Pittsburgh Presbytery held a long meeting at the Elfinwild Presbyterian Church on Thursday, December 7, 2006. There were 146 ministers and 132 elders representing 75 churches present. We dealt with a lot of very important relational issues, very important at a time when there are many issues on which we differ.
One of the most important and difficult things we did came at the end of the meeting when Pastor Jim Mead read to us the suicide letter that Rev. Brent Dugan had left for the presbytery. (Another report of the reading of this letter can be found here.) Our brother in Christ had wanted us to hear this explanation of his death and the events that led up to it, and it was important for us to spend time together hearing what he wrote to us. Pastor Jim Mead commented on pastoral isolation, saying that studies have shown that most male pastors have either no close friends or only one (aside from a spouse).
We spent time together discussing issues of property, and how we would handle them if a church wished to leave the PCUSA. This was another time of "speaking out of silence" after we had shared our thoughts with one or two strangers.
We elected elder David Green as our moderator and elder Kears Pollock as our senior vice moderator. Both elections had been contested by candidates nominated from the floor. Neither of the alternate candidates had participated in the nomination process by the nominating committee, and they explained that they had not even considered running while that process was underway, but felt called to offer themselves recently so that they could be voices of unity and reconciliation when or if a congregation wants to leave the PCUSA.
We elected the Rev. Dr. Douglas E. Portz as the Associate Pastor to Presbytery for Medium-sized churches. He will leave his position as pastor at the Hampton Presbyterian Church to serve on the Presbytery staff.
We approved the call of the John McMillan Presbyterian Church for Louise Rogers as associate pastor; Rogers is a member of the Westminster Presbyterian Church and will be ordained for this position. Brian Wallace will be ordained to serve as a temporary supply at the Hampton Presbyterian Church.
We voted to receive four inquirers as candidates: Betty Angelini (member of Hampton Presbyterian Church and executive director of Crestfield Camp and Conference Center), William Branning (member of First Presbyterian Church), James W. Kirk (a member of the Presbyterian Church of Plum Creek), and Jeffrey Eddings, a member of Friendship Community Presbyterian Church).
We adopted the 2007 budget, and set the presbytery portion of the per capita apportionment at $13.80, for a total per capita of $21.59.
We handled a couple items of judicial business. The stated clerk read the decision of the Presbytery's Permanent Judicial Commission in the case of PCUSA v. the Rev. Janet L. Edwards, Accused. That case was dismissed at trial because the charges were not timely filed. The Moderator read a letter from the Prosecuting Committee explaining how this occurred. It was felt necessary to read this explanation because of groundless speculation that the outcome had been arranged.
The stated clerk informed the presbytery that a remedial complaint had been filed with the Synod of the Trinity against the presbytery's action at its last meeting to adopt a policy on ordination standards. The synod's permanent judicial commission has granted a stay of enforcement of that policy until the case has been heard. The presbytery's moderator has appointed a committee of counsel to defend the presbytery in this case.
Before the meeting there had been a luncheon gathering of pastors and commissioners from small membership churches. At this luncheon we were informed that the presbytery's Administrative Commission for Transformation wanted to encourage partnerships between small membership churches and other congregations. There was a recognition that small membership churches are often in communities of need, where they are doing kingdom work without necessarily having the resources available to do all that is needed. The presbytery gave a gift to the attendees that included a copy of The Present Future by Reggie McNeal.