The technology worked just fine. The issues were just too-close-to-call to do it all on a three-hour internet-enabled call and a second meeting had to be scheduled for Saturday night to elect the co-moderators.
With an impressive array of support some 700 commissioners, advisory delegates, and corresponding members gathered on Friday afternoon, June 19th for the first-ever on-line Assembly. Gathered around were the many support people and the crucial committee chairs to make the important decisions early on.
The advisory delegates and commissioners essentially agreed to a “stripped down” Assembly. Reports from the many agencies were received and much was deferred to the next General Assembly in 2022. Two items got the Assembly’s attention. San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) completed a transfer of its assets to the University of Redlands last July. The Committee on Theological Education (COTE) of the General Assembly essentially removed their membership in the PCUSA in the General Assembly because the University of Redlands is a secular institution and presumably cannot guarantee that Presbyterian and Reformed doctrine and polity will be taught there anymore. The Seminary strongly disagreed. At the Assembly there was an extended effort to get the Dean of SFTS “seated”, and the decision of the Committee overturned. The effort that was defeated and the Seminary will have to have its standing restored in some other way.
The other item that received the Assembly’s attention was the support of our Native American congregations throughout the denomination. Several of their buildings are in great disrepair and the Assembly was told that it could not wait until 2022 to be repaired. The Assembly pulled the Native American congregational concern off the “deferral agenda” and will consider their needs next weekend when the Assembly reconvenes.
A special session was called for Saturday night/afternoon (West Coast time). On the first ballot, the Assembly elected the Rev. Greg Bentley of Huntsville, Alabama, and Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart, the Executive of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies to be co-moderators of the General Assembly. They won on the first ballot. Pastor Bentley is African-American and Ruling Elder Street-Stewart is Native American. They said in one news report that they were going to Louisville in the five days between the Assembly’s Saturday night recess and the Friday morning resumption. They will no doubt be energetic and passionate about Christ and his church.
It remains to be seen what the Friday and Saturday Assembly hold. In Yang is our minister commissioner, Cherylyn Thornton is our Ruling Elder Commissioner and Christopher Stanley is our Young Adult Advisory Delegate. I’m sure they would appreciate your prayers and signs of support while they negotiate and discern in an Assembly like no other.