Brief guide to General Assembly: Here’s what to expect


GA222 PortlandThe 222nd (2016) General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formally convenes June 18 at the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland, Oregon. It’ll be a sleepless sprint for the next week to the finish on June 25.

Here’s a little of what to expect.

Nuts & bolts:

  • Assembly theme: “The Hope in Our Calling” from Ephesians 1:18.
  • Participants: 594 commissioners and 198 advisory delegates (from 171 presbyteries).
  • Business: Presbyterians can use to track the business coming to the assembly’s 14 committees and (as the week progresses) to see what action was taken on particular items.
  • Docket: Here are both the proposed docket for the assembly and a more detailed schedule of assembly events.
  • Live stream: Worship and plenary will be live streamed. Visit this link for more information:

The Way Forward. Although the assembly doesn’t formally until convene until June 18, one General Assembly committee – committee 4, known as The Way Forward committee – is dealing with a constellation of business involving the future of the PC(USA), including the possibility of merging the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency, so is getting a head start. Unlike the other committees, which will begin meeting the evening of June 19, The Way Forward will go to work the afternoon of June 17.

Riverside Conversations – June 18. Commissioners and advisory delegates are invited to participate in two hours of conversation Saturday morning, focused on issues raised in the document “When We Gather At the Table: A PC(USA) Snapshot.” That report analyzes the results of the questionnaire that the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly posted online last fall, which drew more than 3,400 responses from Presbyterians. Questions about what kind of church the PC(USA) is now and what comes next are expected to be at the heart of discussions at this assembly.

Opening worship – June 18. Presbyterians are being invited to join in virtually to the assembly’s opening worship at 11 a.m. PDT, using this liturgy. Presbyterians are expected to gather in sanctuaries and other spaces around the country as Heath Rada, moderator of the 221st (2014) General Assembly, preaches.

Moderator’s election – June 18. Because of a rules change, this is the first assembly at which co-moderators can be chosen (as opposed to a moderator and vice-moderator). This year, two teams of co-moderators are standing for election (and the language is always that candidates stand for election, not run for election). Those teams are:

  • Denise Anderson from National Capital Presbytery, with Jan Edmiston of the Presbytery of Chicago. Both are teaching elders.
  • Adan Mairena, a teaching elder from the Presbytery of Philadelphia, with David P. Parker, a ruling elder and lawyer from Salem Presbytery.

The plenary at which the co-moderators will be elected will begin at 7 p.m. PDT June 18. Here is more information on the candidates.

Sunday worship – June 19. Presbyterians attending the assembly will travel to worship with more than 25 congregations around the Portland area on June 19.

Stated clerk selection – Report June 19, election June 24. The assembly will hear the report of the Stated Clerk Nomination Committee at 2:30 p.m. PDT on June 19. The actual election of the new stated clerk won’t take place, however, until the morning of June 24.

The committee has nominated J. Herbert Nelson, director of the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., to succeed Gradye Parsons who has served as stated clerk for the past eight years, and who is retiring. David M. Baker, a teaching elder and stated clerk and director of communications of the Presbytery of Tampa Bay, is challenging Nelson’s nomination.

Committee meetings – June 19 to June 21. The assembly’s 14 committees will begin deliberations at 7:30 p.m. PDT on June 19, and will finish their work by June 21. Committee meetings will not be live streamed.

Plenaries – June 22 to June 25. After the committees conclude their work, the full assembly will meet in plenary – an intense four days to discuss everything from racial reconciliation to climate change to the future of the church. The order in which committee reports are presented will be decided in Portland – with a few exceptions.

June 22: At the first session, starting at 2 p.m. PDT, the assembly is expected to approve the consent calendar – generally, items that the committees approved by at least a 75 percent “supermajority” vote and which don’t have constitutional implications.

June 24: The stated clerk election will come in the morning plenary, which begins at 8:30 a.m. PDT. Worship will be held at 11:15 a.m. PDT, with Jerry Andrews, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in San Diego, preaching.

June 25: Larissa Kwong Abazia, vice-moderator of the 2014 General Assembly, will preach at closing worship during the final plenary, which begins at 9 a.m. PDT.