In a sort of virtual prelude to the start of the 2020 General Assembly, the assembly’s Committee on Business Referrals met via Zoom June 18 — with a few technical stumbles, but not much drama.
Among other actions, the committee voted to:
- Send to the assembly a new piece of business – presented by the committee itself – “On Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Mark Roth, a ruling elder from Pittsburgh Presbytery, said it’s important for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to witness to God’s faithfulness during a time of global pandemic and suffering.
- Send to the assembly another new piece of business, from the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA), called “On the Church in This Moment in History” – a response in part to those who contend this General Assembly needs to say and do more about social justice. During a time when many are deeply concerned about white supremacy, “it challenges the church to make good on commitments already made to be agents of change,” said committee moderator Terry Denton from the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee.
- Send to the assembly for information, but not action, a report of administrative actions that the Moving Forward Implementation Commission took on June 18.
- Approve a docket for the assembly with one revision: to move the start of the election of co-moderators on June 19 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. EDT, as COGA had requested, to give more time for discussion earlier in the evening that could include attempts to introduce new business or bring up at this assembly recommendations on social justice or other items that COGA is asking be referred to the General Assembly in 2022. To do those things would require setting aside the standing rules, which would need to be passed by a two-thirds vote of the assembly.
- Approve a consent agenda – recognizing that any commissioner can request that an item be pulled from that docket. Notably: that consent agenda does not include items related to the controversy over whether San Francisco Theological Seminary should continue to be viewed as a PC(USA) seminary.
The committee met via Zoom, and while there were no disasters, the leadership had to improvise a few steps.
At one point, Denton, the committee’s moderator, lost her connection and disappeared from the discussion. She said later that her “computer went blank and started rebooting.” Committee vice moderator Joe Chu from Eastern Korean Presbytery stepped in quickly and the business flowed on.
At another point, producer Nathan Young was searching to find a commissioner who had been recognized to speak, “but who doesn’t appear to be on this call, unless his name was wrong in Zoom.” Turns out: the name showing on the man’s Zoom account was his wife’s, so he was briefly lost but quickly found.