GA226 Medallion

Five of the 16 overtures up for consideration by the Christian Formation Committee of the 226th General Assembly ask for the assembly to confirm the election of new presidents at PC(USA) seminaries. The seminaries that have completed searches for new presidents since the last General Assembly in 2022 are Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (F-06), Columbia Theological Seminary (CF-07), Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (CF-08), Princeton Theological Seminary (CF-09 target="_blank" rel="noopener") and Union Presbyterian Seminary (CF-10).

“This is historic in at least two ways,” said the Rev. Dr. Barry Ensign-George, staff liaison for the Committee on Theological Education (COTE) from the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “First, the large number of new presidents is a marker of change going on in theological education, something that is also showing up in the overtures addressing ordination. Second, it is an historic change in the identities of those new presidents: three persons of color (José Irizarry [Austin], Victor Aloyo [Columbia], Jonathan Lee Walton [Princeton], and a woman, Jacqueline Lapsley [Union]).”

“Theological schools in the U.S. are experiencing an unprecedented period of leadership transition, and PC(USA) institutions are no exception. Since GA225, COTE has welcomed five new presidents as representatives of their institutions as well as two new deans,” according to the COTE Agency Summary submitted to the Christian Formation committee.

The committee will also consider the election of new trustees to all PC(USA)-affiliated seminaries (CF-14). Since 1986, when “A Plan for the Governance and Funding of the Theological Institutions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” was approved by the 198th General Assembly, COTE has been required to present new presidents and new trustees of theological institutions that are institutional members of COTE to the assembly for confirmation. Additionally, Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation is seeking to deepen its participation in COTE and asks the committee to consider a proposed covenant between the General Assembly and OPSF (CF-11).

The Presbyterian Mission Agency is asking the 226th General Assembly to approve a list of 54 PC(USA)-related schools, colleges and universities that span geographically from Puerto Rico to Washington state (CF-02). The overture summary explains that the criteria for inclusion on the list include identifying a historic connection to the PC(USA) and a commitment to Reformed values through education, which include “a commitment to faith, truth, learning, service, community, character and the dignity and worth of each person.”

“The cost and value of college and university education and student indebtedness is an important one,” claims the rationale behind another overture (CF-16) under consideration by the Christian Formation Committee, asking for engagement of the PC(USA) on several levels, from national public witness to awareness raising of Presbyterian institutions of higher education as well as denominational and mid council leaders when it comes to addressing public and personal concerns around student loans, student indebtedness and increased public funding for higher education. The resource, “More Than Knowledge and Training: Cost and Value in Higher Education in the United States” and the PC(USA)’s own loan assistance support program are lifted up as part of the directives of the overture.

An overture from the Presbytery of Riverside (CF-01) raises concerns about Christian formation in earlier stages of development and the decisions over the past decade by the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation that have resulted in the cessation of the creation of new all-age curriculums for faith formation. As the overture’s title suggests, the concern relates to resources especially for congregational use and to meet the needs of the small church. Comments on the overture from PPC and the PMA reflect the changing market for congregational-based curriculum for all ages and considerations of new models of faith formation, while the advice and counsel on CF-01 from the LGBTQIA+ Equity Advocacy Committee lift up a present need in the marketplace for both a Reformed perspective and one inclusive of the experiences of LGBTQIA+ people.

During the 226th General Assembly, online committee meetings are being held June 25-27.