What do you want to talk about? G.A.C. or O.G.A.?
What do you want to talk about? When we speak of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) it is very important for us to remember that there are several different conversations going on at the same time. These different conversations often have nothing to do with one another.
What do you want to talk about? On one hand we can talk about the work of the Office of the General Assembly. But, in fact, I would much prefer to talk about the work of the General Assembly Council. What I want us to remember again is that when we are talking about the work of the General Assembly we must be very clear about the distinction between the Office of the General Assembly and the General Assembly Council. These two entities are very distinct, with different purposes, different sources of funding, and completely different staff.
My concern is that when we talk casually about the General Assembly, in our congregations, what we typically mean is the Office of the General Assembly. The Office of the General Assembly is funded almost totally by our Per Capita assessment, it is led by the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, now the newly elected Gradye Parsons, and it is responsible for the polity side of the church. The Office of the General Assembly includes the Stated Clerk’s office, the Permanent Judicial Commission, and is fully responsible for the biennial meeting of the General Assembly. Any time we are talking about polity including the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions we are talking within the purview of the Office of the General Assembly. Indeed, we must again have conversations here at our Presbytery about polity, and about proposed changes to our Book of Order. I understand that these conversations are very important. We must carry them out with prayerful discernment.
But, my friends, I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about the work of the General Assembly Council. This is a very different conversation. The General Assembly Council, now under the leadership of Executive Director Linda Valentine, is the mission and program side of the General Assembly. Although we do not talk about it nearly as much, the General Assembly Council is significantly larger than the Office of the General Assembly. The General Assembly Council is funded by our mission giving and our special offerings. The General Assembly Council includes Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Hunger Program. The General Assembly Council also includes the Office of Theology and Worship, which creates excellent theological resources for our church. The largest piece of the General Assembly Council is our work in World Mission. The General Assembly Council’s office of World Mission recruits, trains, funds and supports our more than 200 full-time, professional mission co-workers around the world. Let’s talk about that work!
This is my request and my plea. Many of you, I know, on both sides of the debate, have concerns and deep questions about the conversations we are having about polity and the Book of Order. We will continue those conversations here at our presbytery as we consider the latest proposals. Please do not allow any frustrations you may have with our conversations about polity to distract from or frustrate your support for our world mission. They are very different conversations, representing very different entities within the church. More over, I have this crazy idea that if we can shift the conversation a little bit, and talk more, and learn more, and commit ourselves more to our work in world mission, on the General Assembly Council side of the church, it may help us find our way forward through our very difficult polity conversation. What do you want to talk about? We must continue our conversation about polity, but let us also remember this very important conversation and commitment to world mission.
Note: For more information about the General Assembly Council please see their website at www.pcusa.org/gac. World Mission also has a website at www.pcusa.org/worldmission. The Office of the General Assembly also has a website at www.pcusa.org/oga.