223rd General Assembly medallion

Kennerly David Benraty, a young adult advisory delegate from the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia, spoke eloquently to the 223rd General Assembly (2018) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Wednesday evening, seeking passage of an amended commissioner resolution to reaffirm the requirements for inclusiveness as stated in the denomination’s constitution.

In the end, the Assembly approved the resolution by voice vote.

The resolution directs the Office of the General Assembly to report within one year to the presbyteries and synods concerning the progress on this resolution and provide a full report to the 224th General Assembly (2020).

Benraty said there is a “legacy of social and economic inequality” in the nation, and added that few in the Assembly would “understand or face the challenge of being black” in the PC(USA).

The resolution advises mid councils to follow the lead of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus (NBPC) in raising awareness of the declining nature of black congregations throughout the church and the lack of pastoral leadership. It directs the stated clerk of the denomination to respond to the presbyteries, identified by the NBPC, that do not abide by Committee on Representation guidelines.

The resolution also calls on the Board of Pensions to analyze and report on the viability of African-American Presbyterian churches in their efforts to support installed pastoral leadership.

The Assembly voted 514–6 to create an administrative commission to “address disorder in the Synod of the Covenant.” The administrative commission will have the authority to assume original jurisdiction of the synod if the commission deems it necessary.

The Assembly followed the advice of its Mid Councils Committee in addressing two overtures that came to the Assembly with diverging interests. An overture from the Presbytery of Cincinnati had called for an administrative commission while an overture from the Synod of the Covenant had asked the Assembly to reject the Cincinnati overture.

The Rev. Deborah Uchtman, commissioner from the Presbytery of Cincinnati, noted extreme tension in the synod. “We have appealed to our synod and they have done nothing.”

The original Cincinnati overture had alleged multiple synod failures to meet its obligations identified in the Book of Order, and alleged failings on the part of the synod executive. The action of the Assembly has no reference to the synod executive.

What the action does, however, is seek reconciliation and healing while resolving disagreements and conflict.