The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) concluded a busy three-day meeting on Thursday that had convened with a conversation with the General Assembly Committee on Review of the Office of the General Assembly and concluded with the election of new COGA leadership.

The review committee, led by The Reverend John Cairns, interim pastor at Church of the Palms in Sarasota, Fla., discussed the committee’s report in general and its recommendations in particular with COGA members. The committee’s nine recommendations, all of which COGA agrees with, range from using more volunteers in times of peak workloads for the Office of the General Assembly (OGA), to finding a way to make available the PC(USA) Constitution in a more accessible format electronically, to strengthening OGA’s long-range planning process, to finding ways to work with the General Assembly Council (GAC) to “speak with a clear and singular voice.”

In its report, the review committee also “underscores the importance of the per capita apportionment as an essential and joyful affirmation of belonging both to the PC(USA) and the church catholic, as well as an equitable opportunity for all Presbyterians to responsibly support mission coordination and ecclesiastical expenses.” The committee recommended that OGA expand its effort to interpret per capita to the wider church.

The review committee’s report will be submitted to the 218th General Assembly.

The Reverend Dennis Hughes, pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Wash., and stated clerk of Seattle Presbytery, was elected to be the next moderator of COGA, succeeding The Reverend Cathy Ulrich, co-pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Fort Smith, Ark.

Elder Barbara Corwin, member of Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum, Idaho, was elected vice moderator, succeeding Elder John (Jack) Baugh, member of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, Calif.

Hughes and Corwin will begin their one-year term of office at the conclusion of this summer’s General Assembly.

The committee focused a considerable amount of time on various aspects of the upcoming Assembly, to be held June 21-28. COGA members reviewed the response to referrals from the 217th General Assembly (2006), discussed overtures that have been submitted to date (, and approved the docket (

In a joint session with the executive committee of the General Assembly Council, COGA members approved a number of recommendations to the 218th General Assembly related to the per capita budget. The recommendations include convening a joint per capita table of the GAC and COGA “to review the allocation of expenses and programs to per capita and mission funds, and present a report to the 219th General Assembly (2010)”; approving a proposed 2009 expenditure budget of $12,308,884 and a 2010 budget totaling $15,310, 620; and increasing the per General Assembly per capita rate 25 cents to $6.04 for 2009 and 2010.

At this meeting, COGA also:

  • Accepted the invitation of the Presbytery of Detroit to host the 221st General Assembly (2014) in Detroit, Mich.;
  • Received training on the new ethics policy for elected and appointed members of the General Assembly Council and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly;
  • Heard reports from the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, the Moderator and Vice Moderator of the 217th General Assembly (2006), and the Executive Director of the General Assembly Council, and the GAC representative to COGA.

As the meeting was drawing to a close, Ulrich asked committee members to describe in one word their time together. Responses included “hopeful,” “faithful,” “productive,” “joyful,” and “evolutionary.”

The committee’s next meeting will be onsite during the 218th General Assembly in San Jose.

In addition to Ulrich, Baugh, Hughes, and Corwin, members of COGA are Elder James Babcock, Bozeman, Mont.; The Reverend Barbara Campbell Davis, Rocky Mount, N. C.; The Reverend Helen Baily Cochran, Bethlehem, Pa.; Elder Steve Grace, Beulah, Mich.; The Reverend Joan Gray, Atlanta, Ga.; Elder Kent Grimes, Germantown, Tenn.; The Reverend Jerrod Lowry, Raleigh, N.C.; The Reverend John Purcell, Dallas, Texas; The Reverend Martha Sadongei, Phoenix, Ariz.; Elder Kathy Walker, St. Petersburg, Fla.; The Reverend John Wilkinson, Rochester, N.Y.; and Elder Bob Wilson, Huntsville, Ala. Elder Charles Easley, Atlanta, Ga., is the GAC corresponding member to COGA.