The Standing Rules of the General Assembly Committee needed less than two hours Wednesday to complete its workload, topped by its 31-3 approval of the formation of a Special Committee on the Standing Rules of the GA.
The financial implications are expected to be nearly $30,000 over the years 2023-24. The proposal, STAN-36, came to the committee from the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly.
Provided the item is approved next week in plenary, the Co-Moderators of the 225th General Assembly, the Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis and the Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace, will appoint the nine-member committee, which will be charged with proposing a new set of Standing Rules. Among the special committee’s considerations will be:
Using language that opens the General Assembly to “an expansive understanding of gender.”
Reflecting the church’s commitments to unity and diversity and full participation and representation.
Assisting the assembly “in promoting equity throughout its processes and in its decisions.”
Looking at the role of advisory delegates “to ensure a continuing voice of constituencies that represent the breadth of the present and future of the church.”
Promoting “broad access and participation in the General Assembly of the whole church,” including through translation services and “accommodations for persons with different abilities.”
Providing “permission for spaces that encourage innovation and creativity in the General Assembly’s discernment.”
Simplifying the language of the Standing Rules and assembly processes “to reflect more fully the 21st-century church” and embodying the flexibility of the current Form of Government.
Incorporating technology “to promote communication, conversation and discernment” during the assembly.
Adjusting the scale and complexity of assembly meetings envisioned in the Standing Rules “for a church that has substantially fewer people and financial resources.”
Reflecting any decisions of the 225th General Assembly regarding the location and format of future assemblies.
“You’ve spent time over the last two days getting to know these [Standing] rules, why they work and why they don’t work,” the Rev. Andy James from COGA told the committee. “We believe this proposal is the right step at the right time so the next General Assembly can more effectively and broadly reflect the will of God through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”
According to the item’s rationale, the proposed special committee won’t have to start from scratch “because any number of groups have proposed various changes to these processes in recent years.”
The special committee will include a member from both the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns and the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee. Each will have voice but no vote.
The committee approved three other items for consideration by the entire assembly next week. All three came from COGA.
STAN-11, regarding worship planning, adds the General Assembly Committee on Representation to the list that GA co-moderators must consult while planning worship for the upcoming assembly.
STAN-09, regarding the Stated Clerk Nomination Committee, also adds GACOR to the consultation process for selecting the nominee to be the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA).
STAN-12, regarding consent voting, updates the process for setting the assembly’s consent agenda, which is the first order of plenary business following committee meetings. James said the consent agenda typically represents about half the assembly’s business. It’s prepared by committee leadership and contains only items expected to be non-controversial. Any commissioner can remove an item from the consent agenda.
As committee members prepared for closing worship, Moderator the Rev. Jennifer Jennings of East Iowa Presbytery thanked them for “the attention and cooperation and collegiality you have shown as brothers and sisters in Christ.” She encouraged committee members to prepare and practice for strict time limits on speaking enforced during plenary, which runs from July 5-9.
“Brevity,” Jennings said, “is what we’re going for in the plenary.”