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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Clint McCoy's Take on the General Assembly

Clerks of Session really ought to subscribe to the free e-mailings of the Synod of the Northeast's "Nor'E-News", to stay up on the latest news and events. You can download the July issue on the Synod's website.

To subscribe to the Nor'E-News, contact Nancy Lomberk in the Synod Office.

In the July issue, Synod Executive for Partnerships, Clint McCoy, comments on his observations at the General Assembly. Here are a few highlights:


The work of the 219th General Assembly was so extensive, requiring presbyteries to take action on so many items, that Associate Stated Clerk and Director of Constitutional Services, Rev. Mark Tammen, wrote a memo to presbytery leaders, suggesting that consideration of General Assembly issues be scheduled over three separate presbytery meetings in order to avoid commissioner overload. Presbyteries will consider
1) a new Form of Government,
2) adding a confession of faith (The Belhar Confession)
to its Book of Confessions, plus
3) other "normal amendments" to the church constitution, including a change in the language regarding ordination.


Issues of the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee included...
...a call for the United States to end direct combat operations in Afghanistan, the denomination's first such statement since the war began in 2001, also requesting the U.S. government to increase humanitarian and economic development assistance to Afghanistan
...the Assembly's authorizing a denominational study, building on 1980's "Peacemaking: The Believers' Calling," to consider new thinking and approaches to peacemaking and nonviolence as a fundamental response to the challenges of violence, terror and war.
...additional action based on committee recommendations included statements urging the United States to end its use of seven military bases in Colombia; prayers and advocacy for peace in Sudan; restoration of sustainable agriculture in Haiti; reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and the reunification of North and South Korea; protection of religious minorities around the world.


A 21-member Middle Governing Body Commission, with authority to act on the Assembly's behalf in responding to realignment requests from synods and presbyteries, was created by the Assembly. The commission can change presbytery and synod structures "upon a majority affirmative vote of the affected presbytery or presbyteries or a majority affirmative vote of the presbyteries in the affected synod or synods." Decisions of the commission itself are subject to a required 2/3 majority of its voting members.

The commission will have the authority granted to the General Assembly in G-13.0103m and n "to organize new synods and to divide, unite or otherwise combine synods or portions of synods previously existing" and "to approve the organization, division, uniting or combining of presbyteries or portions of presbyteries by synods."

In other middle governing body-related actions, the Assembly rejected overtures...
...to eliminate synods
...to create a new synod based on theological affinity alone; and refusing an overture to give congregations flexibility to join presbyteries outside of their geographical area based on theological affinity
...to create a Korean-language presbytery within the Synod of South Atlantic.


Addressing a report prepared by the Middle East Study Committee (MESC), "Breaking Down the Walls," dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the General Assembly committee dealing with Middle East issues, came to unanimity with regards to its recommendations. Committee Moderator, the Rev. Karen Dimon, Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery, said that she witnessed the Holy Spirit at work in the committee, whose members held diverse views.

Actions of the committee included...
...reception Part One of the MESC report, including eight letters to the ecumenical and interfaith community, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans, as rationale for recommendations only, not as policy.
...a reaffirmination of Israel's right to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders.
...authorizing the creation of a seven-person monitoring group on the Middle East for the next two years.
...lifting up the often neglected voice of Palestinian Christians, and commending for study the Kairos Palestine document, "A Moment of Truth," endorsing its emphases on nonviolence, love of enemy, reconciliation and liberation hope.
...calling on Israeli and Egyptian governments to limit their Gaza blockades to military equipment, guaranteeing adequate food, medicine, building supplies and free commercial exchange in and out of Gaza.
...deleting much of Part Three of the MESC report, requesting the monitoring group to replace it with eight comparable narratives arising from Palestinian (Christian and Muslim) and Israeli perspectives that are pro-justice and pro-peace.


Assembly in Brief - a 16-page bulletin insert-sized summary of the Assembly in words and pictures produced by the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian News Service is available to download. Click here to download the bulletin.

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