In Spirit and Truth is the blog of the General Assembly Committee on Representation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It will feature content written by the sixteen members of the committee, who are teaching and ruling elders from across the country, and our staff person in the Office of the General Assembly, as well as links and articles of particular interest. These blog entries are intended to prompt reflection and dialogue on aspects of expanding representation and supporting full participation in the PCUSA, especially at the assembly level. The ministries of advising, consulting, advocating, reviewing and recommending are vital to the life of the whole Body of Christ. Committees on Representation and/or their functions exists at all councils above session so from time to time we may highlight activities and insights from our sister committees on representation at smaller councils throughout the church.
Author Molly Casteel is an Assistant Stated Clerk and the Coordinator for Representation and Inclusiveness Services. She is a teaching elder (a.k.a. Minister of Word and Sacrament) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.
As a teaching elder commissioner to the 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh, I had a big time “wow” moment during a PowerPoint presentation given in plenary, “A Snapshot of Presbyterians.” (1.2M) It was this shocking statistic: of the 688 GA Commissioners, ZERO were under age 25. ZERO.
So, how shall we increase participation of young adult commissioners at future general assemblies?
General Assembly did take action on this issue. The Review of Biennial Assemblies Committee’s item 04-01, Recommendation 5, (to create thirty-two young adult commissioners under age 36, 1 ruling elder and 1 teaching elder from each Synod), was disapproved with this comment: to direct the Stated Clerk to communicate with the presbyteries the need to prioritize sending young adult commissioners under the age of 36 to the General Assembly. While the young adult demographic has been and continues to be an under-represented group as commissioners at General Assembly, the proper implementation of increasing their representation in vote should be referred back to the Special Committee to Review Biennial Assemblies.
GACOR encouraged the Special Committee to consider eliminating the young adult advisory delegate designation and replace that position with young adult commissioners (with voice and vote), one per presbytery (just as YAADs are distributed now). With slight adjustments to the age categories (we proposed 18-30 years of age), this would have a profound influence on the age distribution of commissioners. And it would give greater responsibility and access to young adults while not increasing the cost of the assembly.
Ultimately, this is a presbytery issue – presbyteries elect GA Commissioners. However, in reality, it is an issue for ALL of us, particularly our congregations. They baptize and confirm our children, and they elect and ordain our ruling elders. This is the “supply line” for our presbytery nominating committees.
I urge the Stated Clerk and the on-going Special Committee to be bold and think way outside the box to help us ALL discover how to increase the participation of our young adult commissioners in future general assemblies. I hope they consider anew our proposal to increase our young adult commissioners from ZERO to 173. Now that’s a “wow” moment for which I long!