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General Assembly Entity Policies and Procedures Committee considers the Organization for Mission and finishes their work

Complicated discussions lead to consensus on structural review and an earlier-than-anticipated completion of committee business

Commissioners vote in the General Assembly Entity Policies and Procedures meeting. Photo by Gregg Brekke for Presbyterian Outlook.

Louisville, Kentucky — The General Assembly Entity Policies and Procedures Committee of the 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) began their second day of work where they left off on Thursday. Almost all the items of business remaining are related to the church’s Organization for Mission which was introduced the day before.

As explained on Thursday, the Organization for Mission describes the connections and responsibilities of the agencies in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). As explained by members of the Moving Forward Implementation Special Committee, these items resulted from the reorganization approved by the 2018 General Assembly to create the A Corporation in the denominational corporate structure. While some items were dealt with by the 2020 General Assembly, these three are among the items that were referred to this assembly. On Thursday the committee heard from resource people about the Organization for Mission and the various changes that were being proposed regarding the evaluation of the new agencies. Thursday concluded with the commissioners meeting in small groups to discuss and crystalize their thoughts.

Roxie Holder, moderator of the General Assembly Entity Policies and Procedures meeting. Photo by Gregg Brekke for Presbyterian Outlook.

And that is where the Friday meeting began as the committee moderator Roxie Holder invited them to return to their discussion groups from the day before to update their thoughts having reflected overnight. After thirty minutes the groups reported on their discussions about proceeding with the three items of business that were being considered as a group: GA-PAP-01, GA-PAP-02, GA-PAP-19. The longest report, and the only one with visual aids, was given by John Owen, a commissioner from The Inland Northwest Presbytery. He began by acknowledging that he trusted that all three items are valid. Therefore, the task of the committee is to deconflict them. He then went to the paper posted on the wall and diagrammed out the relationship of these three items within the Organization for Mission.

As commissioner Tim Haworth from Great Rivers Presbytery described it, “this is a scheduling issue.” He also asked about the specific reference to affirmative action in GA-PAP-02 and it seemed that was included in the other recommendations. Owen pointed out that if these two entities are added to the schedule there are now eight agencies or entities to be reviewed and wondered if that would be a burden. The committee heard from Larissa Kwong Abazia from the General Assembly Committee on Representation who spoke about the importance of the business item to be sure the A Corp and the Administrative Services Group are added to the review cycle. Daris Bultena, the Vice-Moderator of the General Assembly Nominating Committee, also spoke and reaffirmed that the addition of two more reviews would mean that finding members for two more committees could be a challenge.

Lou Ventura (TEC-Eastern Virginia) speaks in the General Assembly Entity Policies and Procedures meeting. Photo by Gregg Brekke for Presbyterian Outlook.

Commissioner Helen Ventura from Eastern Virginia Presbytery made the motion that the committee recommend Item GA-PAP-02 be disapproved. The motion was seconded and with no one wishing to speak to it, the committee unanimously disapproved the item.

Item GA-PAP-19 was next moved, and an amendment was quickly offered and adopted to delete one of the sections that was inconsistent with GA-PAP-01. April Davenport, the Deputy General Counsel of the denomination and a corresponding member of the assembly pointed out a second incongruency between items 19 and 01. For this, too, an amendment to delete was quickly offered and adopted. Following this, GA-PAP-19 was adopted by a wide margin.

Finally, the adoption of GA-PAP-01 was moved. As part of this discussion, commissioner Jeffrey Ott from Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery asked whether the committee really needed to deal with this. He pointed out that since GA-PAP-01 was consistent with GA-PAP-19, which they had passed, it seemed redundant. The committee parliamentarian, Therese Howell, explained that a committee cannot remove or not act on an item of business. The plenary can choose to do something different when the item reaches the floor. Owen asked if the three items of business could be unified into a single item. Again, Howell explained that a committee could not do that. She explained that the committee could say that 02 and 19 were answered by GA-PAP-01.

Ott moved that item GA-PAP-19 be incorporated in its entirety as amended into GA-PAP-01. This was approved unanimously and immediately followed by the committee recommending approval of GA-PAP-01 as amended.

In the discussion of reconsideration, it was asked if GA-PAP-02 really needed to be reconsidered since it was already recommended for disapproval. The committee overwhelmingly voted to reconsider 19 and unanimously voted to have item 19 answered by item 01. There was not a motion to reconsider item 02.

John Owen (TEC-Inland Northwest) speaks in the General Assembly Entity Policies and Procedures meeting. Photo by Gregg Brekke for Presbyterian Outlook.

With that complicated discussion behind them, the committee began working through the remaining four items related to the Organization for Mission. The next item, GA-PAP-04, clarifies details regarding terms of office for those on boards related to the agencies and entities. GA-PAP-05 clarifies how the Office of the General Assembly handles requests for authoritative interpretations. GA-PAP-16 adds the ability to hold electronic meetings to the Organization for Mission. And GA-PAP-06 is an updated section regarding the Committee on Theological Education. All were overwhelmingly approved with few questions and little discussion.

The committee had two additional items to address before completing its work. Commissioners confirmed the members of the Presbyterian Historical Society Board and heard the reports of the committee members who reviewed the minutes of various entities and agencies. All the reviewers recommended approval, some with minor comments, and the committee concurred.

With that, the committee completed all its business and will not meet tomorrow on the third scheduled day. While much of the work was efficient and quick, the commissioners and delegates devote time to the more complicated items before them, making an effort to discern the best course to recommend to the plenary next week.

Their time today closed with worship including the Lord’s Supper and the commissioners now have a free day tomorrow with several considering the option to get home a day early. They will be back for virtual plenary sessions beginning next Tuesday morning as the whole assembly begins hearing the committee reports.