Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Pittsburgh Presbytery meeting at Shadyside: 1. Preliminary observations

I have been reviewing the papers in advance of the meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery at the Shadyside Presbyterian Church on Feb. 2, 2006. Many of the papers look like the normal business for a meeting of this Presbytery.

There is an overture "On Amending the Section in the Form of Government Treating 'Freedom of Conscience Within Certain Bounds' (G-6.0108b) to Safeguard the Amendment Process." For the life of me, I cannot figure out from the text who is proposing that the Presbytery send this overture to the General Assembly. I don't find in the reports of the Presbytery Council, Committee on Ministry, or Committee on Preparation for Ministry any sign that any of these bodies are proposing the overture, or that they have reviewed it. (The two named committees are the ones who would be the first in a presbytery to have to interpret and apply the amended language if it were added to our Form of Government.) So, I have some big questions about the origin of this overture, and about the genuineness of the alleged urgency to amend the Form of Government. I don't like business appearing from anonymous sources. [See update below]

The amendment that is proposed in the overture uses somewhat clumsy language to add what appears to me to be a tautology to the already existing paragraph. I think it is saying that "shall" means "shall", or that mandatory provisions are mandatory. I don't get it, and I don't see why statements that say nothing new should be added.

I also have some questions about whether Pittsburgh Presbytery has consulted with the Office of the General Assembly about this matter in accord with the Standing Rules of the General Assembly, A.3. That standing rule obviously applies once a presbytery is considering an overture to the General Assembly. It is unclear to me exactly when or why Pittsburgh Presbytery began to consider sending such a proposal. [see update below]

Tomorrow I will learn more about this overture.

One of my other preliminary concerns for most meetings has been the issue of directions to the meeting. The provided directions look usable for me. Maybe I am not as much of a newcomer to the area as I once was, but at least I know where the Highland Park Bridge is, and I think I have actually driven by the host church. So the trip to the meeting looks like it will be uneventful (at least for me).

One of my passengers tomorrow will be a member of another church who is very interested in what is happening with the Pittsburgh Presbytery Foundation following on the actions at the last meeting. I have explained to her that administrative commissions report in writing to the presbytery. The papers for this meeting published so far do not include any information about the Foundation, so I am not expecting anything about the Foundation to come up.

One of the anticipated highlights of the meeting identified by Pastor Jim Mead is the observance of Black History Month. The Rev. James Reese, whom I have heard before, will speak to the Presbytery.

Looks like an interesting meeting tomorrow.

Update 02-02-06

I have had a conversation this morning with the Rev. Jay W. Lewis, Stated Clerk of Pittsburgh Presbytery, who has informed me about the origin and consultation process that has taken place concerning the overture. The overture was written by Elder Robert Gagnon (Bellefield Presbyterian Church), one of the Presbytery's commissioners to the General Assembly. Some sessions of churches have signed onto it as well.

There has been ongoing consultation with the Office of the General Assembly and it was agreed that this matter had not been raised recently, nor was a similar overture coming to this General Assembly. In addition, the Committee on Ministry had a special meeting to hear a presentation concerning this overture. The Committee on Ministry is not making a recommendation either for or against the overture.
My other articles on this meeting: 1 2 3 4 5 6

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