The General Assembly Procedures Committee of the 221st General Assembly (2014) voted 53-2 to disapprove an overture to rename Young Adult Advisory Commissioners as Young Adult Commissioners and to give them vote and voice.
The committee did, however, add a comment supporting the inclusion of younger adults in the life of the church. The overture originated in the Synod of the Covenant.
Ordination was one of the sticking points for those opposed to the overture. Susan Evans, from the Advisory Committee on the Constitution, recommended that the overture be disapproved. “In our polity as it exists today, the requirement is that all commissioners to the General Assembly must be presbyters, ruling elders or teaching elders.”
If the overture had been approved, it would not have required ordination at all for Young Adult Commissioners. And if they were ordained as either ruling elders or teaching elders, then it might have upset the Assembly’s balance.
Rafaat Zaki, executive of the Synod of the Covenant, spoke in favor of the Synod’s overture. “The church is full of memories, but short on imagination,” he said. “What it is that is keeping the church from visioning and dreaming of new ways to include young adults as full participants in the General Assembly?” he asked.
Not only do we need to ordain younger adults as ruling and teaching elders, we need to encourage presbyteries to examine their processes for nomination to elect younger commissioners to the General Assembly, said Carol McDonald, chair of the Committee on Biennial Assemblies.
In other business, the committee unanimously voted not to recommend an overture from the Presbytery of Detroit that would have permitted presbyteries to send to the synod and General Assembly only those per capita funds actually received from congregations.
Vince Thomas, Moderator of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, pointed out that the overture was identical to one sent to the 220th General Assembly in 2012 by the Presbytery of Detroit.
“That GA decided to refer the business item to COGA for response to this GA,” he said. “We did what we were directed to do. In the meantime, Detroit Presbytery brought the exact same overture without waiting for the response.”
General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons explained that since 2012 the Office of the General Assembly has acted to reduce expenses, primarily by eliminating paid positions. He said that the General Assembly provides relief from financial stress to presbyteries, and does not require presbyteries to remit per capita withheld by its congregations when the presbytery does not have available funds.
“What the constitution does not allow a presbytery to do is to decide whether to pay its General Assembly per capita or use funds for other expenses,” Parsons said. “But the Office of the General Assembly has never tried to discipline presbyteries that did not pay per capita.”
Additionally, the committee approved a Commissioner’s Resolution to improve the site selection process for future General Assemblies, recommended referring to COGA for study a Commissioner’s Resolution to provide childcare and other family-friendly additions to future General Assemblies, and disapproved a Commissioner’s Resolution to recommend that executive presbyters become corresponding members of the General Assembly.