Members of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly got their first look at the draft list of committees for the 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Thursday. During its monthly call, the list of 18 was presented for review.
“What we’ve tried to do is think about committees in a different way and not necessarily be tied to a particular structure. We also wanted to be logical about the flow of the meeting schedule,” said Kerry Rice, Deputy Stated Clerk for the Office of the General Assembly. “The Stated Clerk will make the final decision about the committee list in late January or early February.”
The draft list and meeting schedule includes:
- Assembly Committee on Business Referrals
- Bills and Overtures (June 19)
- General Assembly Entity Policies and Procedures (June 29-July 3) — focus would be on administrative and internal issues related to A Corp/Administrative Services Group, Presbyterian Mission Agency and Office of the General Assembly.
- General Assembly Ministry Coordination (June 29-July 3) — if approved, this committee would address outward facing actions tied to A Corp/ASG, PMA, and OGA operations. These would include caucus and advisory committee structures and awards.
- Standing Rules of the General Assembly (June 26-30) — focus would be all proposed changes to the Standing Rules.
- Financial Resources (June 29-July 3) — all financial and budget related items from entities of the General Assembly would be the focus.
- Moving Forward and Vision 2020 (June 29-July 3) — focus would be on the Moving Forward recommendations (except for those related to Organization for Mission and Budget). This committee would also address the Vision 2020 report.
- Mid Councils (June 20-23) — all items of business directly related to the operations of presbyteries and synods would be addressed.
- Polity (June 20-23) — focus would be on Amendments to the Book of Order Section G.
- Rules of Discipline (June 20-23) — amendments to the Book of Order Section D would be addressed.
- Ecumenical and Interfaith Engagement (June 26-30) — focus would be on items related to relationships with other denominations and faiths.
- Environmental Justice (June 22-26) — items related to divestment, environmental policy, and a green future would make up its agenda.
- Race and Gender Justice (June 22-26) — focus would be on justice issues surrounding racism, gender identity, and their intersection.
- Health, Safety, and Benefits (June 22-26) — items related to health, safe spaces, and benefits would be covered.
- International Engagement (June 26-30) — items related to polices and actions that include international partners would be the focus.
- Immigration (June 26-30) — focus would be on all items related to policies and actions related to immigration.
- Addressing Violence in the United States of America (June 22-26) — focus would be on issues related to gun violence, bullying, domestic violence, and violent language.
- Theology, Worship, and Education (June 20-23) — amendments to the Book or Order Section W, items related to theological and higher education, as well as published materials.
COGA will review the draft list and take it up for discussion at its next scheduled monthly meeting on January 20, 2022.
The 225th General Assembly of the PC(USA) is scheduled to take place as a hybrid gathering between June 18 – July 9, 2022. Committee meetings will be held in person at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville.
COGA also spent the bulk of its December meeting discussing ways to utilize choice points and equity primes in its work. The concepts were introduced to COGA last summer with plans to incorporate the practices into next year’s assembly. Race Forward, the organization from which the concepts come, defines choice points as “decision-making opportunities that influence outcomes.” Equity primes are tools for “debiasing” or interrupting automatic decisions and pathways that result from our implicit biases.
COGA and OGA leaders feel commissioners and advisory delegates could benefit from hearing all aspects of an issue before making a final decision with particular attention given to “voices long silenced” within the denomination and society. By incorporating intentional questions and discernment opportunities into its work, the GA225 Coordination Workgroup hopes that all commissioners and advisory delegates would continue living more fully into the representation and participation of all in the discernment processes of the church. Hope was also expressed that those who might feel intimidated by the rules and processes of General Assembly will feel more comfortable sharing their views before a vote is taken, therefore ensuring a broader range of voices involved in the process. Several COGA members spoke in favor.
“We have a tendency to push against change,” said Teaching Elder Luis Jose Ocasio Torres. “If you want to be a church instead of an empire, we need to think differently for this to work.”
Teaching Elder Eliana Maxim, COGA vice moderator, believes that for this work, the church needs to be all in.
“If we couch this in a systemic way that this is who we are, it can start to infuse all of our leader training. It’s a muscle that will develop with exercise,” she said. “The system will always revert to the path of least resistance. If we make this a non-negotiable part of our DNA, I think it will become more embedded in our identity and work.”
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), urged COGA to continue to be in prayer as the Church moves forward in 2022.
“This is a period of innovation, change, and transformation. We are going into some directions that people are not accustomed to. This is a new way for the life of this denomination,” said Nelson. “As we move forward with General Assembly, we know there will be folks that are irritated. Be in prayer for the church to be innovative and flexible.”