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. From time to time, guest contributors will provide content. Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Presbyterian Church USA or the General Assembly Committee on Representation.
Author/Facilitator 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.
Five Verbs: PROMOTE, REVIEW, ADVISE, ADVOCATE, CONSULT
“The General Assembly Committee on Representation (GACOR) in its constitutional mandate, shall promote, review, advise, advocate, and consult with the General Assembly entities, committees, councils, and divisions in order to ensure that the principles of inclusiveness and diversity are implemented.” (GACOR Mission from GACOR Manual of Operations, bold print added)
Yes, according to our constitution, G-3.0103 Participation and Representation: ". . . Each council shall develop procedures and mechanisms for promoting and reviewing that body’s implementation of the church’s commitment to inclusiveness and representation. Councils above the session shall establish by their own rule committees on representation to fulfill the following functions: to advise the council regarding the implementation of the principles of unity and diversity, to advocate for diversity in leadership, and to consult with the council on the employment of personnel, in accordance with the principles of unity and diversity in F-1.0403. A committee on representation should not be merged with another committee or made a subcommittee of another committee" (bold print added).
Seven Groups: Principles of unity and diversity?
Yes, according to F-1.0403 Unity in Diversity: ". . .The unity of believers in Christ is reflected in the rich diversity of the Church’s membership. In Christ, by the power of the Spirit, God unites persons through baptism regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sex, disability, geography, or theological convictions. There is therefore no place in the life of the Church for discrimination against any person. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shall guarantee full participation and representation in its worship, governance, and emerging life to all persons or groups within its membership. No member shall be denied participation or representation for any reason other than those stated in this Constitution" (bold print added).
Case Study: It began with an email.
In reviewing the minutes of the Synod I represent on GACOR, I learned that the Synod of Alaska-Northwest dissolved its Committee on Representation as of December 31, 2012. So, to promote our constitution, I emailed my Synod Stated Clerk and Moderator advising them that our Synod was out of compliance with our Constitution. In under an hour, I had a call from the Stated Clerk. In just over an hour, I had a call from the Moderator. Consultation ensued in conversations with both officers leading to the reestablishment of the Synod COR at its March, 2013 meeting. A visitor at this meeting, I was given privilege of the floor to advise the Synod commissioners about language in soon-to-be adopted Synod by-laws about the Committee on Representation. In addition, I advocated for diversity with the newly formed nominating committee, and advised it of names of people it might consider for PJC and COR membership – including people from a variety of races, ethnicities, ages, sexes, disabilities, geographic areas, and theological convictions. Byproducts of my visitor status included opportunity to review the Synod as it lives into its reduced function existence, to observe the deep commitment of commissioners and officers to diversity and inclusiveness, and to establish partnership relationships with my Synod commissioners and officers as together we promote the participation and representation of all peoples in the work of our Synod and its seven Presbyteries.