ST. LOUIS –A new executive director for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Support for mental health education. Theologically-driven acts of justice. As plenary drew to a close on Wednesday June 20 at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Mission Coordination committee presented their business.
Committee moderator Walter Rockenstein acknowledged that the Cuba Mutual Mission Agreement (item 10-16), was passed on the consent agenda. Rockenstein invited Ary Fernandez, the General Secretary of the Presbyterian and Reformed Church of Cuba, to address the assembly as part of the committee report. Fernandez offered an overview of the scope and work of the church in Cuba, and the importance of the mutual mission agreement that was approved. He thanked the church for passing the agreement and asked for continued work by the church to end the embargo, travel ban and travel restrictions.
Next Rockenstein presented Presbyterian Mission Agency 2019–20 Mission Work Plan (10-04). The plan was written in the form of a worship service, which calls for repentance and a way forward. It calls for a focus in the following three areas: evangelism/discipleship, leader formation and justice/reconciliation. It was passed unanimously by the assembly.
The LGBTQ+ overture (10-03) calls for a task force to investigate and study the need for an advocacy committee to address the concerns of LGBTQ+ in the church and has financial implications of $22,000. A question was brought to the floor asking: “Do we need to keep studying this issue? We know we need it, so why study it?” Rhashell Hunter, director of Racial, Ethnic and Women’s ministries, responded that this was the process recommended by the Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns. An amendment was proposed to change all references in the overture to include LGBTQIA+. Shannon Simmons, a YAAD from Calvin Presbytery affirmed the amendment. The amendment passed to include the two additional initials in the acronym. Two delegates spoke in favor of the overture. The overture passed with 80% voting in favor.
Expanded Response to the Doctrine of Discovery. The overture on expanded response to the Doctrine of Discovery (10-12) calls for actions aimed at expanding the response beyond the report from 10-13 and encourages congregations, presbyteries and synods. Rick Ufford-Chase, former General Assembly moderator, rose to spoke in favor of the overture. Ufford-Chase told a story about a trip he took to Standing Rock where Native American elders talked about the importance of churches that have repudiated the doctrine of discovery and shared how harmful it had been for them. Ufford-Chase explained how meaningful passing these two overtures would be to indigenous peoples in the United States. The overture passed with 87 percent voting in favor.
One overture (10-01) calls for preparation of a comprehensive on-site inventory of all historic Native American and Alaskan Native properties in the PC(USA) and to verify what needs to be done for their repair and continued use. Terry Palmer, a minister commissioner from Grand Canyon Presbytery, spoke on behalf of the overture. Palmer stated that the overture strengthens mission partnerships with Native American congregations. He said that in light of the overtures passed on the Doctrine of Discovery, this is the right thing to do. Edward Spence, a minister commissioner from Grand Canyon Presbytery, spoke in favor of the overture, but pointed out that the budget was unnecessarily high. In his presbytery, volunteer retired civil engineers were able to do this in his presbytery at no significant cost. The overture passed with 86 percent approval.
The overture (10-11) on “Establishing a Grant to Develop Resources to Educate Entities Regarding Serious Mental Illness Issues.” This called for a recognition of the 10thanniversary of “Comfort my people,” a report published at the 2008 General Assembly. It also includes the establishment of a $250,000 grant to be used to implement the provisions of this overture. And it proposes that a review and evaluation of actions that have been taken following the approval of the overture to reported on at the 224th General Assembly (2020). There was an amendment to bring back changes to the overture that were proposed by ACSWP during the committee meeting, which the committee had rejected. The amendment passed with 88 percent approval, which altered the overture to include the ACSWP recommendation. The assembly approved the overture with an 82 percent majority.
The original item (10-09) concerning small churches called for establishing a new department within the Presbyterian Mission Agency with a multi-million dollar financial implication. The committee amended the resolution to instead require a report to the next General Assembly that would report on the existing and new programs designed to help smaller churches. There was no discussion on the floor of the assembly. The alternative resolution from the committee was passed by the assembly with 93 percent approval.
Nancy Ramsey, moderator of the search committee for the executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, gave a report on Diane Givens Moffett.
Moffett took the podium and shared her joy and excitement for the position. She also stated that we have been called into relationship to address poverty issues domestically and around the world. She said that she has a passion and love for people that moves her to say yes to the challenges and the responsibilities of the position. She stated that she would be honored to serve in this capacity if the way be clear, and thanked the assembly for the opportunity and for considering her candidacy. The assembly applauded her speech. Eight members of Salem Presbytery, where she currently serves as pastor, stood and affirmed her call prior to the vote.
A voice vote was taken, to confirm the election of Diane Givens Moffett as president/executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (10-14). The advisory delegates offered a robust affirmation, followed by the commissioners with a unanimous voice vote. The assembly stood and offered her a standing ovation.
Following the report, Moffett was installed as the president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency . An installation commission that included stated clerk J. Herbert Nelson, outgoing PMA board chair Kenneth Godshall, incoming board chair Joseph L. Morrow, co-moderators Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and Cindy Kohlmann and others gathered around the font. They prayed and laid hands on Moffett as she was installed to the position.