The General Assembly Leadership Briefing is being offered online and in person at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Randy Hobson)

The General Assembly Leadership Briefing is being offered online and in person at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Randy Hobson.

Those called to lead online committees and the many people supporting their work are both online and at the Presbyterian Center Monday through Wednesday for the General Assembly Leadership Briefing in advance of the 226th General Assembly, set for June 25 through July 4.

“I know at the last General Assembly I didn’t feel quite as connected as I had hoped to be. We can make that happen this time,” said the Rev. Bronwen Boswell, Acting Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “Thank you for saying yes to being a part of what’s going on here.”

“Our work,” Boswell said, “is to make sure the committees work really, really well.”

Boswell, a longtime General Assembly parliamentarian and presbytery leader before being named Acting Stated Clerk of the General Assembly in June 2023, recalled the first Assembly she served as a committee parliamentarian. “I was nervous beyond belief. At one point I found myself in the [Office of the General Assembly] office, crying,” she said. Not only was she advised and comforted, “They asked me back!” Boswell said. With each successive call to return, “I’ve said, ‘Really? You want me?’”

“There is help, there is growth, and there is knowledge,” she told leaders gathered both in person and online, which including staff members numbered more than 130. “We want you to be part of it and to be excited about it.”

Kate Trigger Duffert, director of General Assembly Planning in the Office of the General Assembly, noted at least five things General Assembly is to the nation’s 1.1 million Presbyterians: It’s:

  • A council of the church during which business decisions are made.
  • A community gathered in one worshiping body.
  • An event during which people are brought together.
  • A reflection of the realities of the church, and
  • A witness to what the church is called to be.

“You will be holding all these realities for the work that you do. It’s a big, big thing,” Trigger Duffert said. Committee leaders are among the first people with whom commissioners and advisory delegates engage. “You are the faces that will encounter commissioners and advisory delegates to help them feel comfortable and prepare them to do business,” she said.

Kate Trigger Duffert, director of General Assembly Planning, explains to committee leaders what their varying roles entail.

Kate Trigger Duffert, director of General Assembly Planning, explains to committee leaders what their varying roles entail. Photo by Randy Hobson.

After conducting a “Raise your hand if …” exercise, Trigger Duffert noted, “In this room we have many different experiences, personalities and approaches. But we are called by God to serve in this unique and new context. Thank you for bringing yourself into this space.”

She called each General Assembly, which is held during even-numbered years, “critical to our theology as Presbyterians. We discern best what God is calling us to do together.”

On Monday morning, Trigger Duffert laid out the plan for upcoming sessions during the briefing, which included a 45-minute break Monday afternoon for attendees to view the solar eclipse through glasses provided to them.

The 226th General Assembly will feature 13 committees: Bills & Overtures; Mid Councils; Financial Resources; General Assembly Entity Coordination; Ecumenical and Interfaith Partnerships; Polity; Ordination; General Assembly Procedures; Christian Formation; International Engagement; Domestic Engagement; Race, Sexuality & Gender Justice; and Environmental and Climate Justice. “You’re on one of them!” Trigger Duffert told those gathered, drawing laughter.

Aside from Bills & Overtures, each committee, which will be meeting online, will enjoy a wealth of support from these people:

  • The Moderator, who introduces items of business, acknowledges who speaks, guides the flow of committee work, leads the voting process, reports the vote results, and presents the committee report to the plenary.
  • The Vice Moderator, who monitors the queue to see who’s seeking recognition, keeps an eye on the flow of the committee’s work, serves as Moderator when recognized, and assists in presenting the committee report to the plenary.
  • The Committee Assistant, who manages communications between committee leadership and members of the committee, handles logistical issues, when requested serves as the point person between the Moderator and Vice Moderator and others, and scripts the committee report with input from others on the committee’s leadership team.
  • The Parliamentary Manager, who ensures appropriate parliamentary procedure is followed, advises the Moderator on process and appropriateness of motions and other parliamentary concerns, and advises committee leadership on procedures for minority reports, when necessary.
  • The Recorder, who designates active items of business as open for discussion, selects active motions, reflects text changes from amendments in items of business, manages the vote process in software, records committee actions, and advises report writers on actions taken to ensure the accuracy of the committee’s report.
  • The Resource Manager, who serves as the primary contact between resource persons, overture advocates and corresponding members; ensures with the Zoom manager that appropriate resource persons, overture advocates or corresponding members are available and ready to speak; advises the Moderator on which speakers may be available to address a particular issue; advises the report writers on who may be an appropriate resource for the committee report; and equips the Committee Assistant with names and contact information for use during plenary.
  • The Equity Support Manager, a new position that observes and monitors the activity of the committee with an eye toward equity in the process; interrupts committee work in designated ways to encourage pauses, learning moments and redirection moving forward; and advises the Moderator and committee leadership regarding issues of equity throughout the committee’s work.
  • The Zoom Manager, who manages the Zoom room during committee meetings, ensures all committee leaders are co-hosts, mutes and unmutes speakers based on Moderator acknowledgement, manages slides and videos as needed during presentations, and, along with the Resource Manager, confirms access from the waiting room for appropriate speakers.

Following lunch on Monday, leaders met in breakout sessions for training on their specific committee role. Tuesday’s training sessions to be offered to the entire group meeting together in the Conference Center at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Check for more reporting on the General Assembly Leadership Briefing.