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In Spirit and Truth

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In Spirit and Truth seeks to encourage discussion and deeper consideration of representation issues in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is hoped entries will prompt reflection and dialogue on aspects of expanding representation and supporting full participation in the PCUSA, especially at the assembly and mid council levels.  

This blog will occasionally feature content written by one of the fourteen members of the General Assembly Committee on Representation, who are church members, ministers (teaching elders) and ruling elders from across the country, as well as links and articles of particular interest. The ministries of advising, consulting, advocating, promoting inclusion, reviewing and recommending actions are vital to the life of the whole Body of Christ. Committees on Representation and/or their functions exists at all councils above session so from time to time we may highlight activities and insights from sister committees on representation at lower councils throughout the church.  

Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. or the General Assembly Committee on Representation.
Author/Facilitator Molly Casteel is an Assistant Stated Clerk and the Manager for Equity and Representation in the Office of the General Assembly.  She is a teaching elder (a.k.a. Minister of Word and Sacrament) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.

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September 21, 2012

So Much Change! Council Responsibilities and How They Can Sustain and Support Diversity and Full Participation

Living into more flexibility, we need to hear from you about how your council is taking on the work.

It's autumn and the General Assembly Committee on Representation (GACOR) prepares to convene for their first full committee meeting since the 220th General Assembly adjourned in July.  Later this week, they will welcome and orient 6 new members who join the 2 re-nominated members and 8 continuing members (a total of 16 persons, each residing in a different synod). 

While new Constitutional language became effective on July 11, 2011, many mid councils (presbyteries and synods) waited to see what the assembly would decide regarding the Mid Council Commission report and recommendations (Item 05-12).  Synods are retained for now and another body is given the task of considering their boundaries and number.  Creating new non-geographic presbyteries was rejected.  Now the PCUSA finds itself at most every level in a season of re-structuring, writing new by-laws and re-assigning required functions.  That's a lot of change a foot in a little time -- 189 councils, not counting the assembly.

We have two requests.  First, we'd like to know who are the leaders responsible for this work in presbyteries and synods.  We've created a short (10 question) survey to get to know you. Click here to take survey on leaders.

Second, with expanded flexibility -- as opposed to the more regulated structure described in the previous Book of Order (2009-2011) in G-9.0105 -- each council has the responsibility to determine how it meets the necessary functions, among them are those in G-3.0103 (representation and participation in the current Book of Order).  In this freedom, each mid council gets to respond to its own particular context.  There is a lot happening in presbyteries and synods  We ask you to help us learn how your mid council is addressing the minimal function requirements in G-3.0103. 

For a denomination that is still over 90% European American (Caucasian/White) in a nation that is decidedly not, there are clearly obstacles for the church to be a community reflecting God's full abundance in its life and mission.   The church in each setting must draw on all the available diversity in its membership, context, and life (including reflecting this God-created reality in its decision-making where we live out our value of sharing power).  The church is a human institution (with all the limitations) seeking to serve the Living God.  Human defaults that narrow who is inside and expand who is outside must be examined, tested and challenged.  We are called to resist the sins of human community that deny full dignity and personhood (most easily described by the isms - among them, sexism, racism, able-ism, and ageism) of each person created in the image of God for life in community and other means by which we divide ourselves and others from the love of God and the opportunity to serve in God's church.  The church calls these sins and commits to reducing their frequency and working toward removing them from its life.

The church has a structure that helps it do its work.  In recent years, most councils have been making substantive changes to those structures and the denomination, through Constitutional action, has reduced the numbers of required structures.  We expect some mid councils will retain and strengthen their committees on representation, others will merge COR and its tasks with other bodies, some have discovered other means to respond to the required functions.  Others remain out of compliance with the Constitutional commitments to which we hold each other.  Those choices affect how people experience ministry and opportunity in the council and in the church.

If you are a synod or presbytery leader who works with the principles of unity in diversity (F-1.0403) and representation and participation ( G-3.0103), please participate in a survey to help the GACOR track what's happening with regard to this work in mid councils. Click here to take the mid council COR survey.  We are eager to learn how presbyteries and synods are approaching this work.

We look forward to listening and learning.  May the Living God continue to bless the church and equip us to ably serve one another and God's world.

Tags: constitutional functions, cor, diversity, f-1.0403, g-3.0103, gacor, general assembly, mid councils, particpation, representation