COGA hears initial plans for 2012 General Assembly

Logo approved; preliminary schedule includes worship in local churches

April 7, 2011


Tom Hay is counting the days until the next Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly. There are still more than 500.

But Hay ― director of operations for the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) ― and the crew of Assembly planners ― know already that time is of the essence.

“Things are going very well,” he told the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) at its March 29-31 meeting here. The 220th General Assembly convenes June 30, 2012 in Pittsburgh.

Hay unveiled a medallion-style loge for GA220 that, for the first time, is built on a template that can be used for succeeding Assemblies. “Part of what we’re trying to do is create a ‘brand’ for the General Assembly that can be used in a variety of ways,” he said. “We hope people will use the medallion for many things.”

The preliminary schedule will look familiar to veteran Assembly-goers, but a number of innovations have been added.

For the second Assembly in a row, the morning before the Assembly convenes will be given over to “Riverside Conversations” ― opportunities for commissioners and advisory delegates to informally discuss the major issues coming before the Assembly.

The Assembly will convene at 1:30 p.m. on June 30 with opening worship ― a departure from most recent Assemblies, when the opening worship service took place on Sunday morning. The change, Hay said, “means that the Assembly appropriately begins with worship and gives us the opportunity to restore an earlier tradition of  worshiping on Sunday morning in local congregations.” He said the churches of Pittsburgh Presbytery “are eager to welcome commissioners and other Assembly guests” to their places of worship.

Because the Assembly runs over the July 4 holiday (the Wednesday of Assembly week), the schedule is being tweaked to allow Assembly-goers to see Pittsburgh’s fireworks gala. “The convention center is one of the prime viewing spots,” Hay said, “so we’ll meet in plenary until the fireworks start and watch them from there.”

Hay outlined one other change for 2012: rather than an unstructured “reading period” on Wednesday morning ― when Assembly Committee reports are released ― commissioners and advisory delegates will meet in their committees to discuss the reports from the other committees. “Research has repeatedly shown that the committees are where the commissioners feel most comfortable talking, so they will have that opportunity before they begin plenary deliberations,” Hay said.

In other business, COGA:

  • Heard from General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons that OGA finished 2010 with a surplus “even though we had budgeted for use of reserves and had $1.1 million in uncollectable per capita apportionments
  • Approved a recommendation from the General Assembly Committee on Representation (COR) that “birth year” be included in the GA registration process (it already is for roommate selection) so the committee can better determine participation and representation by youth;
  • Approved another COR recommendation that it work with GA220’s Bills and Overtures Committee to do “process observation” at the Assembly. “The questions we will be seeking to answer,” said COR Manager Molly Casteel, “are how do you measure or assess ‘fair and effective representation in the decision-making process’? (the committee’s Book of Order mandate); does mere presence translate into participation? and if not, how do different decision-making processes impact inclusiveness?
  • Heard an update from COGA member and Synod of Lincoln Trails Executive Carol McDonald on the work of the General Assembly’s Special Committee to Review Biennial General Assemblies, which is scheduled to report to the 2012 Assembly; and
  • Reviewed and adopted its “benchmark” goals for 2011.
  1. Several years ago I took a class in Presbyterian Polity. When we got into the Book of Discipline, we watched a fake trial before the permanent judicial commission of a presbytery in which a minister was tried and found guilty of having an extramarital affair. The conclusion was that he would be removed from the ministry by the Presbytery. If we demand fidelity in marriage, how can we become so lax in our attitudes about behavior that directly contradicts our very creation? Are we to assume that God messed up and wired some people wrong, that it is not we but God who is wrong? What ever happened to getting in the middle or that dreaded word "compromise"? It seems to me that we first need to realize that if the standards for ordination require perfection then we all should be excommunicated therefore, with a given behavior that would be cause to deny ordination the standard should be repentance and ceasing that behavior. What better example could we have than the desciples especially the apostle Paul? Finally, we need to move back to the standard of scripture in ordination; not our confessions that contain some of the most judgemental statements to be found in direct contradiction to what Christ taught. In my humble openion, a large part of our demise as a denomination has been due to our abandonment of the gospel of Jesus Christ in favor of the man-made gospel of saint social. We need look any farther than the old testament to see that Israel was put into exile several times for worshiping false gods and accepting behaviors that were contradictory to the perfect will of the one true God. We are no exception, what will we do about it?

    by Joseph W. O'Bryan

    February 2, 2012

  2. As a lifetime Presbyterian and a graduate of PSCE, I am saddened that our church is not standing firm on the highest standard for ordination which is clear in scripture. Is is glorifying to be this disobedient to the one who calls us to follow His example.

    by Kathleen Williams

    January 16, 2012

  3. @Doug Hagler - I am questioning your response to Mr. Black. My main issue with the 10A amendment was the fact that we took out the wording "obedient to Scripture" and placed scripture and the confessions as equal "guides" for ordination. Though people within the Presbyterian Church (USA) keep saying that we have returned to historical standards for ordination, they are wrong. We have returned to the historical understanding that the authority to elect leaders resides in the "particular society" (1956 language from PC in the USA). But, that has always remained true. That is not a return to historical ordination standards though. In fact, that same 1956 language explains that "the character, qualifications, and authority of church officers are laid down in Holy Scripture, as well as the proper method of their investiture and institution." (p. 240 1956 Book of Church Order). It goes on to explain that the Holy Scriptures are the only rule in faith and practice. Standards for ordination have never been determined by "peers for the community." Standards have been laid out in Scripture clearly. In fact, if you would like to look at any of the passages in the New Testament that lay out the qualifications for deacon, or presbyteros, you will see that all of them include a section on sexual practice - and all list that as between one man and one woman - within the bonds of marriage. So, please explain to me how this new standard (which I would argue is no standard at all) takes us back to historical ordination standards? And explain when those standards were ever derived from the community or peers?

    by Rob McClelland

    September 15, 2011

  4. @J. Lloyd Black, Jr. A late response, since I don't see any others. Yes, as of June 10th, the PCUSA returned to historical ordination standards, which are that all ordained persons are called to be obedient to scripture and to be guided by the confessions, but that whether they are both will be decided by the Presbytery ordaining them rather than a particular legal litmus-test aimed at the singular concern with sexual orientation. Instead, they will be considered as a whole, and held to standards determined by their peers and community. So, for congregations and Presbyteries that choose to do so, they will be able to ordain and install LGBTQ Deacons, Elders and Ministers of Word and Sacrament. For those that choose not to, then they won't.

    by Rev. Douglas Hagler

    August 15, 2011

  5. From internet information I gather that the Presbyterian Church USA has voted to allow the ordination of openly gay & lesbian individuals into the ministry. Am I accurately understanding the above information?

    by J. Lloyd Black, Jr.

    May 17, 2011