The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly has approved the latest additions to the draft docket for the 226th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). During the opening session of its fall meeting on Tuesday, COGA members said yes to the plan that not only includes online committee meetings, but other events and activities during the in-person portion of the assembly in Salt Lake City.
Kate Trigger Duffert, director of General Assembly planning for OGA, outlined plans for the online committee meetings that will take place June 25–27, 2024.
“Prior to the committee meetings, there will be two sessions for commissioners and advisory delegates to gather and get to know one another,” she said. “The second gathering will be for testing out the tech so that when they begin meetings, they will know what to do.”
The in-person portion of the assembly will take place June 29–July 4. Trigger Duffert said there are plans to offer “town hall” meetings similar to the “riverside conversations” that have been held before.
“We want to offer space for people to gather on a particular topic or discuss what business is coming in or other areas of interest,” she said. “Those will be open to people beyond agencies and committees. We have heard the need for the assembly to be open to all people so they can embrace it as their assembly and have conversation on topics they are passionate about. They want conversation and to be in touch with participants.”
COGA also discussed plans to change the volunteer recruitment process for General Assembly.
“We want to see the richness in diversity of the pool of applicants; people of color, queer people and people with disabilities. We want to shift thinking away from being a part of a team that wants to stay intact,” said valerie izumi, OGA’s manager for General Assembly nominations. “We want to rethink that so there are no closed groups.”
At the 225th General Assembly last year, space was provided for Black, Indigenous and People of Color to gather and debrief their experiences.
“The BIPOC space was very successful. It was really a gift to have been in that space, seeing people of color wanting to know more about life and witness of the church in its governance. A lot of people needed that space to vent, ask questions or receive comfort and we were able to provide that for them,” said izumi. “We want to do that same kind of thing for the queer community.”
Under the draft docket, June 29 will include Young Adult Advisory Delegate training, an open reception hosted by the Presbytery of Utah, and an opportunity for attendees to meet candidates for moderator as well as PC(USA) agency representatives. Trigger Duffert said other groups interested in hosting events can do so, but they will be responsible for the details as staff and volunteers will be stretched.
“Groups can schedule events and we will make sure people know about them. We cannot staff every single event, but we recognize there is a need for the church to come together in these spaces and we can help foster communications around that,” she said. “If someone wants to schedule a meeting, such as a luncheon, we’ll make sure to direct people to the right place at the right time.”
Trigger Duffert added that, unlike the last two assemblies, observers are welcome.
“Because of the Covid restrictions of the past, some folks assume next year’s assembly is a locked-down event. That is not true. If folks want to come, they can come. There is no reason people should not feel welcome,” she said. “We want everyone to come. We might not have enough room to fit everyone in the same space, but we will have alternatives.”
COGA continues its fall meeting Wednesday, which will include consultation with members of the Unification Commission.