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In Spirit and Truth

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About this blog

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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Posts with tag: gacor

July 26, 2015

The ADA at 25

The Presbyterian Church USA marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. On July 26th, 1990, President George H. W. Bush, signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. Presbyterians have long been advocates for full inclusion of persons with disabilities and active in the national conversations regarding laws and protections.a photo of the Road to Freedom campaign bus with disabiilty advocates standing facing the camera, underneath is a banner with ADA 25: Disability Rights are Civil Rights and the dates 1990-2015

To mark this major milestone, there is a pledge we commend to you and your congregations and councils. This pledge is to continue supporting the ADA going forward.  To learn more and sign on go here  for the individual pledge (or follow other links ...

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June 5, 2014

How Do We Measure Participation?

Have you ever wondered what participation looks like in real time at General Assembly? Are you attending GA221 in Detroit? Do you enjoy seeing the church do its work in committee?logo has a large circle with Detroit and GA 221 prominently centered, around the periphery is the longer official title of the General Assembly

We are recruiting observers of committee business during the 221st General Assembly (2014). We've learned that we need a full diversity and representation in the observers - everyone sees and hears the action before them a little differently. The more observers, the better picture we get of what's happening in participation.

It is said that a group working in committee is like making sausage. We are looking for ...

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December 12, 2013

Children's Literature: Appreciating an Inclusive World Through Selections from My Bookshelves

The General Assembly Committee on Representation at its bi-annual meeting in late October held discussions, participated in training and wrestled with issues of Cultural Proficiency in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). Personally, my participation in such training began in about 1980 when I worked to train churchlogo for the 2013 Synod COR Training Event.  Yellow field with gradient toward the center, flying geese quilt pattern forming a cross in center with Red script text above, "There's Power in the Patchwork" and a purple strip at the bottom of the square with the text, "Unity in Diversity" in yellow. based child care programs, their leaders and staff, about Cultural Diversity, Cultural Proficiency and Cultural Competency. Most programs then and church bodies today have much to learn from these elements.  The Synod GACOR Representatives and others attending the training in Chicago this past October, struggle with basic questions of what is ...

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November 22, 2013

Something's Missing in Job's Life

I did not know that it was not there. For over 35 years of reading the Bible I thought it was sepia tones, bible in forground and left, right hand holding it stretched across the right handed pagethere. And so when I looked for it I could not find it. The Book of Job spoke about his life, about his health, about his conversations with God, and about all the things he received and developed afterwards.

We can read in Job 42: 12-17 (NIV)

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And ...

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November 1, 2013

Highlights from the 2013 Synod COR Training Event

Oh what a beautiful time was had by the 60 folks who gathered forevent logo, text: There's Power in the patchwork: Unity in Diversity, on a yellow field with purple base.  Centered appears a quilted image which reveals a cross which appears darker than the outer pieces.  The quilted image dips below the purple band at the bottom of the square field. the training event concluded on October 26.  All leaders in their council's committees on representation, women and men gathered from as far as Puerto Rico and Washington state, Texas to Minnesota.  

Two stories have been published in the news service so far: one on October 25; another today, November 1.  There will be more.

Resources shared by speakers will be accessible on the event page.  Already appearing there is the sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer, on Friday, October 25, "Respond" on ...

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October 20, 2013

GACOR meets Oct. 22-24 and hosts Synod COR Training Event October 24-26

square logo image for the training event features a mostly light yellow field with the red italic text "There's Power in the Patchwork" above an image of a cross formed by the gathering of quilt pieces in a "flying geese" pattern, the cross a darker image with lighter blocks of various colors on the outer edges.  Below the quilted cross is a strip of purple in which the words, "Unity in Diversity" appear centered in a light yellow hue and a sans serif font.We are days away from the beginning of the 2013 Synod Committee on Representation (SCOR) Training Event in Rosemont, IL (Chicago area near O'Hare airport).  Watch this space for highlights from the training, photos, quotes from particpants, links to articles, and other highlights.
To learn more -- please visit our event page.  There you can see speaker bios, the general schedule, and workshop descriptions.  
Worship leaders include the Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer of Interdenominational Theological Center (Johnson C. Smith Seminary), and pastor/artist Rev. Shawna Bowman of Chicago, IL. Music leaders are Debbie Dierks and Lewis Washington. Speakers/Teachers for ...

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September 5, 2013

There's Power in the Patchwork: Unity in Diversity

The event logo is a square in yellow tones with red text, "There's Power in the Patchwork" above a quilted image of the flying geese pattern gathering to make a cross image.  Below is a base of purple with text in yellow, "Unity in Diversity."The 2013 Synod COR Training Event will be held October 24-26 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel and Conference Center in Rosemont, IL. 

The conference will open with dinner and contextual Bible study on Thursday evening at 5:30 pm and end with closing worship on Saturday at noon. The theme is "There's Power in the Patchwork: Unity in Diversity."

While we share Constitutional language and minimum functions for representation and inclusiveness in council life, we do not share the same contexts, understandings of, or structures for, the work. “Unity in Diversity” looks different in each council, yet ...

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June 28, 2013

Anniversaries abound and histories surround us

I’m feeling especially grateful these days.  This week I received a colorful package from California.  Inside was a book, 40th History of the Ethnic Concerns Committee, a great gift from Joan Alston, a colleague in the Synod of the Pacific.  Tlogo for the synod of the pacific has three red flame-like figures in the center of a blue circle background joined with a small white cross  surrounded by the name of the synod in blue text he cover is a beautiful rendering of the two sides of the cover of hte book has a carved wooden door with large cross spanning two doors and overhead, in starburst pattern and descending dove over the doors, handles make two side of an open book, carved hands in an open gesture beside them with bread and cup underneathhand-carved doors to the chapel here in the Presbyterian Center where I serve. More than once this week, I’ve given in to the temptation to peruse a few of its pages and in it I’ve learned so much more about the deep history ...

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April 25, 2013

Five Verbs, Seven Groups and a Case Study

A visitor at this meeting, I was given privilege of the floor to advise the Synod commissioners about language in soon-to-be adopted Synod by-laws about the Committee on Representation.

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March 12, 2013

Lent: A Time for Giving Up

What are you giving up for Lent? That was the question.  In fact, I will always remember a new friend's answer to that question. She proudly said, "Do you know what I’m giving up for Lent? I'm giving up celibacy," and before I could feel my ears turning red and my cheeks blushing she announced "I'm getting married!" The idea of giving something up for Lent may or may not be in our Presbyterian/Reformed ethos. We tend to say that our grace-oriented faith does not Vegan for Lent visual that has a collection of vegetables arrayed around a bowl of blackberries. require our efforts to purify ourselves to please God. But instead, we ...

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February 21, 2013

Toward a More Full Self-Understanding

In the summer of 2011, a historical document of the PCUSA became quietly accessible again with its online publication. 

The General Assembly Committee on Representation played a role in making that happen when it did.  They were concerned about the ahistoricity of conversations around Presbyterian self-structures in light of the work of the Mid-Councils Commission in 2011.

black text on white background: Celebrate Black HistoryFor over one hundred years there were all-Black governing bodies (presbyteries and synods) in the Presbyterian Church.  A history of these structures was written and adopted by the 205th General Assembly in 1993.  This document provides a rich understanding ...

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January 2, 2013

Epiphany: a time for insight and revelation

As the horizon of human knowledge expands many traditions and words take on new meanings.

Initially, the Epiphany (gr. epiphaneia - "manifestation") was a festival that was celebrated twelve days after Christmas in order to remember the birth of our Lord, his baptism in the Jordan River and the manifestation of his glory in the celebrations of the wedding at Cana.

Painting depicts a large caravan of magi descending a hill with horses, persons walking and a large company engaged in merriment as they travel west to see the Christ child.

Die Reise der Heiligen Drei Konige (fragment) by Sasseta Giovanni (1432-1436), currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, USA.

When in the fourth century, the Greek Church adopted the Roman date for celebrating Christmas ...

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November 14, 2012


As a teaching elder commissioner to the 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh, I had a big time “wow” moment during a PowerPoint presentation given in plenary, “A Snapshot of Presbyterians.(1.2M)  It was this shocking statistic:  of the 688 GA Commissioners, ZERO were under age 25.   ZERO. 

Picture titled, "absolute zero" has a series of dials and measures recording zero

So, how shall we increase participation of young adult commissioners at future general assemblies?

General Assembly did take action on this issue.  The Review of Biennial Assemblies Committee’s item 04-01, Recommendation 5, (to create thirty-two young adult commissioners under age 36, 1 ruling elder ...

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September 21, 2012

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

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 ...

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July 30, 2012

GA220 spotlight: The Church as Employer

Privilege, Power and Policy: The Church as Employer, the report of the Climate for Change Task Force to the 220th General Assembly (2012) and highlighted actions taken by the assembly.

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July 21, 2012

Saturday, the last day of the GACOR exhibit at the Churchwide Gathering

Oh what a time we have had at the PW Churchwide Gathering here in Kissimmee, Florida.  So many good conversations, shared stories and lots of laughter. 

Today we got to meet a mighty mother-daughter duo, Connie and Amy.  They met up in Florida from Washington state and Texas respectively.  Connie was a voting member at the business meeting this Triennium and Amy served on the Churchwide Coordinating Team for a few years and was back to visit with old friends.

The mother, Connie Robinson (of WA) shows off her gifts for diversity and inclusion.

Connie Robinson, the mother (from Washington state), shows off her gifts for diversity and inclusion.  ...

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July 18, 2012

Adventures in the Exhibit Hall...Day 1 at the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women 2012 in Orlando, Florida

Today was the first day the exhibit hall was open and saw women gathering from across the world.  Here are a few of the sights at the COR booth (#416). 

Folks visiting the booth.

Come by and see the new logo and look of the General Assembly Committee on Representation. Photo by Molly Casteel

We are seeing old friends...

Angelica Michail, former member of GACOR

Former member of GACOR, Angelica Michail from Southern California and Hawaii, found us in the exhibit area and gave us a shout out. Photo by Molly Casteel.

...and making new ones.
Cookie Seatt likes to sing.

Cookie can sing y'all! Photo by Molly Casteel

Daphne Patterson

We met Daphne ...

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July 13, 2012

Leadership Transitions

At each and every General Assembly, the committee greets new members and says good bye to others who have completed their service. Two members leaving after this assembly have served for 8 years!  Alma-jean and Stanley, you will be missed and we give thanks for the good work you have contributed and the legacy you leave for those who serve after you.

So it is with Assembly Moderators as well.  This year, we said thank you to Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010), Elder Cindy Bolbach as her term of service ended. 

Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010), Ruling Elder Cindy Bolbach with Ruling Elder Alma-jean Marion, outgoing Moderator of the General Assembly Committee on Representation

Moderator of the 219th ...

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June 22, 2012

Welcome to 'In Spirit and Truth'

Welcome to In Spirit and Truth, a new blog from the 16-member,  General Assembly Committee on Representation (GACOR) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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