Day two of the GA is when the committees begin to meet and the real work begins. I spent the morning with the Church Polity Committee which was reviewing overtures to alter our Form of Government (FOG). Most of the overtures are needed clarifications and adjustments to how we do our business. A couple of the controversial ones were
1) Changing per captia payments from voluntary to required.
2) Allowing presbyteries to remove pastors without the pastor's or congregation's consent.
Observers are allowed to sign up to speak for or against any overture. I spoke on the two above. We are each given two minutes to speak, which goes by in a flash (unlike some sermons).
Inside the meeting room of the Church Polity Committee
A view of the Exhibition area
In the afternoon I moved to the Ecclesiology Committee which has been given the task of reviewing the paper from the Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church (PUP). This is the paper which has, in my opinion, recommended that we allow the ordination of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transexuals (GLBT) on a case-by-case basis, as decided by the local presbyteries. This, I believe, will remove all national standards for ordination and create confusion, conflict, and schism. This is also the paper that declares that there are certain theological essentials, but local presbyteries can decide if those essentials are truly essential.
Inside the Ecclesiology Committee meeting area
The observers' area for Ecclesiology
Over 100 observers registered to speak, so there was a drawing to see who would be allowed. I lost (along with many others). The gist of what was said by various people could be grouped in categories.
1) Those who wholeheartedly approve of the paper as-is.
“Theirs was a rare experience of Christian community.” (Susan Andrews, former moderator)
“Their affection and respect and love for one another have given us bold wisdom and a new path for getting along in the future.” "The unanimous vote [of the task force] was a miracle” (Andrews, again)
2) Those adamantly opposed to the paper.
"Standards are standards. The denomination has already determined this issue, using the word 'shall.' It was not confused or mistaken when they put these things in our constitution." (observer)
3) Those who are so tired of the subject that they are ready to take any compromise and move on.
"Let’s pass this compromise; I’m tired of 30 years debate. Just try to keep the constitution." "This has killed mission. Let’s approve PUP and go back to work." (Marj Carpenter, former moderator)
"I’ve heard so many negative terms (ie disagreement, tumult, et al), let’s end this." (A Theological Seminary Advisory Delegate)
Perhaps most accurately descriptive of why those who support this paper do, came from former moderator, Susan Andrews. "A new way of being church, focused on relationship not rules, process, not precepts.” This paper will toss out objective, Biblical standards of holiness and elevate "getting along" to essential status (the only one) in our denomination.
The people who spoke were eloquent and effective. I have been a commissioner in equally difficult circumstances, and know just how emotional and stressful this process is. Please pray for your commissioners that they will accept Godly guidance and vote in accordance with what Scripture teaches.
The debate among the committee members (commissioners) begins on Saturday morning. This is what really matters. Once the committee is done debating it will make a recommendation that will be presented to the whole General Assembly next Monday. Then the process starts anew in the plenary sessions. There should be an up or down vote by Wednesday night or Thursday morning.
I'll put out an additional blog tomorrow about Chrissie's and my dinnertime escapade as we tried to hear a special speaker. It involves two religions and a case of mistaken identity.
Keep the faith.