Committee urges reversing 2014 action on reducing the number of Synods

June 22, 2016

Todd Freeman moderates the Mid Councils Committee meeting.

Todd Freeman moderates the Mid Councils Committee meeting. —Michael Whitman

Portland

A decision two years ago that would have reconfigured and reduced the number of synods in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be rescinded if a recommendation from a committee at 222nd General Assembly (2016) is adopted later this week.

The 221st General Assembly (2014) directed synods and presbyteries to work together on a new configuration of synod boundaries that would reduce their number to between 10 and 12. The recommendation had been made by the second of two Mid Council Commissions assigned to address issues of declining resources and membership in some synods.

Joey Lee, executive of the Presbytery of San Jose, which brought the proposal to rescind, said Tuesday, “If you don’t like the way your furniture is arranged, the solution is not to come and rearrange mine.” Rick Hayes, stated clerk of Scioto Valley Presbytery, argued against the about-face. “Synods cannot and must not be exempt from the realities every other structure of the church faces,” he said.

“Let’s not have the synods be the flat tire on the Presbyterian bus.”

He and other members of the assembly Mid Councils Committee contended that the denomination’s current structure does not meet the needs of a much smaller denomination.

However, some feared that changing synod boundaries would hamper efforts to increase diversity and inclusiveness. Others said money and energy spent on restructuring synods might divert resources from the church’s mission.

“Reorganization inevitably saps the strength of any organization,” said Ken Baker, executive of the Presbytery of San Fernando.

Barbara Chaapel, immediate  past  moderator  of  the  Synod  of the Trinity, said synods should be part of a larger process of restructuring all national-church agencies. She suggested “watering and nurturing things already happening at the synod level.”

“This is really about organic growth, not top-down change,” she said. Corey Schlosser-Hall, executive of the Presbytery of the Northwest Coast, thanked the committee for approving earlier this week a merger of his presbytery with the Presbytery of Central Washington. He said the Northwest Coast presbytery was itself the product of a 2014 merger between the presbyteries of Alaska and North Puget Sound.

He noted that the mergers “all came about because of collaboration and friendships,” adding, “We chose it – it wasn’t chosen for us.”

The same could happen with synods, he said: “It can happen from the inside out.” Rather than mandating synod mergers, he recommended that the committee members “allow the development of clear, focused ministry and partnership.”

After spending most of the day on the issue, the committee recommended approval of the San Jose proposal by a vote of 28-15.

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