Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Looking at the Amendments – Part 2

Presbyteries will be voting on the “Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” in the coming months. Every two years the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meets for business. One would hope that the Assembly would be dealing with the most pressing issues facing the denomination. When the “board” of Ford Motor Company meets they look at the most important issues facing the company. When the “board” of The Boeing Company meets they look at the most important issues facing the company. I believe that when the “board” of Google meets they talk about how they can rule the world. Well, maybe not. They probably look at the most important issues facing their company. These amendments must be the most important issues facing our denomination. After all, we sent our representatives from across the country to meet for approximately ten days to lead our denomination. Let’s see if the issues they dealt with are the most important issues facing the PCUSA.

Yesterday I looked at amendments 06-B.1, 06-B.2 and 06-B.3.

Amendments 06-C

There is a desire to make the General Assembly Council (GAC) smaller in terms of membership and more responsive to the changing needs of the denomination. This amendment will be loved by some, despised by others and many will be frustrated by its all-or-nothing approach.

There are good parts of this amendment. Some special interest groups will no long have a seat on the GAC. The moderator of Presbyterian Women will no long be a GAC member. The GAC can no longer designate whom-ever-it-pleases to be corresponding members with voice with no vote. This will remove special interest groups from direct council access.

Areas of the amendment that are not so good are numerous. In dealing with the structure of the GAC one would think that the size of the GAC would be mentioned. There is no mention of “size” in this amendment. Every synod will have one seat on the GAC—this move is suppose to keep the GAC in touch with the people. Since when have our synods been in touch with the needs of our congregations or presbyteries? These seats should be given to presbyteries so that more presbyteries will have direct representation on the GAC. There is no length of term listed for GAC membership--this use to be specifically listed in this section of the Book or Order (BOO). Who is going to coordinate the work of General Assembly agencies? The GAC use to do this. We are now going to be LESS coordinated than we have been—scary! Who is going to review the work of the General Assembly agencies? The GA that meets every two years will never be able to do this. Now, there will be no one to hold those agencies accountable between GA meetings—scary! This amendment place the composition of the GAC into the GAC manual of operations, not in the BOO. This means that the GAC would be able to change its membership at any time with any input or oversight. When the composition of the GAC is in the BOO it can only be changed by the amendment process. This move would make it very easy to change the Council’s makeup—could be good, could be very bad.

The intentions behind this amendment are good; yet, the amendment is essentially flawed. This amendment would be workable if there was wide-spread trust in the PCUSA. Currently there is wide-spread distrust in the PCUSA. Who will provide the necessary oversight of General Assembly agencies and staff? A climate of trust needs to be built before the PCUSA is ready for this amendment. Additionally, if we truly want to be in touch with the average Presbyterian then there would be more presbytery representation and little or no synod representation. My vote: NO.


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