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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

GA Insider 7
June 23, 2018

Thursday evening, which has historically been given to GA business, had its agenda cleared to hold a fund-raising concert by Grammy award-winning composer, producer, and jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum. The funds raised will go toward General Assembly’s “Hands and Feet” mission program that reaches out to communities hosting GA.

As wonderful and energizing as the concert was, it meant that all remaining business had to be taken up on Friday – however long into the night that might take.

 Debate on the question of whether to divest from the fossil fuel industry occupied the entire morning and went well into the afternoon. Eventually the Assembly voted against full divestment, adopting instead the recommendation of the church’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee to maintain sufficient investments to retain a seat at the table of fossil fuel corporations, retaining a platform for ongoing witness to our church’s creation care convictions. While our presbytery concurred with the overture to divest, our overture advocate, Rev. John Creasy, expressed readiness to support the Assembly’s action.

At 8:00 p.m., the Assembly finally considered the committee recommendation that general GA per capita be raised 10% over the next two years (before any new program costs). After some debate, the Assembly voted to postpone its vote on this until Saturday, when final numbers on new program costs are finally tabulated. I will report on this in a final GA update.

An extended discussion on paid family leave for church employees arose next. Several overtures on this topic had come to the Assembly, and the Assembly spent considerable time amending them. First, it constituted a special task force to study these issues and bring recommendations to the next GA. Then, the Assembly began debating specific overtures on family leave that had been brought to this Assembly, finally adopting a set of family leave recommendations effective immediately. I should note that the recommendations on family leave approved by the Assembly are already in place in Pittsburgh Presbytery.

Pittsburgh commissioner Becca Abbott (Unity Presbyterian Church, Green Tree) on the GA big screen, engaging the debate on family leave policies.

The Assembly considered a series of proposed amendments to the Book of Order. In light of the “MeToo” movement, conversations about proposed changes in the Rules of Discipline related to sexual misconduct were especially animated. Hundreds of commissioners and observers (including yours truly, Stated Clerk Carla Campbell, and Co-Moderator Cindy Kohlmann) wore pink bow ties Friday in solidarity with MeToo.

Business came to an end shortly after midnight with several actions on Middle East Issues. All the loose financial ends should be wrapped up Saturday, before the Assembly adjourns. Stay tuned!

Yours in Christ’s mission,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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