THE 223RD GENERAL ASSEMBLY REPORT
By Clarence G. Page, Mission Coordinator
Members of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy’s Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA) did an outstanding job planning the 223rd General Assembly in St. Louis that was held at the America’s Center Downtown, June 15-23, 2018. Theme chosen for the Gathering was, “Kin-dom Building of the 21st Century” (Matt. 6:33).
At the Pre-Assembly Gathering, Dr. Liz Theoharris, co-founder of the New Poor People Campaign, captivated the audience when she spoke about her experience from campaigning for the poor. She and some others were put in jail for praying on the steps of the state house. She encouraged the audience to keep standing up for the poor and not be silent.
Opening Worship began with participants reflecting on the two Missouri and Mississippi Rivers merging together. The 222nd General Assembly’s co-moderators, the Revs. Jan Edmiston and Denise T. Anderson encouraged PC(USA) support for oppressed peoples in today’s Middle East, the United States and other parts of the world. The co-moderators delivered a co-sermon, their last message together after two years in that role.
It took commissioners four ballots Saturday evening to elect Co-Moderators Who are: an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and a mid-council executive as the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s. These are the PCUSA’s second-ever co-moderators.
Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri of the Presbytery of Tropical Florida and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann of the presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England gained their victory over two pairs of challengers.
Cintrón-Olivieri, who grew up in Puerto Rico, is an ESL teacher and ruling elder at First Spanish Presbyterian Church in Miami.
Kohlmann currently serves as Resource Presbyter for the presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England. The vote was 266 to 253.
New Mission Leader:
The 223rd General Assembly confirmed the Rev. Diane Moffett as president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency by voice vote on Wednesday evening. Moffett will lead the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) agency charged with conducting the church’s national and international mission endeavors. A veteran Presbyterian pastor, Moffett comes to the role from Saint James Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, N.C., where she served for 13 year.
The Way Forward Commission:
Commissioners approved Way Forward plan in strengthening the role of the stated clerk and for the church in matters of faith and practice. They rejected the amendments that would have eliminated his ability to exercise pastoral authority during times of crisis and would have required that stated clerk to consult with agency leaders before making a decision to take action.
Per Capita Approved:
in an unusual move, commissioners waited until the Saturday morning plenary to approve an increase in the per capita rate to $8.95 for the next two years after postponing the vote on Friday night in an attempt to assure the increase covers the financial implications of all actions taken by this assembly.
The General Assembly on Saturday approved mission budgets of $71,589,237 for 2019 and $70,531,957 for 2020.
The budgets were passed as submitted by the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA), but the PMA will be required to deal with financial implications of items approved during the Assembly. The financial implications total $1,030,978 for 2019 and $857,305 for 2020.
- The General Assembly approved to adjust ministers’ compensation to include gender disparity by giving equal benefits to all.
Local Impact of the Assembly –
On Tuesday, June 19, hundreds of Presbyterians joined in a march to St. Louis Justice Center to protest the citizens who are unable to post bail from imprisonment and as result have lost their jobs, child custody and other increasing fines. The Bail Project is to help pay those fees that are less than $5,000. The Stated Clerk, J. Herbert Nelson presented a check from the Presbyterian Church. Over $54,000 was raised to assist those citizens which is a part of Rev. Nelson’s Hands and Feet Campaign.
Committee on Environment Issues
made a recommendation to the Board of Pensions and Presbyterian Foundation to divest from investing in fossil fuel industries was (disapproved) and inste
ad, the General Assembly sent action to Mission Responsibility Through Investment to do further evaluation and report back to 224th General Assembly.
Young Adult Advisory Delegates…
put their money where their hearts were during Saturday’s closing plenary, directing a $1,605 special offering they collected toward causes important to the General Assembly’s co-moderators and stated clerk.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
….received $535 for Puerto Rico hurricane relief to honor Co-Moderator Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri. PDA’s refugee support efforts received the same amount in the name of the other co-moderator, the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann. The remainder honored Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson and one of his favorite movements, the Poor People’s Campaign.
CHURCH POLITY AND ORDERED MINISTRY
- Church property held in trust for the use and benefit of PCUSA unless the state law requires otherwise – recommendation disapproved
- When a former minister of Word and Sacrament who renounced jurisdiction while being accused in a disciplinary case wishes to work for the denomination again must receive concurrence from the next higher council – recommendation approved.
- Composition for congregational Nominating Committee to have a minimum size of at least three persons of whom one must be an elder active on the session and there must be a majority vote – recommendation approved.
- Amendment to instruct Board of Pensions to include 12 weeks of paid parental leave as part of the benefits package was referred.
- Composition and responsibilities of the Session – when the pastor or designated moderator is unable to be presence or is sick, a member the session may be appointed to preside at a single meeting – recommendation approved.
- Amendment to allow congregations to elect individuals to be ruling elders without serving on the session – recommendation disapproved.
- Amendment to prohibit public endorsement of individuals running for public office – recommendation approved.
- Authoritative Interpretation Request from Presbytery of Coastal Carolina about whether a non-PC(USA) minister can moderate a session in those cases where the presbytery has accepted these pastors who have “satisfied the requirements of preparation” … recommendation approved.
THANKS TO OUR COMMISSIONERS
for going on behalf of the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina:
You are fee to contact these persons to see if they are available to come share with you about their experience at the General Assembly.
- Mamie Hooker (West),
- Steuart Link (Central),
- William (Bill) Young (East);
- William (Paul) Pope (Central),
- Curt Simpson (East),
- John Baker (West);
Young Adult Advisory Delegate:
- Adrian Jackson (East);
Theological Adult Student Advisory Delegate:
- Christopher Taylor (East).