Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ecclesiastical transparency

One of the news stories about the major budget-cutting process by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s General Assembly Council lifts up the tensions around a decision to close the meeting to a number of corresponding members and at-large members. Local readers who have been following the discussions about transparency in Tarentum's local government might find this an interesting article to read in order to see how issues of open government play out in an ecclesiastical context.

The PCUSA is not subject to any state's sunshine law, but has adopted its own open meetings policies. In each of the two policies, the Office of the Stated Clerk was given the responsibility for interpreting the rules. Interestingly, the stated clerk himself was excluded from the closed session of the GAC.

What was bad about the decision to close the meeting of the GAC: Representatives of groups from whom the church had decided it wanted to hear were excluded from deliberations on far-reaching matters. This goes to whether the ultimate decisions were made with the best wisdom and information available.

What was good about the process: The church at large and the public knew what the GAC was going to be doing in the closed session, and do not appear to have been surprised when the GAC came back into open session and announced its decisions on cutting the budget.

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