Many of the controversial issues considered by this General Assembly have been considered by committees, but remain to be decided by the whole assembly.
Committee recommendations are, of course, not official actions of the PC(USA). They are indicators of the mood of a General Assembly, and there is a higher likelihood that the plenary will take the action recommended by the committee. Nonetheless, I’ve seen this go either way many times.
In the meantime, we wait.
If you – either Presbyterian members, or concerned non-Presbyterian stake-holders, are trying to follow this from home, you might find these links helpful:
1. The PC(USA) General Assembly plenary meetings are live-streamed here.
This, of course, would not have helped us follow committee deliberations as they were not streamed. However, some of the reports from the committees will be presented today, and the more controversial votes will likely take place tomorrow.
If nothing else, watching this will give an insight into the odd process of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) politics. The effect of blending religious worship, spiritualized language and church jargon with political wrangling is – and should be – rather jarring. It doesn’t lend itself to clear thinking and good decision making. It does, however, lend itself quite freely to the manipulation of commissioners without their complete awareness.
2. The docket gives an indication of the times issues will be debated.
This is NOT a hard and fast thing because business items can always be reconsidered – or even sometimes rescheduled if discussions on other items go long. But if you have an issue that concerns you closely this will give you an idea when to tune in.
The version of the docket I have linked to has Middle East issues being addressed Friday afternoon. The item on distinguishing between “biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel” (that the committee recommended against) should come up tonight.
3. PC-biz is a system that has been used for several General Assemblies now.
I find it easiest to follow the progress of specific items by looking under the “Committees” tab. Here is where you will find the current status of business items – how committees handled and what action the whole GA has taken.
This is particularly useful if you want to know the exact wording of a measure, or if you want to see the supporting materials that accompany it. The fact that many business items have been amending during the process makes this more complicated and more important to keep straight.
This was done by Committee 4, for instance in that the committee chose not to act on the MRTI divestment recommendation, but instead to amend an anti-divestment overture – keeping its more spiritual and ethical language, but adding divestment to it. Someone simply following the overture could easily be confused because now, it takes the exact opposite action than that intended by its authoring presbytery.