PITTSBURGH, July 7, 2012 – On Friday evening, the assembly approved the overture on 1001 new worshipping communities upon hearing the report by the Committee on Church Growth and the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Corporation (PILP).
The assembly voted in favor of the 1001 New Worshipping Communities initiative. This item declares a “churchwide commitment to ignite a movement that results in the creation of 1001 new worshipping communities in the next ten years.”
Judy Pickett, ruling elder commissioner from Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery addressed the assembly to communicate financial ramifications stating her understanding that these communities will not be paying per capita until they become a church.
The Report of the Special Committee on the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century was largely approved. However, a recommendation regarding bivocational ministry was handled separately. Margery Rossi, a committee member who is a ruling elder commissioner from Hudson River Presbytery, proposed returning the amended report of the committee to a much closer representation of the task force’s original wording.
The amendment called for a seven-member task force, including representatives from the Board of Pensions, Office of Vocation, and Committee on Theological Education, to study and make recommendations for supporting bivocational ministry. Rossi said the committee had been told that charging staff members with the work instead of a task force would displace other work.
This amendment would add $21,805 from the per capita fund over the next two years.
A TSAD spoke against this amendment, stating it didn’t represent African Americans and the full ethnic diversity of the church. Another theological student advisory delegate, Nikke Cooley, asked why no seminarians, who would be directly affected by this, were included on the task force. Rosse said the goal of the amendment was not to prescribe but to note participants who had particular expertise, and she agreed that it would be good to include a seminary student.
Stacy Ikard, teaching elder commissioner, spoke against the amendment, saying that she felt the assembly should not overstep the work of the committee that had already spent considerably more time considering. Upon voting, the amendment failed and the work of exploring bivocational ministry was relegated to denominational staff.
Asked about the assembly’s action, report task force co-moderator Stephanie Sorge Wing told the Outlook, “We were very pleased for the reception and passage of the report and recommendations and we look forward to continuing our work through resources that can be used by congregations and councils.” However, she stated, “I am disappointed that the task force was not restored to the recommendation on bivocational minsitry, but task force or not it is and will be a growing area of ministry, and I hope that we can continue to work on addressing the issues and concerns and celebrate the opportunities that come with that territory.”
This committee was voted on late Friday and Sorge Wing stressed her hopes that “the late night hour and the tight schedule don’t deter commissioners and advisory delegates from reading and responding to the full report and discerning how churches and councils are called to respond to changing realities.” She described the work of congregations and councils as crucial for “moving boldly into the present and future ministries to which we are being called.
The assembly also approved the collegiate ministries report and directed the office of collegiate ministries (now reimagined as UKirk) to direct a progress report to the 2014 General Assembly.
In other business, Jay Hudson, was reinstated as president of PILP. He told the assembly the program benefits the denomination’s churches and said there are no delinquencies in its loan portfolio.