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#GA226 adopts overhaul of Assembly Standing Rules by wide margin

Major changes include moving moderator elections and ending mission advisory delegates.

Backstage at GA 226. Photo by Jonathan Watson for Presbyterian Outlook.

Salt Lake City – Even for an organization that loves process, such as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), sometimes arcane parliamentary procedure and things like “standing rules,” while important, get overlooked or bring a big yawn.

But not this year at the denomination’s 226th General Assembly.

Commissioners were presented with a complete overhaul of the assembly standing rules, which govern how each biennial meetings operates…

This year, commissioners were presented with a complete overhaul of the assembly standing rules, which govern how each biennial meeting operates — from elections to committees, to site selection, to who can attend, to who can vote and much more.

Two particular changes generated much discussion on the floor: changing the moderatorial election to the end of the assembly instead of the beginning and eliminating “mission advisory delegates,” creating partner advisory delegates instead.

Both were challenged during the floor debate, but failed, although the motion to change the moderatorial election back to the beginning was the closest vote of the assembly, failing by just three votes, 201-198.

The motion to change the moderatorial election back to the beginning was the closest vote of the assembly, failing by just three votes, 201-198.

Other significant changes included:

  • Adding a section on “foundations and values,” saying the assembly gathers for three purposes: to worship God, create community, and for faithful discernment and governance.
  • Adding a section on assembly worship.
  • Changing the process for selecting theological student advisory delegates so that those interested be backed by their presbytery and apply to the stated clerk to be selected.
  • Increasing flexibility in selecting the location and format of GA meetings.
  • Changing how the Bills and Overtures Committee is created to lead to better coordination of the assembly.
  • Requiring translation during the entire assembly, including committee meetings.

Two other changes will require a majority vote of the presbyteries over the next year to be adopted. They would:

  • Remove the requirement that overtures must have a concurrence from at least one other presbytery.
  • Update the allocation of commissioners to reflect the declining denominational membership while maintaining a large enough assembly to be effective. Presbyteries with 6,000 or fewer members would be allocated one ruling elder commissioner and one teaching elder commissioner; between 6,001 and 12,000, two and two; between 12,001 and 19,000, three and three; 19,001 or more, four and four. That would bring the number of commissioners closer to 500, an increase of about 70 or 75.

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