Based on a report by Sharon K. Youngs, OGA communications coordinator, and Jerry L. Van Marter, coordinator of Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) was directed — and planners and moderators of other governing bodies were urged — by the 217th General Assembly (2006) to “explore the use of alternate forms of discernment.”
At its recent meeting, members of COGA not only discussed the assembly’s directive and its implications for future assemblies, they sought to live it out in their own decision-making. They learned that the discernment model is a prayerful approach to decision-making that takes focus, good listening skills, and time.
Possible changes in 2008 assembly format
Gradye Parsons, director of operations for the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) said planners of the 218th General Assembly (2008) next summer in San Jose, Calif., are weighing a number of options to give commissioners more time to talk and reflect in the midst of debating and voting.
Though the final plans are not set, the assembly may start several hours earlier on opening day to give commissioners more time to settle in before the crunch of business begins. Utilizing emerging technologies, the assembly may also include “speak-ins,” which Parsons described as “live interviews with folks out in the church” to elicit perspectives from Presbyterians not present in San Jose and to “liven things up a little bit.”
Parsons said COGA and OGA “want to respond to the (discernment/alternative decision-making) referral but want to do it deliberately.” So, rather than moving the entire assembly to the discernment model, Parsons said one or two of the assembly committees will use the alternative rubric.
A resource booklet is in development to help acquaint commissioners with discernment decision-making.
Noting that 70 percent of all committee votes at the 2006 Assembly were unanimous, Parsons said planners are also considering a recommendation that would allow unanimous committee votes to be the final action of the Assembly, thus freeing up plenary time for more discernment and more extensive debate on weightier matters. In response to a question from GA Moderator Joan Gray, Parsons said that commissioners would still have the right to bring any item of business up to the plenary floor for further discussion and vote.
COGA will revisit the proposal at its next meeting in February 2008.
Non-geographic Korean-American synod
The committee talked at length about the 2006 Assembly’s referral to COGA to “conduct a feasibility study for creating a non-geographic Korean-American synod,” an approach similar to the current non-geographic Korean-language presbyteries. The proposal seeks to balance the desires of Korean Presbyterian congregations, some of which want to be part of conventional PC(USA) presbyteries and those congregations that want to remain part of Korean-language presbyteries.
While expressing appreciation for the long tradition and significant contributions of Koreans to the denomination, several COGA members expressed reservations about forming a non-geographic synod.
The committee will revisit the proposal in February.
More on proposed new Form of Government
COGA members, as did members of the General Assembly Council at their recent meeting, spent considerable time discussing the work of the Form of Government Task Force and their draft of the new proposed Form of Government (see also report in the Outlook Oct. 15 issue).
The final draft of the proposed Form of Government will be ready by the 120-day deadline for business to be submitted to the 218th General Assembly, which is Feb. 22, 2008.