhappy commissioner who had been a former member of a charitable organization in New York who was attempting to hold the Foundation responsible for not properly executing its fiduciary responsibility.  This individual had failed twice before the church’s permanent judicial commission and twice before the New York attorney general’s office.  He also failed before this committee.

Committee_13 

View of Committee 13 meeting room.  The empty chair at lower center is where

Bob Lukat is usually located…awake and more or less alert.

 

     The committee is made up of 40 individuals who are one of the following: teaching elder commissioners (the most vocal), ruling elder commissioners (like me), youth advisory delegates, theological advisory delegates, missionary advisory delegates, or ecumenical advisory delegates.  A large committee like this is truly a different environment from what most people get to experience.

     Fortunately, our committee does not have to deal with any heavy or controversial issues.  From what I have heard the committees on Middle East Issues (#8) and Social Justice Issues (#11) had to cut their lunch and dinner times short due to their debate.  There was also some uncertainty as to whether they would be able to adjourn before midnight.

     This commissioner is looking forward to getting to sleep early tonight so that no one will catch me cat-napping during tomorrow’s sessions.


General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R7-6/19/2016)

     Sunday began in a rather conventional manner as I got up and dressed for church, but today I did not have a Sunday School class to teach.  As I mentioned earlier, I was invited to attend Covenant Presbyterian Church in Gresham, OR.  We were met at the convention center by a volunteer from the congregation who ushered us onto a bus for the trip out to Gresham.  The commissioners who attended the worship service increased the size of the choir by 7 members and the congregation by about 50%--I did not volunteer to sing in the choir.  Following the worship service we were treated to a fantastic lunch and a complimentary copy of the church’s cookbook.  The bus returned us to the convention center in time to change clothes and prepare for the 2:30 plenary session.

Covenant_PC_MarqueeCovenant_PCWorship_at_Covenant

    












Lunch_at_Covenant_PC
Lunch_at_Covenant_PC








Scenes from the worship service and lunch at Covenant PC


The time prior to opening the plenary session was filled with music from a very talented praise band that I hoped would be setting the tone for the afternoon session.  Then they introduced two ecumenical delegates to the convention—one a Jewish rabbi, the other a Moslem Iman.  As they addressed to General Assembly it was obvious that neither was interested in a resolution to the conflict in the Middle East on terms different from their own expectations.  Not only was the Presbyterian Church accused of planning to take action injurious to their point of view, but the other entity was blamed for the problems between them.

      Fortunately following this stressful “interlude” we were treated to two very upbeat reports, one from the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) and the other from the Board of Pensions (BoP).  The PMA report promoted the Young Adult Volunteer Program.  The BoP talked about the 300 years of their service to the church and the ways in which they are assuring that the BoP will be able to care for church professionals for the next 300 years.  The BoP sponsored a delightful dinner for the commissioners after which the first official committee meetings were convened.

      The Committee 13 meeting began with a worship service.  Then the committee members moved into four different team-building/get-to-know-one-another exercises.  The next thing that was done involved reaching a covenant understanding of how the committee would agree to function during our deliberations.  The only business was to officially elect subcommittee members for the review of the minutes of the agencies.  It was good that the whole committee approved the subcommittee members that have already done the work that was requested of the subcommittees.


General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R6-6/18/2016)

     Saturday got off to an early start for this commissioner.  As a member of Committee 13 my first assignment was to review the minutes of the Presbyterian Foundation.  We met with representatives of the Presbyterian Foundation to deliver our findings.  It was most refreshing to find that the other two committee members who reviewed the foundation minutes were in complete agreement with the evaluation of this commissioner.  Perhaps I am not as out-of-step as I thought.

 

     The next big event was the opening worship service of the 222nd General Assembly.  The service was most inspirational.  To hear the music from a LARGE bell choir and a vocal choir of more than 100 voices was awesome.  These unamplified choirs absolutely filled the hall with their celebration of God’s grace with both traditional and contemporary music.  Dr. Heath Rada preached an outstanding sermon about the power of hope and the fact that hope will never be disappointed.  Following the preaching of the Word, the entire assembly celebrated communion together.

       Panoramic_view   




     After lunch the first plenary session convened for two and a half hours of training on how business would be conducted and how the electronic voting devices were to be used.  Moderator Heath Rada delivered a report on his survey of the denomination.  The purpose of the personal visits, conversations, and surveys was to ascertain what the challenges are facing the denomination as we move forward.  The most moving portion of this session was the “trooping of the churches” in the Presbytery of the Cascades.  Representatives of the 104 churches in the presbytery carried signs showing the name of the church and its location walked in a processional to the front of the hall to the accompaniment of bagpipes and drum.  On Sunday the churches in the Portland area have invited people attending the GA to join them for worship and lunch.  I will be going to the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Gresham, OR.  This is a small congregation with a membership of approximately 75 Presbyterians on the East side of Portland.

 picture_2





Processional_of_Churches_GA



Processional of churches in Presbytery of the Cascades


Electronic_Voting_Device

Blackberry sized Electronic Voting Device




     The final plenary session convened after dinner.  Although the most important matter was the election of the moderator for this GA and the next two years, the most moving event was the opening testimony and prayer of a couple currently living in California.  The testimony of this interracial couple began with their experiences as a newly married couple in New Orleans.  To see that they had successfully dealt with the issues of racial bias by family, friends, and each other was quite moving, instructive, and inspirational.

 

     This plenary session culminated in the election of the new moderator of our denomination.  This GA made history by electing the first co-moderators in the history of the Presbyterian Church.  We have done this on the 60th anniversary of the ordination of women, by investing two women with the leadership of our denomination.  By a nearly four-to-one margin, Rev. Dr. Jan Edmiston and Rev. Denise Anderson were elected as co-moderators.  They promise to bring vigor, enthusiasm, and compassion to the forefront with their up-beat approach to all that they will endeavor.

 

General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R5-6/17/2016)

     Today begins the adventure!  Getting up at “dark thirty” Friday morning in order to be at the airport in time to be harassed by TSA made for a very early start for the day.  Clearing the security screening was amazingly fast, but the agents didn’t have a great sense of humor…maybe it was the time of morning, rather than a personality disorder.

     The flight to Portland was on-time, comfortable, and I slept most of the way.  Sylvia Wilson and I shared a cab from the airport to the hotel since she has back trouble and did not feel like wrangling her bags on the light rail system.  In the event you do not know Rev. Wilson, she is the interim minister at Philadelphia Presbyterian.  Right after the conclusion of the General Assembly she is decompressing by taking a cruise from Seattle to Alaska and back.

     After getting checked into the hotel I went down the street to the convention center to get registered.  I discovered that the map I had was a bit deceptive.  The short walk from the hotel to the Oregon Convention Center is actually about 6 blocks.  Needless to say, the return trip—and future trips—will be made on the light rail system which only takes about 5-6 minutes and very little hiking.  The General Assembly and City of Portland have provided us with a free transit pass good for the entire week.  These people are really great.

     Registration went very smoothly.  It provided me with the opportunity to meet more of the volunteers working on the COLA committee (Committee on Local Arrangements).  We met the first volunteers as we exited the secured area of the Portland airport who guided us to baggage claim where more volunteers assisted us in getting transported from the airport to our hotels.  Arriving at the hotel there were more volunteers available to answer questions.  Additionally, there were volunteers at each of the Tri-Met rail stops to be sure we did not get lost.  If you begin to look around or have a blank stare, one of the army of volunteers approaches you with non-threatening assistance.  So far, so wonderful.

     Things get started in earnest tomorrow with the opening worship service and the first two plenary sessions.

General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R3-6/14/2016)

      The most recent news from the General Assembly is that much of the event will be available via live-streaming over the internet.  The first event that will be available is the opening worship service on Saturday, June 18, at 11:00 am PDT.  This will be at 2:00 pm EDT for those here in the Atlanta area.  If you wish to be a part of this event you can log onto the 2016 General Assembly site and view the worship service at http://www.pcusa.org/events/24275/222nd-general-assembly-2016/.  If you desire, you can also download the liturgy for the service at the same website so you can participate as though you are in Portland along with us.

     From what I have been told much of the General Assembly’s plenary sessions will also be live-streamed over the same website.  This will enable you to keep your fingers on the pulse of the deliberations taking place in Portland.

Should you have any questions that come to mind or would like to contact me during the time I am in Portland you can e-mail me and I will respond as quickly as possible.  My e-mail address is robert_lukat@msn.com.  I will check my e-mail regularly in order to stay in touch with anyone who is interested.


General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R4-6/14/2016)

      The preparation for making the trip to the 222nd General Assembly seems to never end.  Just a couple of days ago I received my first committee assignment.  I was asked to review the minutes for the last two years of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation.  It turns out that the minutes for the two years were only about 1,000 pages of minutes (actually 847 pages).  The good news is that I have finished the review and prepared the evaluation and comments.  They have been submitted to the committee chair.  Hopefully, the comments and evaluation will be acceptable…I am keeping my fingers crossed along with my eyes from all the reading.

     One of the interesting bits of information that I learned from the minutes is an interesting chart showing how our denomination is organized.  The chart is included below for your amazement.

     This particular chart does not include the many permanent committees and operating committees that function within each of the six major boards of the organization.  A few of the larger and more influential of these committees include the following (list is no all inclusive):

               Advisory Committee on the Constitution

               Advisory Committee on Litigation

               Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns

               Advocacy Committee on Social Witness Policy

               Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns

               Bills and Overtures Committee

               Committee on the Office of the General Assembly

               General Assembly Nominating Committee

               General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission


     Most of these committees consist of about 15 members who meet to deal with issues relative to their area of responsibility.  Thanks to the current state of technology, a number of these meetings are held via teleconference or are scheduled to take place at other denominational meetings so that expenses are kept reasonable.



General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R1-5/27/2016)

 The Book of Order states that the General Assembly [GA] of the Presbyterian Church (USA) [PC(USA)] shall hold a stated meeting at least biennially.  This is the year of the biennial stated meeting.  The convocation will be held in Portland, Oregon from June 18-25, 2016.  Elder Bob Lukat has been selected by the Greater Atlanta Presbytery to serve as a Commissioner to the GA.  As a result of this selection I will be departing for Portland on Friday, June 17 and returning home on Saturday, June 25.

               Several people who are aware of this commitment have asked that I provide some information on what takes place in Portland and comments on how any actions taken by the GA may affect our church.  To this end I will attempt to provide some insights into this experience and personal views on my experience as a Commissioner.

               As a starting point I thought it may be interesting to review what the purpose of the GA is in the life of the PC(USA).  The GA has three main responsibilities:

a.      provide that the Word of God may be truly preached and heard.

b.      provide that the Sacraments may be rightly administered and received.

c.       nurture the covenant community of disciples of Christ.

Within the context of these responsibilities the GA takes biennial action relative to the ministry of the church and consideration of changes to the Book of Order and Confessions of PC(USA).

               Commissioners to the GA are chosen by the individual Presbytery by its nominating committee with the expectation that the following considerations are observed:

                 8,000 members or less: 1 ruling elder and 1 teaching elder

  8,00116,000: 2 ruling elders and 2 teaching elders

16,00124,000: 3 ruling elders and 3 teaching elders

24,00132,000: 4 ruling elders and 4 teaching elders

32,00140,000: 5 ruling elders and 5 teaching elders

40,00148,000: 6 ruling elders and 6 teaching elders

48,001   or more: 7 ruling elders and 7 teaching elders

As you can see there is the requirement that the number of ruling elders and teaching elders will be equal.  Additionally, it is expected that the full diversity of the church will be reflected in the selection of Commissioners.  Based on our Presbytery size I am one of 14 Commissioners who will attend the GA.

               The attendees at the GA will include between 500 and 600 Commissioners representing the Presbyteries of the PC(USA).  There are Advisory Delegates representing young adults, theological students, ecumenical representatives, and missionary delegates.  The ratio between Commissioners and Advisory Delegates is set at 3:1.  Additionally, there are staff members and volunteers who will assist in facilitating the work of the GA.  Beyond these official delegates are numerous representatives of lobbying groups, exhibitors, and other organizational attendees who do not have access to committee meetings and plenary sessions.

               In total you can see that this meeting will involve several thousand individuals converging on the convention center in Portland in three weeks.


General Assembly Report by Bob Lukat (R2-6/1/2016)

 

               Now it is only two weeks until the beginning of the 222nd General Assembly in Portland, Oregon.  Although this will be my first “rodeo” there are a few things I know about what will go on out West.  To be sure, there is a lot more that I do not know, which will make being a Commissioner an exciting adventure.

               All of the Commissioners are assigned to work on one of 14 committees that have been allocated to deliberate on specific areas of business in preparation for the plenary sessions of the GA which take place later in the week.  The plenary sessions are meetings where all of the Commissioners attend and cast votes on those issues that make it from the individual committees to the entire church.  These areas of business include reports from committees and agencies of the General Assembly, as well as overtures submitted by Presbyteries.  This year there are currently 78 different overtures covering topics as diverse as a new confession to be added to the Book of Confessions, reorganization of some agencies, revision of the Worship portion of the Book of Order, modification and/or revisions to the Book of Order, and PC(USA) involvement in issues such as global warming, fossil fuel usage, social justice, and racial/ethnic/women’s issues.

               Each of the committees has approximately 30 Commissioners and 10 Advocate Delegates assigned to do the work assigned to the committee.  Each committee is supported by a few staff members and volunteers.

                 [1]        Business Referrals

                 [2]        Bills and Overtures

                 [3]        General Assembly Procedures

                 [4]        The Way Forward

                 [5]        Mid Councils

                 [6]        Church Polity and Ordered Ministry

                 [7]        Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations

                 [8]        Middle East Issues

                 [9]        Immigration and Environmental Issues

               [10]        Mission Coordination

               [11]        Social Justice Issues

               [12]        Peacemaking and International Issues

               [13]        BOP, PILP, PCC and Foundation

               [14]        Theological Issues and Institutions

 

               A Commissioner’s committee assignment is sort of “random” with strong consideration of insuring a balance in the diversity of the committee membership.  Apparently, any request for a particular committee assignment carries the same force as a duty assignment request in the armed forces.

               I have been assigned to the alphabet soup committee--[13].  This array of letters actually covers the four quasi-independent agencies of the PC(USA) which include the following:

Board of Pensions

The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) upholds the commitment made by congregations of the Church – to care for those who nurture the understanding of what it means to follow Christ. To that end, the Board administers the church Benefits Plan, including pension, medical, and death and disability programs, and provides financial assistance to PC(USA) church workers in need through the Assistance Program. It also manages the funds needed to support these programs. A not-for-profit corporation, the agency is governed by an independent Board of Directors, elected by the General Assembly.

The Board traces its roots to the Fund for Pious Uses, established by Presbyterians at the inaugural meeting of the first synod in the American colonies in 1717. The agency will celebrate 300 years of caring for ministers, other church workers, and their families in 2017. As the Board enters the next 300 years, it does so with optimism to serve more, serve better, and serve the Church.

Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program

A nonprofit corporation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program provides low-cost loans to congregations and church entities for the construction or purchase of buildings, renovations, and refinancing of existing debt. Loans are available for a variety of capital projects – to reshape a space to meet the needs of a changing congregation, install energy-efficient products and renewable energy sources, or expand mission and outreach efforts by reducing the amount of funds necessary for debt service.

The Program raises the funds for lending by selling interest-bearing term notes to Presbyterian individuals and entities interested in using a portion of their savings and investments to help build churches and expand ministries.

The agency is governed by a Board of Directors independent of the church corporation, although the work and mission of the Program are affiliated with the PC(USA).

Presbyterian Publishing Corporation

With a publishing heritage spanning more than 175 years, the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation is the denominational publisher of the PC(USA). It contributes to the spiritual and intellectual vitality of the Church by publishing 60 to 75 new titles each year and selling more than 2,000 titles throughout the world. Its Geneva Press imprint is for a specifically Presbyterian audience.

The agency also issues materials under the Westminster John Knox imprint. These works, which cover the spectrum of modern religious thought, are by scholarly and popular authors of various religious affiliations. In addition, the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation operates three online marketplaces: TheThoughtfulChristian.com, PCUSAstore.com, and FeastingontheWord.net.

The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation is self-sustaining; it receives no funding from the denomination.

Presbyterian Foundation

Established by the General Assembly in 1799, the Presbyterian Foundation gathers, stewards, and distributes funds for mission. It strengthens congregations and related mission and ministry efforts by developing gifts and managing funds on their behalf. The agency helps churches develop online giving systems, conducts stewardship and generosity training seminars, administers planned giving programs, and provides a full range of trust services for Presbyterian churches and other institutions.

The agency is governed by an independent Board of Trustees elected by the General Assembly. It manages more than 7,000 permanent endowment funds, which provide ongoing funding to thousands of congregations and related mission and ministry organizations.

As it provides charitable expertise and services to the Church, the Foundation strives to do so in a trustworthy, clear, and accessible manner, reflecting the rich faith tradition of the PC(USA).

              

               Personally, I am rejoicing about my committee assignment.  This committee does not have any controversial or divisive issues to deliberate.  This should allow me to observe the functioning of the Presbyterian Church in a more objective manner than those who will be immersed in some of the “hot-button” issues that have created stress in the church.



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