Reflections from our 224th General Assembly Representatives

Loretta Hazelwood, Ruling Elder Commissioner:

“Although all General Assemblies are historic events, this past 224th General Assembly PC(USA), (GA), was even more so, as it is the PC(USA)’s first virtual GA.  The anticipation of engaging in “a first“ made the experience more significant.

As a second time Ruling Elder Commissioner, I had a general sense of what to expect at a General Assembly.  However, when I learned that the meeting would be held virtually, I became curious as I remembered that I also took part in the first-time use of the “Les” electronic meeting system at the 217th GA 2006.   

Even though the use of technology is not new to me; it can be intimidating at times.  The anxiety of possibly not being able to meet the challenge was soon overcome with confidence that I had the support necessary to navigate the system successfully.

The overall GA experience was awe-inspiring; beginning with the theme “Lament to Hope”, a perfect reminder that no matter what challenges and difficulties you face, you can trust God to see you through.  Sharing in the conduct of the business of the GA was exciting in that I had the opportunity to be involved in making decisions that determine how the Church responds to various issues we are facing, here and now as well as in the future. 

I trust that the newly elected and re-elected leadership will help to move our denomination forward as the 2020 General Assembly has called the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to do the hard work of  justice, working to respond to what some referred to as the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice.

The 224th General Assembly was historic and successful.”

Rev. Dan Martian, Teaching Elder Commissioner:

“I was honored to represent our Presbytery at the 224th General Assembly. This assembly was historic not only because of the first virtual platform – which was hailed as a success — but also the election of the first Indigenous woman to the position of co-moderator of the General Assembly. The election of Rev. Gregory Bentley and Elona Street-Stewart will lead our denomination for the next two years with energy, intelligence, and imagination. Their passion for the church and Christ’s ministry was sensed as they spoke of their hopes for the future of the Presbyterian Church. In my opinion, they were the strongest of the two other co-moderator candidates that were up for election. The theme for this year’s assembly (“From Lament to Hope”) was chosen by the Co-Moderators of the 223rd General Assembly speakers, Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and Cindy Kohlmann, and included elements of lament, confession, restoration, and hope,

The commissioners at the assembly were encouraged, through different initiatives, that the church must find a voice during these uncertain times. The representatives were challenged as to how the church might do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. The 224th General Assembly called attention to the racism of people of color and the inequity of poverty. We were encouraged to find a voice that would mirror Christ within our midst.

Even though the General Assembly doesn’t have the authority to tell churches to accept certain missional positions, it gives us pause to rethink our mission and the vitality of our church and our Presbytery for such a time as this.”

Christopher Amponsah, Young Adult Advisory Delegate:

“This year’s virtual General Assembly made strides in implementing technology seamlessly within our structure. Without the creative minds that helmed the organization of the program, none of these advancements would have been possible.  Although participants weren’t able to commune with one another, the meeting felt lively and overall progressive. Many significant topics were discussed, specifically those concerning COVID-19 and racial discrimination in the United States. All the overtures discussed were relevant to the current political climate of the world, and this assembly effectively established the forward momentum of the Presbytery.”

Rev. Dr. Barbara Smith, Transitional Director of Presbytery Ministries:

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) made history in June holding its first virtual General Assembly.  The General Assembly Staff, pivoted from a week-long face-to-face gathering in Baltimore, to a fully on-line experience, in less than three months.  Was it perfect?  Of course not.  Since attending my first General Assembly in 2010 – as a commissioner representing Newton Presbytery – it’s never been perfect.  There are always snafus.  But the General Assembly Staff always has, and did once more – a remarkable job of planning and keeping things moving. 

However, due to the realities of a fully virtual gathering, many items of business – including reports of special committees – were immediately referred to the 225th General Assembly in 2022. 

Some of the highlights of GA224 include –

The Election of the Co-Moderators took place on Saturday evening, June 20.  Elona Street-Stewart, Ruling Elder and Synod Leader of Lakes and Prairies and Gregory Bentley, pastor of Fellowship Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Alabama were elected on the first ballot.

  1. Herbert Nelson, II was elected for a second four-year term at Stated Clerk. 

For 2021 and 2022, the per capita rate has been raised by 3 cents.  Prior to the pandemic, a significant increase in per capita was being suggested.  But once the effects of COVID-19 on churches, middle governing bodies and GA was projected, it was realized that such an increase would not be feasible.  Ultimately, a 3 cent increase was passed. 

A revised child, youth and vulnerable adult protection policy was adopted.  We will be looking at the Presbytery’s current policy in light of this revision. 

Approved a resolution on ‘Responding to the Sin of Racism and a Call to Action’

A resolution was approved to assist with the repairs and support for Native American Presbyterian churches that are deeply under-funded.

Approved a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A General Assembly Administrative Commission on Mid-Councils was created.  This is an important development for our process of creating new boundaries in the State of New Jersey.  With the creation of this new AC, the approval process from General Assembly would be permitted to take place prior to the 225th General Assembly.”


What Are The Lessons From The 2020 GA?

In a debriefing held June 30 following the just-concluded 2020 General Assembly, members of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly shared their thoughts – including favorite moments (for many of them: worship and the election of Elona Street-Stewart and Gregory Bentley as co-moderators), frustrations and suggestions for improvement.

Here’s a recap of some of the lessons they raised.

Read the full article by Leslie Scanlon

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