Progress at the 219th G.A. – Covenant Network Reflections

Progress at the 219th General Assembly


As Covenant Networkers return home from an intense ten days in Minneapolis, we can reflect gratefully on the good work on many fronts of commissioners to the 219th General Assembly.  As our Board Statement celebrates, this G.A.

  • Sent to the presbyteries a revised ordination standard that focuses on candidates’ discipleship, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the call, rather than on a single, disputed behavioral standard
  • Upheld the wisdom of the past two G.A.’s in approving the historic Presbyterian practice of entertaining “departures” on any matter in considering individual candidates
  • Declined to reinstate obsolete statements about “unrepentant homosexual practice” that were removed by the 2008 G.A.
  • Invited the whole church into discussions of Christian marriage, civil unions, and the changing face of families in our church
  • Directed the Board of Pensions to provide equal benefits to same-gender partners of PC(USA) employees and to these couples’ children.

In addition, we are glad that commissioners (as we had recommended) adopted the reports of three unanimous Special Committees.   They authorized the current Special Committee on the Heidelberg Catechism to continue working with the Reformed Church of America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America to review a new translation to be presented to the 2012 G.A. And they sent to presbyteries for their discussion and votes proposals to

  • Add the Belhar Confession to the Book of Confessions, and
  • Adopt a considerably revised, substantially shorter Form of Government.

The G.A. also firmly rejected proposals to form non-geographic synods or presbyteries based on self-defined theological affinity (and declined to establish a fifth non-geographic Korean-language presbytery).

Of course, this G.A. did much more.   It adopted thoughtful policy statements and action plans on such wide-ranging topics as peace efforts in the Middle East, gun violence, and treatment of immigrants.  You can read a summary of all the crucial actions of the G.A. in a comprehensive Pastoral Letter from our elected PC(USA) officers.

Elder Cynthia Bolbach, former Moderator of National Capitol Presbytery and chair of the New Form of Government Task Force, was elected Moderator over five clergy candidates.  She and Vice Moderator Rev. Landon Whitsett of  Heartland Presbytery moderated the meeting with a sure but light touch.  While they will serve the entire church well, Cindy was forthright about her long-time support of a more graciously inclusive church.

In two sold-out events, Covenant Network welcomed supporters, commissioners, and friends.  Along with a lovely description of committed love, attorney Doug Nave  offered attendees at the Commissioner Convocation Dinner a reminder of core Presbyterian principles of mutual forbearance in non-essential matters in “That’s For Sure.” His talk was summarized well in the Presbyterian Layman.

Distinguished journalist and sociologist of religion Gustav Niebuhr urged respectful engagement across difference as a critical skill for the health of both our church and our country; his address to the Covenant Network G.A. Luncheon was entitled “Tolerance is a Floor, Not a Ceiling.” The Presbyterian News Service reported on the event

Covenant Network directors, members, and friends look forward to helping Presbyterians across the country consider the important amendments sent for their consideration, and beginning or continuing crucial conversations about faithful living in our church.

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