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In Spirit and Truth

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About this blog

In Spirit and Truth seeks to encourage discussion and deeper consideration of representation issues in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is hoped entries will prompt reflection and dialogue on aspects of expanding representation and supporting full participation in the PCUSA, especially at the assembly and mid council levels.  

This blog will occasionally feature content written by one of the fifteen members of the General Assembly Committee on Representation, who are teaching and ruling elders from across the country, as well as links and articles of particular interest. 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 sister committees on representation at lower councils throughout the church.  

Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. or the General Assembly Committee on Representation.
Author/Facilitator Molly Casteel is an Assistant Stated Clerk and the Coordinator for Representation, Inclusiveness and Ruling Elder Training in the Office of the General Assembly.  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.

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June 5, 2014

How Do We Measure Participation?

Process Observation at GA221

Have you ever wondered what participation looks like in real time at General Assembly? Are you attending GA221 in Detroit? Do you enjoy seeing the church do its work in committee?logo has a large circle with Detroit and GA 221 prominently centered, around the periphery is the longer official title of the General Assembly

We are recruiting observers of committee business during the 221st General Assembly (2014). We've learned that we need a full diversity and representation in the observers - everyone sees and hears the action before them a little differently. The more observers, the better picture we get of what's happening in participation.

It is said that a group working in committee is like making sausage. We are looking for folks who will describe the machines, actions, ingredients, and who is operating that machinery. We are not assessing the decisions themselves. We are not tracking the arguments made. We are not tasting the sausage to test its flavor.

This year will be the third time we've used process observation in assembly committees to look at processes used and assess any affects on participation (looking at committee member's roles and demographic identity categories as claimed in registration). Representation at GA - who comes to GA as a participant is determined by presbyteries, seminaries and ecumenical partners. How they are able to participate in deliberation, discernment, decisions and recommendations for actions is determined by processes in committee. We are looking for patterns of participation so that we can advise the leaders of future assemblies about what we find, and so we are aware of how we affect who participates by how we decide matters.

Committees will convene Sunday evening (June 15) and complete their business by the end of the day on Tuesday (June 17). We need observers from all ages and places, genders and races, to observe process and fill out forms to return by the end of the assembly (if you use the paper versions, or immediately submitted by Google Doc). Observers may move around, but a new form is needed for every committee and each new day.

Orientation sessions will be on Friday (June 13), Saturday (June 14), and Sunday (June 15) in the OGA Office are on the first floor of the COBO Center, Hall E.

The observer forms are available here by Google Doc.  

You can track business in real-time through PCbiz and the feature called session sync -- on your laptop or your mobile phone.

Curious where the committee is meeting?  Download the Guidebook App and you have maps in your pocket - or click here for paper versions to print

Reminder: Orientation/Q&A sessions are available onsite in Detroit -- OGA Offices, Hall E (first floor) of COBO -- Friday, June 13; Saturday, June 14; and Sunday, June 15 (if needed).  We will have the times posted soon. 

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Categories: Cultural proficiency, Disability, Diversity, General Assembly, Racial Ethnic, Women, Young Adults

Tags: ga221, gacor, measuring partipation, observers, participation, process observation, representation

May 19, 2014

What Did You Say? Representation and Language of the 221st General Assembly (2014)

Presbyterians love to abbreviate and use acronyms as we navigate life in councils and in relationship.  This tendency can obfuscate communication.  Below I humbly offer a simple list of common acronyms used during General Assembly meetings which may be helpful.  If you have more to add or acronyms that you’d like to have defined – simply comment and I’ll add more.

The main roles of participants of any assembly are:

TEC = Teaching Elder Commissioner         

Elected by presbyteries, teaching elders (aka, Ministers of Word and Sacrament), have voice and vote in committee meetings as well as any business meeting of ...

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May 16, 2014

First Look: Representation at the 221st General Assembly

In just a few weeks, Commissioners and Advisory Delegates from all across the US and Puerto Rico will gather in Detroit for the 221st General Assembly (2014).  Presbyteries determine who most of the folks are who will discern the will of the Living God for the PCUSA making decisions large and small. Many are already praying for these 800+ folks who are busy preparing for the work of the 14 assembly committees and attending to the wider business before the larger body. I'll focus on Teaching Elder Commissioners in this first post.


In looking at the chosen ...

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December 12, 2013

Children's Literature: Appreciating an Inclusive World Through Selections from My Bookshelves

The General Assembly Committee on Representation at its bi-annual meeting in late October held discussions, participated in training and wrestled with issues of Cultural Proficiency in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). Personally, my participation in such training began in about 1980 when I worked to train church based child care programs, their leaders and staff, about Cultural Diversity, Cultural Proficiency and Cultural Competency. Most programs then and church bodies today have much to learn from these elements.  The Synod GACOR Representatives and others attending the training in Chicago this past October, struggle with basic questions of what is diversity ...

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November 22, 2013

Something's Missing in Job's Life

I did not know that it was not there. For over 35 years of reading the Bible I thought it was there. And so when I looked for it I could not find it. The Book of Job spoke about his life, about his health, about his conversations with God, and about all the things he received and developed afterwards.

We can read in Job 42: 12-17 (NIV)

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys ...

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