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.
Presbyterians love to abbreviate and use acronyms as we navigate life in councils and in relationship. This tendency can obfuscate communication. Below I humbly offer a simple list of common acronyms used during General Assembly meetings which may be helpful. If you have more to add or acronyms that you’d like to have defined – simply comment and I’ll add more.
The main roles of participants of any assembly are:
Elected by presbyteries, teaching elders (aka, Ministers of Word and Sacrament), have voice and vote in committee meetings as well as any business meeting of the Assembly to which they are a commissioner.
Elected by presbyteries, ruling elders (aka, elders), are equal in standing with teaching elders as commissioners, having voice and vote in committee meetings as well as any business meeting of the Assembly to which they are a commissioner.
Elected by presbyteries, young adult advisory delegates are women and men aged 17-23 years old on the date that the assembly convenes, who do not have to (but may) be ordained ruling or teaching elders. They must be an active member of a PCUSA congregation. As advisory delegates, they have voice and vote in assembly committee, but only have voice in business meetings of the assembly to which they are an advisory delegate. Their votes are advisory and are shared with commissioners before their own votes which decide on matters before the assembly.
Elected by Presbyterian seminaries (and those with covenant relationship to the PCUSA) by various means, TSADs are students preparing for ordained ministry (inquirers or candidates) in the PCUSA with at least one more year left of study. They may or may not be ordained ruling elders. As advisory delegates, they have voice and vote in assembly committee, but only have voice in business meetings of the assembly to which they are an advisory delegate.
Up to fifteen ecumenical advisory delegates, ten of these delegates shall be
from churches outside of the United States. Invitations to communions are made by the Presbyterian Mission Agency at the recommendation of the GACEIR. Delegates are designated by the invited ecumenical partner Communions. Like other advisory delegates, they have voice and vote in committee, but only voice in business meetings. Guest Communions are designated brief time during a business meeting to address the assembly.
There are eight missionary advisory delegates, who are chosen by the Presbyterian Mission Agency (World Mission) from persons who are members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and mission personnel assigned by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in another country in which this church is engaged in mission. No two delegates represent the same country or geographical area. They have voice and vote in assembly committee, but only have voice in business meetings of the assembly to which they are an advisory delegate.
For more information on these roles – consult the Standing Rules of the General Assembly (SR).
When we describe the characteristics of an individual commissioner or advisory delegate we use letters to describe race, gender and role (in that order). For example: a WMT is a White, male, Teaching Elder, and a BFR is a Black, female, Ruling Elder.
The racial descriptors are always in first position and are as following:
W = White/Euro-American /Caucasian
B = Black/African American
A = Asian/Pacific Islander
H = Hispanic/Latin@
N = Native American/American Indian
M = Middle Eastern
O = Other
When a person registers more than one racial category they may appear in sequence. For example a female ruling elder who reports being both White and Native American may be designated WNFR. [As GACOR was preparing data sets on commissioners and advisory delegates, they used X to designate folks claiming multiple racial categories and U to designate persons whose race was not recorded.]
The gender descriptors are in the second position and are: M= male and F= female.
The role descriptors are in third position and are:
T = TEC
R = REC
Y = YAAD
S = TSAD
M = MAD
E = EAD
Examples of a rarer triad may be HFE (Hispanic, female, EAD), NMM (Native American, male, MAD), and MFS (Middle Eastern, female, TSAD).
SR = Standing Rules
OA = Overture Advocate
RC = Resource Coordinator
RP = Resource Person
CA = Committee Assistant
Mod = Moderator
VMod = Vice Moderator
CM = Corresponding Member
SC = Stated Clerk
P = Parliamentarian
RR = Robert's Rules of Order
BOO = Book of Order
BOC = Book of Confessions
FOG = Form of Government
COR = Committee on Representation
GA = General Assembly
GA221 = 221st General Assembly (2014)
MCC2 = Mid Council Commission II
Mid Councils = presbyteries and synods
BOP = Board of Pensions
FDN = Presbyterian Foundation
MCM = Mid Council Ministries
EDO = Executive Director's Office
SS = Shared Services
WM = World Mission
PW = Presbyterian Women
AKW = Alaska-Northwest
BPR = Boriquén, Puerto Rico
COV = Covenant
LAK = Lakes & Prairies
LIN = Lincoln Trails
LW = Living Waters
MAM = Mid America
MAT = Mid-Atlantic
NE = Northeast
PAC = Pacific
ROC = Rocky Mountains
SA = South Atlantic
SW = Southwest
SUN = Sun
TRI = Trinity
That's the starter list. As you can see, we like acronyms and use them almost unconsciously. Perhaps this list will help you decipher what people are saying...