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Commission sought to find way out of Puerto Rican church impasse

Power struggles “undermine” mission, special committee says

July 7, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS

A commission to oversee the work of the Synod of Boriquen (Puerto Rico) and its three presbyteries is being recommended by the 219th General Assembly Committee on Middle Governing Body Issues.

The commission is needed because the synod “is rife with power struggles among individuals, groups and the middle governing bodies … that undermine the ability of the church … to focus on Christ’s Great Commission ….”

After two years of working to deal with the seemingly intractable conflict, the Rev. Mauricio Chacon, chair of the General Assembly’s Special Committee on the Administrative Review of the Synod of Borinquen in Puerto Rico and Its Constituent Presbyteries (SCARB), said, “The need for a commission is very important to the life and ministry of the church in Puerto Rico.”

The committee recommended that the SCARB be continued for two more years and be supervised by a Middle Governing Body Commission it is asking the Assembly to create to comprehensively address middle governing body stresses throughout the PC(USA). “This is an issue not of Puerto Rico but of the PC(USA),” Chacon said.

To no one’s surprise, Puerto Rican leaders were divided on the commission proposal. “Puerto Ricans have the capacity to solve the problems we face,” said Synod of Boriquen moderator Fernando Rodriguez Barrios. “We don’t think that a commission is necessary to resolve our situation.”

But Cruz Negron Torres, former stated clerk of the synod, said, “We need the support and guidance of [SCARB].”

The proposed commission would have the authority to develop a new governing body structure for Puerto Rico, including the possibility of placing it under the jurisdiction of a mainland synod. It would also have the authority to “facilitate, direct and oversee the process of identifying and nominating new or renewed leadership in the synod.”

In other business, the Assembly Committee on Middle Governing Body Issues recommended:

  • Creation of a nongeographic Korean-language presbytery in the Synod of South Atlantic
  • Disapproval of a proposal to eliminate synods;
  • Disapproval of a measure that would create a nongeographic “new synod” built on conservative theological tenets;
  • Disapproval of a proposal to allow congregations to change presbyteries based on theological affinity;
  • Approval of a constitutional amendment — proposed by the Synod of the Rocky Mountains — that would allow synods to reduce their functions, with the exception of judicial process and administrative review of their presbyteries.