GA223 Summary

Below are quick links to some general decisions and news stories and updates on some HRP overtures.  Click onto the Overtures page and link over to final language and vote tallies for each of the overtures which were generated by HRP or with which the presbytery concurred.

Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann were elected co-moderators of PC(USA) GA 223 and will serve until PC(USA) GA 224 in 2020.Co-Moderators.jpg

GA 223 Approved The Way Forward plan brought by the same-named commission, which will restructure the PC(USA) with the aim of providing more transparency.

GA 223 sets 2019 Per Capita at $8.95.

Over $47,000 was collected at GA 223’s opening worship for a “bail fund” to draw attention to the injustice of the nation’s cash bail system where our country’s jails are full of people being held on minor offenses, unable to pay cash bail. The Presbyterians marched from the convention center to the City Justice Center for a “bail out!”  PC(USA) is working with local organizations such as the Bail Project and the St. Louis Action Council, to use the offering to provide bail for persons who have been prescreened for release.  Read more on this “Hands and Feet” initiative.

GA 223 made a number of decisions concerning the Middle East.  Read this helpful Middle East Report prepared by Rob Trawick.

Updates from the Rev. Tricia Dykers Konieg, Associate Stated Clerk and Associate Director for Mid-Council Relations.
Summary of Actions Directed to, or About, Mid-Councils and Congregations
GA 223 Actions Creating Special Groups for Further Study

HRP’s own Chip Andrus, Pastor of South Salem Presbyterian Church, leads music that inspires the General Assembly even as he fights cancer.

Update on Key HRP Overtures

GA 223 votes to wait 2 years for MRTI recommendation on fossil fuel divestment instead of taking action now, despite support from 40 presbyteries and a public letter from 8 former moderators that the church divest from fossil fuel now.  Interestingly, while responding to questions during the plenary, the Board of Pensions stated that, unlike the Foundation, it was not under the obligation to divest even if the GA instructed it so to do.  The Assembly did vote its support for an overture to address Environmental Racism.

After removing reference to “the current presidential administration,” GA 223 voted

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Betsey and Margery at GA 223

overwhelming support for the Responding to Racist Nationalism overture as well as supported HRP’s overture encouraging congregations to engage in actions to end gun violence.  Read the full PNS story on confronting nationalism and taking action against gun violence.

The GA 223 referred policy on instructing the Board of Pensions to include 12 weeks of parental leave to a taskforce which will report at GA224 in 2020.

The expanded Doctrine of Discovery overture was approved by GA223 aimed at redressing historic harm to native peoples.

From the Rev. Dr. Susan DeGeorge, Stated Clerk

Gavin and I want to thank the wonderful commissioners who represented Hudson River Presbytery at GA this year-Moderator Keith Brokaw, Moderator-Elect Lori Knight-Whitehouse, TE Martin McGeachy, RE Besty Bostwick, and YAAD Austin Kim.  They worked hard in both committee meetings and plenary sessions  (on one or two occasions working through the dinner hour or into the wee hours of the morning), they participated actively in each task put before them, they wrote regularly for our presbytery’s blog so you could hear personal accounts of what they were doing and deciding, and they did it all with great patience and grace.  If you haven’t read their posts on the blog, it’s worth the time to do so to get a firsthand account of what it’s like to be at General Assembly.

We also want to thank our Overture Advocates from Hudson River–  Kathy Dean, Jeromey Howard, Peggy Howland, Margery Rossi, Billye Zoe Steinnagle, and Rick Ufford-Chase.  Overture Advocates also put in long hours strategizing and becoming experts on the overtures we’ve passed as a presbytery. They then pay for all their own costs to and at GA so that they can represent us before the appropriate committee.  We are very grateful for their passion and commitment to these pieces of justice work!

 

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Friday Evening Plenary

By Keith Brokaw and Betsy Bostwick

We had a long session last night, if I may state the obvious.
We worked through the General Assembly Procedures, Church Polity, and Ordered Ministry Overtures. Some of these Overtures generated a lot of debate and amendment. The Family Leave policy was referred to committee for further discussion, although Synods, Presbyteries, and Sessions were strongly urged to take action.
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The last committee to present its overtures was Middle East Issues. There was a lot of discussion around the amendments and language as several believed that Israel was being cited as creating some of the issues, especially when a motion was made that was to remove mention of Hammas. One overture On Urging RE/MAX to Stop Facilitating the Sale of Property in Israeli Settlement Colonies was addressed where the US and many other countries do not recognize the ownership of these Colonies by Israel. Rob Trawick spoke eloquently when asked to answer several questions from the floor. The plenary meeting ended around 12:00 and the GA Procedures discussed and approved in committee the per capita to be voted on at tomorrow mornings plenary. That committee retired at 1:30 after much discernment.

We have worked very hard here this week, but now the real work begins. It is certainly wonderful to approve Overtures, but the implementation and follow-up on the decisions are just beginning. Let’s all learn about what our church has promised to do and get to work in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Jarvie Overtures

by Gavin Meek

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A fund was established in 1925 by a wealthy, lifelong Presbyterian, James N. Jarvie, to provide support to older adult Presbyterians in the NYC area who are “without sufficient means of support.” (This area includes southern Westchester county.) In recent years, the fund of approximately $90 million was transferred from the Presbyterian Mission Agency to the Presbyterian Foundation. When that happened, the local committee that oversaw its use was dissolved. Both New York and Long Island presbyteries and their leaders had concerns and questions which were supposed to be answered by the Foundation as directed by the previous 222nd (2016) General Assembly (GA). However, that did not happen to any level of satisfaction to those presbyteries and leaders.

HRP concurred with two overtures which requested an Administrative Commission be established by this 223rd (2018) GA. Advocates of those overtures and six speakers at an open hearing, myself being one of them, cited concerns about a lack of openness, accountability and compliance with donor intentions on the part of the Presbyterian Foundation.

Our HRP Young Adult Advisory Delegate, Austin Kim, from our Salem church served on this committee that dealt with the Board of Pensions, Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, Presbyterian Publishing House and Presbyterian Foundation.

The GA committee recommended to the GA,almost unanimously, a substitute motion directing the 223rdGA co-moderators form a team to identify and engage all parties in a peacemaking and reconciliation process and report back to the 224th GA. That recommendation was included in the consent agenda and adopted.

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment

by Kathy Dean

On Monday the Fossil Fuel divestment overture came before the Environmental Committee. This was a contentious overture throughout the national church as some people want the church to continue working with the fossil fuel companies and others want full divestment.  The Board of Pensions, the Presbyterian Foundation, MRTI and a lot of other people favor continued engagement with fossil fuel. Hudson River Presbytery passed the overture to divest from Fossil Fuels and 39 Presbyteries concurred. Of those 40 Presbyteries there were about 20 overture advocates at GA.

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Here is what I had to say regarding continued divestment:

I Commend the Committee on Mission Responsibility through Investment for doing what we asked them to do but I am terrified by the proposal to continue that engagement,

We don’t have time: For me and others in my Presbytery the institutional church is ignoring catastrophe—not one that is going to happen, but one that is happening right now. WE and all creation are facing mass destruction while the Presbyterian Church is recommending a “middle road” approach of continued engagement with the fossil fuel companies

M-R-T-I insists that Exxon and other fossil fuel companies might change. But how could they? Fossil fuel companies are about fossil fuels – they may budge a bit in response to public pressure, but they are not able to change their stripe, since it is the very nature of that industry to promote fossil fuels.

I am a grandmother and more than anything I want my grandchildren to have a future. I don’t expect that they will know all of the beauty of the natural world that I have known—- We are already losing that day by day—- but I would like them to experience some of the beauty I have known in my life.

And that is why I am so opposed to continued engagement. We need to take many actions worldwide to save the planet, continued engagement will not help my grandchildren.

THE OVERTURE DID NOT PASS. THE PCUSA WILL CONTINUE TO ENGAGE WITH THE FOSSIL FUEL COMPANIES. Every part of my being tells me this is the wrong approach. I mourn what we have done to the earth and how it will impact future generations.

Committee 10 Work

by Keith Brokaw

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Being my first time at GA I was not sure what to expect from committee work but being able to sit down with 50+ other Presbyterians including Youth Adult Advisor Delegates, Theologian Student Advisory Delegates, and Commissioners (Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders). We took out time as we moved through the various overtures deciding how best to proceed and then vote on them. To that point I was surprised by the instances where overtures that I expected a lot of comments both for and against had nobody show up to give their view points. We voted on where the 2024 GA would be held (yet to be approved by this GA) hint Utah. The budget/per capita had no outside discussion but we discerned over it for a while and have submitted our recommendation. We reviewed other groups minutes and then reviewed the new statistical report being presented by the Office of the General Assembly. One of the most interesting was giving the YAADs and TSADs voting rights and this is something that needs to be addressed through our Office of General Assembly as change to the Book of Order would need to take place. Currently now only Ruling Elders or Teaching Elders may vote for the Moderator.

While this does not cover all the items we discussed in committee I was given the chance to learn from others and about church polity. The opportunity to form friendships and openly discuss issues was most important and I look forward to seeing these people at future meetings and assembly’s.

Plenary Sessions

by Austin Kim

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The 233rd general assembly has been eventful. From the small committee meetings which pass overtures over to the plenary session for review in front of a large and well represented body of advisory delegates and commissioners in order to perfect as well as vote for or against it. General Assembly (GA) carries out multiple days which each day has most of the time, more than one plenary session. These plenary sessions consists of mission reports, prayers, worship services, and business procedures. The majority of the plenary sessions typically revolve around church business and procedures. With the 14 unique committees submitting a variety of overtures to the assembly, a number of overtures are selected from each committee which would then be processed through the entire GA. When it comes to the time to process the overtures, the overtures are processed in groups depending on the committee of origin. The typical overture would be voted first by all the advisory delegates for the commissioners reference on how some think about the topic/overture which have been presented in front of GA. While the faster overtures will jump straight to voting, some overtures may bring conflicting view points between commissioners and advisory delegates. This may lead to some time being used to amend the overture to perfect the wording or even change the intent of the the overture. In addition to the perfection of overtures/movements, some may even volunteer to advocate or even go against the proposed action presented in front of the General Assembly. Due to such a variety of different perspectives viewing the same movement/overture. Debate is common on most of the overtures. This process which has been explained is the general overview of how plenary sessions at the General Assembly of the PC(USA) operates.

Friday Afternoon Plenary

by Betsy Bostwick

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Being a commissioner at GA is like being on a rollercoaster. During plenary (about 600 hours/day), you go slowly up the hill of motion on motion on motion going on and on and on, speaking for and against, calling the question, and then you are at the top of the hill waiting for the plunge – the vote.

I didn’t scream during any of the votes, but I could have.

Following along on Keith’s blog from this morning—right after lunch, we went back into the discussion of the competing overtures – 08-01 vs. 08-08.  This went on for several more hours. I kept hearing things I liked – first on one overture then on the other. When it finally came time for the vote, I was sure of my decision.

The assembly voted to substitute motion 08-08 for the divestment motion 08-01. Our overture was defeated. When I walked out of the hall on the way to dinner, there were people lying on the floor. These were the people who had been singing and leading prayer every day when we left the meeting. They looked like they were dead – and I believe that was the intention. This group had put their hearts and souls into this overture to Divest from Fossil Fuel. Many of them had walked from Louisville to St. Louis to save our lives and our futures. There was heartbreak and there were tears.

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The work of the committee on Environmental Issues ended and the work on the Social Justice Issues committee began. The Overtures from this group were emotional and often controversial. We approved overtures Advocating for the Citizens of Puerto Rico, Calling for an Immediate Moratorium on all Executions, On Sexual Misconduct in the PC(USA), and On Praying for a Movement of the Spirit to Engage Presbyterian Congregations in Nation-Wide Action to Prevent Gun Violence. We disapproved the overture On Appointing a Commission to Consider Social Impact of Automation.

During discussion, some people at the microphones shared stories filled with pain. A few people made rude and hurtful comments. Some people made very interesting language modifications. We were brought back together with prayer and song. There were limericks and hashtags.

I have to tell you – this GA experience has been eye-opening and mostly encouraging. Our denomination is NOT dying, it is reforming.

Word is that there will be coffee for tonight’s meeting – we will probably be here all night. Great.