Today is the first day of official business at General Assembly, which has taken over the entire Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC). It's a great facility, but... My reservation is about the amout of room allocated for observers. Assemblies like this (where there is predictable controversy) can attract thousands of observers, such as I, from all over the country. It's been my experience at past GAs that plenary meetings were held in arenas where the voters were on the floor and there was plenty of space in the peanut gallery for observers. The plenary hall at the BJCC is not an arena--only a large room. The space taken up by commissioners, advisory delegates, and press, leaves seat for only several hundred seats for observers, who have paid $125 just to observe. It will be interesting to see how thousands of observers will scramble for the limited number of seats.
The observers' area
The commissioners area at GA
The afternoon's business was perfunctory, so Chrissie and I had time to view the various exhibits, meeting with Kirk people at work here in Birmingham. John and Diana Haley were at the Literacy Evangelism International, where we also saw Sid and Christa Rice (The Rev. Sid Rice is the President of LEI). Wayne and Kay Ward were at the Presbyterian Coalition Exhibit (the Coalition is an evangelical group within the PCUSA). We also talked with the Rev. Ed Hurley, who served at the Kirk in the 1980s.
John and Diana Haley
Sid and Christa Rice
Wayne and Kay Ward
The interesting business started this evening with the election of our new moderator. The candidates were formally nominated, and then each followed with a prepared 5-minute campaign speech. After that, came an hour for questions from the floor. This is where it got interesting. After a couple of innocuous questions, it became pointed: "Where do you stand on the ordination of practicing gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals?" The two men, Kerry Carson and Tim Halverson, were clearly opposed to it. One of the women, Deborah Block was in favor; the other, Joan Gray (no relation), gave a confused answer, implying that she hoped the GA would come to a decision. Prior to this GA, it was clear to me that the track records of Block and Gray indicated support for GLBT ordination.
It took three ballots, and Joan Gray was elected moderator of the 217th General Assembly of the PCUSA. I cannot tell you what this bodes for our future except to say that the floor vote indicated that the commissioners were more interested in persons who would "just get along" over those who had a clear stand.
It's 10:00 now and there's a lot happening (committees meet to debate issues) tomorrow. So, I'll sign off for now, but please continue to check in daily, and add your comments to the blog (click on the "comment" link) so we can all carry on a virtual conversation.