Join the Conversation

COGA issues open invitation to discuss identity, purpose of PC(USA)

October 6, 2015


Identity conversations are taking place across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) wants to make sure all join in.

What does it mean to be Presbyterian? Who is the church called to be in this current day and time? How should the denomination serve into the future?

Valid questions are being discussed in nooks and crannies throughout the church, and now the General Assembly committee that oversees assembly work between biennial meetings is inviting the entire denomination into a churchwide conversation.

“In these changing times it’s imperative that the PC(USA) dialogue in community about its identity and purpose,” said Margaret Elliott, moderator of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly. “We’re inviting Presbyterians to dream big dreams, hope big hopes, and share them with their brothers and sisters.”

“The fruit of that dialogue will then be used by the General Assembly—an expression of the church’s core—when it gathers June 18–25, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. Together the body will discern a way forward for the church,” she said.

Getting more than 1.6 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations to talk and give input won’t be easy, but COGA is giving it a shot, and banking on the denomination’s value of connectionalism.

The process begins October 23 when people can go online to share their thoughts and comments. Sign up in advance at to ensure you receive the online form.

Simultaneously individuals, congregations, mid councils, seminaries, affiliated groups, and anyone else who wishes are being asked to gather for discussions on their own about the identity and purpose of the denomination. A downloadable discussion guide available October 23 will aid that process, and COGA will host several conference calls in the coming weeks to walk through the discussion guide.

For the social media savvy, Twitter chats on the topic will be hosted by General Assembly Vice Moderator Larissa Kwong Abazia. Dates and times for the discussion guide conference calls, as well as the Twitter chats, will be released October 23.

“Our prayer is that the depth and breadth of the PC(USA), rich in its diversity, will be intentional about discussing who God has called us to be and what our charge is for the future,” Elliott said. “It will then be up to the assembly, empowered by a wealth of information from this churchwide conversation, to collectively discern the mind of Christ for us.”

Specific times are being docketed for the 222nd General Assembly (2016) to handle this work along with its other critical business.

Share the invitation by printing or posting the blurb below

Join the Conversation

Share your thoughts about the identity and purpose of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as part of a churchwide conversation. Talk individually or in groups, and also register at to share views and comments online. The 222nd General Assembly (2016) will use much of the information gathered to collectively discern God’s call for the church.

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  1. Larry, Forgive my tardy response but I have been traveling and just received your post. I have been meeting with many people (some formally and some informally) to get their input - The Committee on Theological Education, representatives from the NEXT Church, the Fellowship Network, the Covenant Fellowship, the Black Minister's Caucus, and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (to name a few). Because it is my hope that we can bring some helpful and meaningful suggestions to the upcoming GA, as they are the body that needs to establish direction and process for our denominaiton, I also worked some with a small committee from COGA to determine a way that inforation could be attained from across the church, and not manipulated nor directed by any one set of people, or offices, or persuasions. They are using both internal and external researchers to assist in this effort in order to assure as much objectivity as possible. I feel confident that the process COGA is using intends to do just that and that they understand and DO NOT want to influence the outcome. I hope that helps to answer your question. And I hope you and others will encourage EVERYBODY whoh has an interest in the PCUSA to participate so we can get honest and broad based data. IT is time for us to show our cards, be honest and transparent, and determine new ways as well as to affirm old or current practices if they are still valid, for how we further Christ's Church in accordance with God's will.

    by Heath Rada, Moderator PCUSA 221st General Assembly

    October 15, 2015

  2. Do not go along,to get along

    by George Huggins

    October 14, 2015

  3. Although I belonged to a PCUSA church in my college's town, the PCUSA church in my hometown would not let me even try to hold a wedding in their building. What sense of community does that instill? I simply wanted my family and friends to be able to attend in my hometown. There is no identity with such disunity.

    by Travis

    October 13, 2015

  4. I was ordained as a deacon over two decades ago for a Chicago Presbyterian Church. - I thought my service in the Church was mediocre because it consisted mainly of cleaning the bathrooms and wiping up coffee stains, filling in for ushers and greeters, being available as a lector and attending the committees, singing in the choir... I did not do much to teach, to exhort, nor to care for the community of the Church, after the example of St. Steven. As it happened, I fell in love with and married a Chicago South-Side Roman Catholic girl. - What offended her about our church was the same things that I believed enlivened it: The Holy Supper is open to all who come. No one is turned away. All sinners are in need of God's Grace. Everyone is invited to the communion table. (She felt it was a constant slap in the face to Roman Catholics) The sacraments are given to us by Jesus Christ for our salvation. Baptism and the Holy Supper. The earthly authority of the fallible priesthood is not a sacrament; nor other ceremonies for the aggrandizement of earthly authority. We do not have the grafted -on worship of the female deity in the person of the Mother of Jesus. Nor the concept of "intercession", since God's Grace is granted directly, and is NOT transactional. Needless to say, I am attending Catholic church now, but I am barred from the Communion table. - I admit that I am prone to break into tears when I now attend any service where all sinners are invited to the Holy Supper, and we say "...debts" and "...debtors" at the Lord's prayer.

    by Mark A. Sells

    October 10, 2015

  5. I cannot articulate the loneliness I feel at PCUSA better than Rev. Matthew McGowan just has. This is not a church that follows the confessions that were clear fifty years ago. I can't help but see this discussion as pirates gathering up in their life boats discussing where half their membership went after they chose to knock holes in their ship's hull of scripture.

    by Ross Stone

    October 9, 2015

  6. The Presbytery of San Joaquin has formed an identity team to help us sort who "who we are and what God expects of us." I am chair of that team. I would be glad to share the process we have begun to answer this question, some of the "think pieces" we have written to help us with this task, and the results of our work. And I would be more glad to learn how others are approaching this task.

    by David Bruce Rose

    October 8, 2015

  7. 1. We must be true to Scripture. 2. Carry out the great commission to evangelize the world. 3. Discern the priority of not severing our relationship with our Presbyterian family overseas. 4. Discern the reason for lack of growth; why so many of an sisters and brothers are leaving our denomination. 5. I was ordained in 1952 & attended the re-unites G.A. in Phoenix in 1983. 6. I have served on the GAMB; The G.A. Nom. Committee; As interim at FPC in Houston,TX. As the Executive Director of Covenant Fellowship of Presbyterians; most of my friends have gone to the PCA, EPC or the Fellowship and I feel lonely. 7. The Church I was ordained in no longer exists. 8. I have a son and daughter who are ordained in the PCUSA. They are in Florida & Arkansas. 9. We must allow the Scriptures to "inform the world" and not the other way." 10. I feel that the return of Jesus might well be very close. Matthew McGowan

    by Rev. Matthew McGowan

    October 8, 2015

  8. The purpose of the church is to lead people to follow Jesus by living into the Beatitudes which contradict the false assumptions of our dying enpire

    by Ed ward A White

    October 6, 2015

  9. Has the Book of Order become the "Book of Mormon" for Presbyterians? We have to become more nibble in a rapidly changing culture and age. Overtures need to be banned, Decentralization is happening, More flexibility and understanding needs to happen. 40 years ago my denomination was different, Today my congregation is vibrant and does not need GA-Sorry but that's reality!

    by Rev James Skimins

    October 6, 2015

  10. While I appreciate the call to conversation, I would like to know the identities of the folks the moderator met with who helped form this process.

    by Larry

    October 6, 2015

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