With the 224th General Assembly (2020) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) just two months away, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) is still working to firm up recommendations to the Assembly Committee on Business Referral for the shortened digital gathering.
Since its decision last week to move toward an online, shortened assembly, the committee has heard from a number of special committee representatives and other groups, urging COGA to consider specific agenda items for General Assembly this summer.
COGA Moderator Barbara Gaddis acknowledged the numerous conversations and advice at the start of the meeting.
“This is not a normal assembly. This is an assembly that if we could have, we would have canceled,” she said. “We have to do this because it is constitutionally mandated. We couldn’t cancel the meeting, so we are doing what we have to do to keep the ship righted and we are not doing anything else.”
In its weekly conference call, COGA recommended that special committees, including the Moving Forward Implementation Commission, be extended to the 225th General Assembly (2022), with the following stipulations:
- Committees and commissions, should they meet, will utilize online tools and will not have in-person meetings. The financial implication of extending the committees will be limited to provisions for their leadership to attend the 225th General Assembly (2022).
- Committees will be encouraged to review their reports and recommendations, in light of the pandemic and its emerging implications, to be submitted to the 225th General Assembly (2022).
- Should vacancies be created, those vacancies will not be filled.
- The Administrative Commission for the Synod of the Covenant will also be extended but will not be subject to the other provisions for special committees.
- The Moving Forward Implementation Commission (MFIC) will be continued as a special committee without commission powers.
“I’m not comfortable with them [Moving Forward Implementation Commission] continuing as a commission,” said COGA Vice Moderator Stephanie Anthony. “I appreciate the work they’ve done, but I think the staff and leadership can be trusted to continue the work.”
The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), agreed.
“Ever since I’ve been in this office, I’ve operated under a commission. When will there be a time when I am not micromanaged in this job?” he asked. “I am somewhat adamantly opposed to being under another commission for two more years. We need to be trusted for the work without having overseers manage our day-to-day work.”
“I take commissions very seriously and I feel their responsibility is to point out certain things and set them right-side up,” said COGA member Eliana Maxim. “Sometimes we have to allow our elected leaders and employees to take it on.”
The Reverend Dr. Diane Moffett, President and Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, concurs.
“I do think it is incumbent on us to move forward and I believe we have the kind of collaboration that is expected by each agency and our boards and committees will keep us accountable. I think we are able to do the work,” she said. “We do know how important it is for the church to come together and work together and we’ve shown good faith in that.”
Marco Grimaldo, MFIC moderator, responded, “We do think our role as a commission is important to being able to complete our work in a manner that best serves the interests of the church and the work of the General Assembly.”
COGA also recommends that the approval of minutes for all synods be referred to the 224th General Assembly (2020) and placed on the list of critical and core business, as well as the approval of minutes for all agencies, committees, and entities to be referred to the 225th General Assembly (2022). COGA also recommends that the approval of responses to referrals and referrals in progress be referred to the 225th General Assembly (2022).
This year’s assembly will be held totally online and will take place over three days, June 19, 26, and 27. The COVID-19 outbreak forced the PC(USA) to cancel plans for a full General Assembly in Baltimore and shorten the agenda to include critical items of business with legal and financial implications, elections for Moderator/Co-Moderators and Stated Clerk, standing rules changes, and committee (GANC) nominations.