Mid Council Commission II will recommend reducing synods to ‘no more than eight’
September 11, 2013
A recommendation that the number of regional synods of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) be reduced from 16 to “no more than eight” will go to the 221st General Assembly next summer.
The proposal was unanimously approved Tuesday, September 10 by Mid Council Commission II, which was appointed by the 220th General Assembly (2012) to further discuss and refine recommendations from its predecessor commission. A key recommendation from that former commission was to eliminate synods as an ecclesiastical entity of the denomination.
“I’m pleased that we arrived at a unanimous decision,” said Ruling Elder Ariel Mink, co-chairperson of Mid Council Commission II and a member of the Presbyterian Church of Novato, Calif. “While we have provided a direction and ultimate outcome, the path to accomplish that outcome belongs to the people most impacted by that decision.”
Mid Council Commission II based its recommendation to the upcoming assembly on a sub-committee report that was refined by the full committee during its meeting. In addition to reducing the number of synods, the commission recommends:
- Synods and their presbyteries determine and implement “the most prudent boundary changes” in order to reduce the number of synods to no more than eight, and report these changes to the 222 General Assembly (2016);
- Six members of Mid Council Commission II be appointed to consult with and assist synods and their presbyteries in determining the boundary changes;
- If synods and their presbyteries are unable to agree on a proposal to reduce the number of synods to no more than eight by 222nd General Assembly, the Moderator, in consultation with the Stated Clerk; appoint an administrative commission to recommend the necessary boundary changes to the 223rd General Assembly; and
- The 221st General Assembly direct PC(USA) agencies to review their processes to streamline any that require a synod to approve a request by a lower council if such approval has become unnecessary.
“This has been a very open and transparent process. People have been real and honest with one another,” said the Reverend Landon Whitsitt, Mid Council Commission II member and executive and stated clerk of the Synod of Mid-America.
“This is the result of an intentional effort to listen to the church and the people who will be most affected by the decision,” said Whitsitt, who served as Vice Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010).
The Reverend Byron Wade, who joins Mink as co-chairperson Mid Council Commission II, said the process was guided by a spirit of listening to each of the synods. “We really heard what they had to say.”
Wade is pastor of Davie Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C. and was Vice Moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008).
In corresponding action, the commission voted to recommend:
- That the 221st General Assembly (2014), in order to ensure that the responsibilities listed in G-3.0502 are fulfilled, establish a “Standing Committee on Mid Councils” and charge it to engage in a process for the on-going strengthening and nurturing of the mid councils of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), with particular emphasis on collaborating with the synods of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to support clarity as to their ecclesial and missional identity, purpose, structure, and strategies.
The commission will fine-tune its recommendation to the Assembly between now and its February 14 submission deadline. The commission’s recommendation, including its rationale, is available online (PDF).