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Moderator bestows smart new title on those considering polity business

Current GAPJC practices remain in place

July 9, 2010

A phot of the screen in the plenary roon

The screen at plenary showed some of the many faces seen at the 219th General Assembly (2010). —Photo by Danny Bolin

MINNEAPOLIS

After considerable debate and two votes on an authoritative interpretation of authoritative interpretations, the Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) informally bestowed a new title on all in attendance Friday night.

“I think everyone in this room has achieved the status of polity wonk,” said Moderator Cindy Bolbach to great laughter and applause.

Polity wonks welcomed the comedic relief following debate that reflected the distrust some commissioners hold for the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission’s (GAPJC) authoritative interpretations on cases that come to them between Assemblies. A minority report that prompted the debate remained a minority by a vote of 172-451.

So the current practice, in which the GAPJC makes decisions but does not always make authoritative interpretations, continues. Authoritative interpretations are made by the General Assembly in plenary as well as the GAPJC. Both are considered equal in status with the most recent one binding.

The Rev. Anne Epling, moderator of the Church Polity Committee, thanked the commissioners and leadership for their mutually respectful and hard work on the 52 items of business decided or received. That business earned a few questions and explanations and some debate beyond the item of authoritative interpretation, but was otherwise approved by the Assembly.

Other actions affirmed by the Assembly:

  • Kept the current definition of “youth,” but recommended study of all age categories.
  • Disallowed the addition of a pastoral classification of “commissioned lay pastor-at-large.”
  • Approved asking presbyteries to share “gracious dismissal” policies for congregations leaving the denomination via the “MGB Connect” website for middle governing bodies.
  • Disallowed congregations to adopt articles of incorporation in conflict with the Constitution.
  • Specified that candidates for ministry will be examined and ordained by the presbytery calling them.
  • Disallowed the possibility for an interim associate pastor to become the installed pastor.
  • Approved overtures designed to decrease some litigation within the denomination.
  • Will allow qualified candidates for ministry to circulate their personal information forms earlier than previously allowed.
  • Will send to presbyteries amendments regarding the relaxing of some nomination and representation requirements.