On Tuesday, my committee (General Assembly Procedures) spent the day reviewing minutes, and motions, from the Committee to Review Biennial Assemblies. The CRBA was formed in 2010 to review and suggest changes for biennial meetings. Some of the changes are merely tweaks, others are hopefully more substantive.
Carol McDonald (Chair of the Committee to Review Biennial Assemblies) explained how she hopes one change in the way GA does things will allow more room for the Spirit of God to work among us.
“On Thursday morning, June 19, the plenary meeting of the Assembly will be a time for conversation and discernment, rather than a time for debate. The Moderator of the Assembly, in partnership with the Stated Clerk, will select two critical/key/potentially contentious issues being brought to the plenary from two of the Assembly Standing Committees. Each committee Moderator will make a 5 minute presentation to the Assembly – being clear about what it is the Assembly will be asked to vote on. Following each presentation, groups of 8 will be invited to be in conversation: a.) What did you hear that might lead someone to support the committee’s recommendation(s)? b.) what did you hear that might keep someone from supporting the committee’s recommendation(s)? Following the small group conversations, the Assembly Moderator will ascertain that what the Assembly will be asked to vote on is clear and will then lead the Assembly in prayer. The hope of the Biennial Review Committee is that this non-parliamentary plenary with informal discussion of key issues will hopefully change the way critical and contentious issues are then debated and decided upon.(1) It is our prayer that all commissioners and advisory delegates, during this time of conversation, will have both the opportunity to speak and the privilege of being heard.”
This will be an unusual departure from the way we do things, ‘decently and in order’, as Presbyterians. Two of the most potentially contentious overtures that will be brought from committees to the main floor this year have to do with Israeli/Palestinian issues and Civil Union and Marriage issues. Say a prayer for GA as it tries to ‘discern God’s will’, not only on these overtures, but everything that comes before it on the floor.
Our daily schedule at GA has gone like this so far. On Saturday afternoon, the whole assembly met together from 2:30-midnight. Sunday morning was left open for attending a local church, and then at 2:30pm the the whole assembly met until 5:00pm. At 7:30pm were began work in our committees, adjourning at 10:00pm. Monday, we met in our committees from 9:30am-9:30pm. Tuesday we met 8:30am-5:00pm. It’s a bit of a marathon. I’m exhausted, but it’s a ‘good tired’. I have not been bored for a single moment. Tuesday afternoon, a couple of us were thinking of taking in a Tigers baseball game at 7:00pm, since we had the evening free. By the time we adjourned at 5:00pm I was so tired I went back to my hotel and crashed for the evening. We have Wednesday morning free, as we finished our committee work Tuesday afternoon, and then we begin meeting as the whole assembly Wednesday afternoon at 2:30pm.
“The answer to “how?”, is “yes”. Don’t focus so excessively on the ‘how’ that it blocks the imagination of ‘yes’. Rather, say ‘how….how fascinating’. (Chair of Committee to Review Biennial Assemblies)
“You cultivate what you celebrate.” (GA Commissioner)
“At the end of a long day of meetings you develop what’s known as ‘after 9:00pm sarcasm’.”