As the Assembly committee charged with all business items related to theological education, higher education, published resources, the work of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, and consideration of proposed amendments to the Book of Order’s Directory for Worship, the Theology, Worship, and Education Committee will tackle a packed agenda when the first wave of in-person committees meets at the Presbyterian Center during the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s first-ever hybrid General Assembly this summer.
Because the PC(USA) adopted an extensively revised Directory for Worship at the 222nd General Assembly (2016), not surprisingly there are two items on the Committee’s agenda seeking to revisit the document, both of which were originally slated for the 224th General Assembly (2020).
The Directory — part of the denomination’s Constitution — gives standards and norms for the ordering of worship in PC(USA) congregations and councils. It also lays out the theology that underlies Presbyterian worship, “outlines appropriate forms for worship and highlights connections between worship and Christian life, witness and service.”
An overture from the Presbytery of Santa Fe to the 223rd General Assembly (2018), which the Assembly referred to the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Office of Theology and Worship, proposes a variety of revisions to the Directory. The Office’s response, which was prepared for the 2020 General Assembly, was deferred to 2022. In another overture, the Presbytery of West Virginia is seeking to change the language in the Directory regarding the laying on of hands.
“As Committee members consider these possible revisions, my prayer is that they keep in mind that the PC(USA) Directory for Worship is a living document, always being reformed according to God’s Word and Spirit,” said the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
The Committee will also consider an overture from the Presbytery of Blackhawk, which calls for the creation of worship resources for ministry with military personnel and veterans.
Three separate items before the TWE Committee call for the addition of a new statement to the Book of Confessions, Part 1 of the denomination’s Constitution. Two are overtures from the Presbytery of Arkansas and the Synod of the Northeast and one is a recommendation from the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (GACEIR).
“Each offers a different approach to adding a new confession,” said the Rev. Dr. Barry Ensign-George, coordinator for Theology and Worship for the PMA and staff liaison to the Committee on Theological Education (COTE). “It will be interesting to see which, if any, of the three the Committee approves.”
Relationships with the PC(USA)-related seminaries will be a significant part of the Committee’s work, especially the renewal of the Assembly’s covenant with Auburn Theological Seminary and establishing a covenant with San Francisco Theological Seminary and the University of Redlands.
The Assembly will also be asked, through the Committee, to confirm the new president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the Rev. Dr. Asa J. Lee, as well as new seminary trustees. Presidents and trustees are those who as part of their office carry forward the relationship of that seminary to the denomination.
In other business, the Committee will be asked to consider and approve several recommendations from the Special Committee to Study the Reformed Perspective of Christian Education in the 21st Century. The report raises concerns about Christian Education in the PC(USA) and proposes steps to move forward.
The Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty, senior director of Theological Education Funds Development for the Presbyterian Foundation, said that COTE is recommending through the Committee that the Assembly recognize the Rev. Dr. Gayraud S. Wilmore (1921-2020) and the Rev. Dr. Frank M. Yamada for outstanding lifetime contributions to theological education in and for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and present them with the Award for Excellence in Theological Education. The recommendation also calls for docket time to be scheduled in plenary session to celebrate each awardee.
A leading scholar in Black theology, Wilmore had a deep impact, particularly in the Presbyterian Church and in Theological Education. Yamada is known for advancing the work of theological education in multiple ways, in multiple institutions of theological education, and continues to provide transformational leadership in the field.
A recommendation to the 224th General Assembly (2020) to honor the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Francis Caldwell, and the Rev. Dr. Darrell Likens Guder, for outstanding lifetime contributions to theological education in and for the PC(USA) — and to likewise present them with the Award for Excellence in Theological Education and celebrate them in plenary session — was referred for consideration to this Assembly. Tribute videos of the 2020 awards are currently available for viewing on the Theological Education Fund (TEF) YouTube Channel, with video tributes to the 2022 awardees forthcoming in the weeks ahead.
Teaching Elder Commissioner (TEC) Joseph Scrivner, Sheppards and Lapsley Presbytery, and TEC Enikö Ferenczy, Muskingum Valley Presbytery, will serve as TWE Committee moderator and vice moderator, respectively.