Monday and Tuesday are long, quiet days, the days for committees to do their work. They debate each item of business that has been assigned to them. Through their work, many items will get added to the "consent agenda," but items that need discussion and debate are amended and voted to recommend or to disapprove. Then those items will come before the floor of the plenary for the rest of the week and be discussed and even amended again. Usually the plenary will accept the recommendation of the committee and vote accordingly, but also the assembly might vote against the recommendation, so you never know how things will go.
Through this process we have begun to get a sense of the overall tenor of the General Assembly, and also to hear what some of the big issues that are arising--the issues we will debate in plenary beginning Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 PM.
Some of the items that are in different committees:
- Who will be the next stated clerk?
- Will Teaching Elders be called Ministers of Word and Sacrament again?
- Should we divest our monies from fossil fuel companies?
- Will we adopt a new Directory for Worship (part three of the Book of Order)?
- Should the denomination issue an official apology for the harm done to the LGBTQ community in our previous policies?
- Will we conclude the 6 year process of adding a new confession to our Book of Confessions (Confession of Belhar, South Africa)?
"Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people." Acts 2 46-47 NRSV
I have included a couple of photos of two different committees to give you a sense of what is going on these two days:
Committee 06 is Church Polity and Ordered Ministry. This is the committee I am observing as part of my work on 02 Bills and Overtures. You can see in the photo to the left that the committee is gathered around tables with microphones, a moderator, a co-moderator, a parliamentarian, a resource person. Observers and advocates for various issues sit in the chairs behind this. We are allowed to observe everything, but we have no voice or vote. One lady I front of me is watching Netflix on her mini iPad. A guy to my right is nodding off. Because we are listening them debate a motion to amend the amendment to the main motion. Committee 06 is the room where you hear things like "ruling elder" "statute of limitations" "renouncing jurisdiction" "parity" and "Advisory Committee on the Constitution."
Committee 08 is Middle East Issues. You can see in the photo below that this is a much larger room, larger committee, and more people observing. This room also has people from special interest groups, like Jewish and Palestinian groups advocating for or against certain issues. The internal press is also there. This is the room where you hear things like "Palestinian" "reconciliation" "justice" "Advisory Council on Social Witness Policy" "settlements" and "let's stop the madness" "let them work it out themselves."
Tonight Grace Presbytery is taking all of us out to dinner at a local restaurant. It will be good to be back together and talk about all that we have seen and heard.
It's days like this that I remember the words from Acts: "Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people." Acts 2:46-47