At a excessive stage, they know what they wish to obtain: designing a Normal Meeting of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) with area for creativeness, innovation, constructing relationships — and doing it largely nearly.

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA), assembly by way of Zoom April 13-15, is working to start put flesh on the bones for its plan for the 2022 General Assembly, during which meeting committees will meet in particular person in Louisville, Kentucky, however many of the plenaries will probably be held on-line.

Among the many factors of debate: How can COGA construct in alternatives for training and dialog for commissioners and advisory delegates earlier than the meeting even begins?

Among the many prospects: webinars within the weeks or months earlier than the meeting on among the huge points, with an opportunity for commissioners to submit questions prematurely. On-line “ask me something” periods with PC(USA) leaders. And a neighborhood bulletin board that will open 30 days earlier than the meeting — and can be a spot the place commissioners may share concepts and collaborate on crafting commissioners’ resolutions.

One other level of debate: the thought of requiring that shows for public hearings and from overture advocates be pre-recorded (with a time restrict) and submitted prematurely — probably even for representatives from PC(USA) businesses or particular committees which can be bringing enterprise to the meeting.

Andy James (All screenshots by Leslie Scanlon)

There’s been discuss “fairness of presence,” mentioned COGA member Andy James, a presbytery chief from North Carolina who’s on COGA’s Course of and Discernment Working Group. “We wish to get completely different voices,” James mentioned. “And let this not be about who can afford a aircraft ticket and to pay for a resort room” — which has been an element at in-person assemblies.

There’s additionally a need that the pre-recorded shows not depend on who has the very best abilities or tools for manufacturing expertise — that they not be “extremely produced movies,” James mentioned, however recorded merely when somebody logs in to the positioning and begins to talk.

On April 13, COGA mentioned the studies from three work teams – its Course of and Discernment workforce (A-06a – Process and Discernment Proposal – First Read – March 2021); the Occasions workforce (A-07 – Events Team March 2021); and the Design workforce, which offered a report (Design Team Report to COGA 210413) and a proposed docket (A-05a – GA225 Docket) for the meeting. COGA will vote April 15 on these issues needing motion.

Love and division

J. Herbert Nelson, the PC(USA)’s acknowledged clerk, additionally spoke about imaginative and prescient and transformation — about how the world is altering, however the church hasn’t all the time stored up. Too usually, he mentioned, Presbyterians divide themselves by whether or not they’re liberal, conservative or reasonable — for some 30 years, the denomination was divided by political battles over ordaining gays and lesbians and whether or not its ministers may carry out same-gender marriages.

J. Herbert Nelson

However “Jesus was about relationships,” Nelson mentioned. And Presbyterians have to study crossing boundaries — to achieve out to welcome immigrants; to do interfaith and ecumenical work; and to affix forces on justice points with folks from different faiths or who aren’t a part of organized faith. That work, Nelson mentioned, relies on the understanding that every one folks want grace, love and mercy, and that every one are created within the picture of God. “We’re all human beings.”

On the Normal Meeting, quite a lot of power is targeted on which aspect is successful or who will get to talk, he mentioned. “It may be very divisive.” Commissioners want time to “perceive the otherness of the opposite,” to share sufficient to know what the economic system or church life seems to be like in Iowa in comparison with New York or Texas.

Commissioners want time to see “the brokenness, the ache and the damage of the opposite, and easy methods to make our love actual,” Nelson mentioned. “That’s what our theology is about. That’s what our religion is about. It’s about love.”

Even in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic raging, some insisted that the Normal Meeting ought to meet in particular person, Nelson mentioned. That’s what’s acquainted to Presbyterians, however “we’re caught on caught,” he mentioned. “This pandemic has modified every part about how we reside and the way we are going to reside.” For the church to be significant, “we’ve got to regain a way of creativeness once more.”

Eliana Maxim

The pandemic modified so much on the congregational and regional ranges of the church, mentioned COGA vice moderator Eliana Maxim, a presbytery chief from Seattle. “We’ve needed to suppose much less concerning the upkeep of who we had been, and pivot shortly” to new approaches.

Maxim mentioned she needs to listen to extra of the native tales — of “how the church has been reforming underneath our very nostril,” and the way that’s taking place with neighborhood organizing and nonprofit teams as nicely.

“There’s little or no cookie cutter work that may be finished in ministry at this time,” Nelson mentioned — “no blueprint for what we’re coping with” at a very difficult time. Who would have imagined, he mentioned, that this week a police officer would shoot and kill a Black man – 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Heart, Minnesota – at the same time as Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is on trial a few miles away for killing another Black man, George Floyd?

“The church has to reply indirectly,” Nelson mentioned. “It is a tough time.”

Of us wave goodbye on the finish of the day’s assembly.

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