Deadlines. We all face them, although not many of us are faced with as many deadlines as Kate Trigger Duffert.
Trigger Duffert, manager of General Assembly Business and Per Capita in the Office of the General Assembly, was the guest of GA News reporter Fred Tangeman Monday on GA Live. Watch their 20-minute conversation here.
“This day was a long time in the making,” Tangeman told Trigger Duffert at the outset of Monday’s broadcast. “It feels like you and others should be congratulated.” He asked her to trace a bit of the history of how the business before the Assembly got to where it is on Monday, the first day of the first of four waves of committee meetings being held at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, and available for viewing here.
With so much of the business before commissioners having been referred by commissioners to the 224th General Assembly (2020), “it was a unique situation, and it put us at a strategic advantage,” Trigger Duffert said. “We had a good idea early on in the process what would be discussed,” which “gave us perspective and insight as we were planning.”
The Standing Rules contain variable deadlines for new items of business, giving Trigger Duffert and her colleagues time to edit and translate the items and make them available on PC-Biz. It also allows for time to line up resource people who can speak to committees and, later, commissioners meeting in plenary, on the various items of business. “The deadlines allow us to do all that work,” Trigger Duffert told Tangeman.
But it also means Assembly business is perhaps not up to date with the most current news headlines, which is the role commissioner resolutions play. On Sunday, the Bills and Overtures Committee referred eight such resolutions to other committees. Many of the resolutions speak to current situations including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the nation’s mental health crisis.
Care and thought have gone into scheduling the four groups of four committees each. Trigger Duffert said committees not likely to receive a commissioner resolution were scheduled during the initial group, which meets June 20-22. Committees likely to share resource people, who offer commissioners information as they consider items of business as part of committee deliberations, were scheduled to meet at similar times so that resource people aren’t required to be present for all four groups of committees. Committees considering the future of General Assembly or the financial implications of overtures, the formation of special committees and other study groups are scheduled for the fourth wave of meetings so that their members have a firmer concept of where their work might lead, and what the action is expected to cost.
Using PC-Biz for voting in both committees and in plenary allows for “strong tracking around voting,” Trigger Duffert said. Those commissioners seeking recognition to speak are listed for the person running the meeting. “No one has to crane their neck to see who’s seeking recognition,” she said. “It allows for more conversation space, especially in committees. It’ll open up more time to do the bulk of their work.”
The child of Presbyterian pastors, Trigger Duffert attended her first General Assembly at age 6 or 7. Her parents’ “idea of fun was summer vacation at General Assembly,” she told Tangeman. “We would pack up the car and go wherever GA was.” She later served as a Young Adult Advisory Delegate, “so I got to see GA from that side, too.”
A little over three years ago, she began working as part of the staff of the national church. “I had enough familiarity (with how the Assembly operates) to have some institutional knowledge,” she said. But once the pandemic began in March 2020, “we were able to be flexible enough to say, ‘I don’t know how this works. Let’s find a new way.’”
Technology improvements that enhance tools including PC-Biz have made the assembly more accessible and more inclusive, she said. “Folks who are new [to the General Assembly] can get in and access and be as involved as anybody else,” Trigger Duffert said.
Donning her per capita hat for a moment, Trigger Duffert explained how this bedrock Presbyterian principle “hopefully levels the playing field to make sure we are all involved in the church the same way,” no matter the size or the financial strength of a congregation or mid council. It’s helped fund the hybrid model for the current Assembly, she said, ensuring, for example, that overture advocates need not be present in person to get their point across.
The hybrid model means “General Assembly is not something that happens far away from folks,” Trigger Duffert said. People engaged in the Assembly from home “can have meaningful conversations and follow faithfully wherever the Spirit is moving.”
GA Live is aired each morning of the Assembly at 10 o’clock Eastern Time. Find the broadcasts here.