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GA Speakouts: Democracy in 60 second soundbites

June 18, 2014

Commissioners and Advisory Delegates were invited to participate in a  speakout segment of plenary business session 4.

Commissioners and Advisory Delegates were invited to participate in a speakout segment of plenary business session 4. —Michael Whitman

Once they get the hang of the 60-second Speakout sessions, commissioners at the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) use the pithy podium of democracy with great success.

Speakout is a chance for commissioners and advisory delegates to publicly tell their colleagues whatever is on their mind – including birthday best wishes for their children back home, prayer requests and blessings they’ve received at GA. But they must get to the point: after one minute, Moderator Heath Rada – very politely – calls time.

Recent Speakout sessions have included these thoughts:

  • Teaching Elder Commissioner Lynn Williamson of Presbytery of Wyoming fulfilled a promise to the mother of Young Adult Advisory Delegate Jesse Melius by publicly hugging him Wednesday on his 19th birthday.
  • Teaching Elder Commissioner Alice Tondora of Presbytery of Redstone said she took a little time one day this week to walk the streets of Detroit. She met a man named Vince who told her “the most important thing we can do is build up our faith and honor each other.” Rada said he’d work to help commissioners elected to the 222nd General Assembly to have “more opportunity to do external missional efforts rather than just sit at tables.”
  • Teaching Elder Commissioner Benjamin Keller of Presbytery of Great Rivers gave a shoutout to a girl at his church ready to depart on a two-month mission to Malawi.
  • YAAD Rebekah Kossman of Presbytery of San Joaquin said that seeing the unity present at GA will help her with her duties moderating the board of deacons at her church.
  • Teaching Elder Commissioner Jeff Bursch is organizing pastor of a church in Presbytery of Olympia, “so I’m arguably the worst pastor they’ve ever had.” He said he was there because “of the generosity of the people in this room” for helping fund what is now a thriving congregation.
  • Ruling Elder Commissioner Elizabeth Mitchell of Presbytery of St. Augustine said a local caterer told her that all the food that attendees weren’t eating was getting thrown away, and that Assembly organizers could word future contracts “to maybe give it to someone else other than the trash.”
  • Sara Sutter, a Theological Student Advisory Delegate from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, invited the assembly to the Synod of Lakes and Prairies Synod School July 27-Aug. 1. One bonus, she said: They do childcare well, an issue the Assembly had just dealt with.
  • Ruling Elder Commissioner Ted Coppock of the Presbytery of Des Moines said he’d heard there were 14,000 people viewing a live internet stream of Assembly proceedings. “They should be proud,” he said, “of the expeditious way we have handled business so far.”

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