Posted May 15, 2024 in Featured News

Four overtures coming before the 226th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Salt Lake City, UT, in late June and early July have been sponsored by presbyteries in the Synod of the Trinity. Three of them, all of which deal with topics regarding “shared ministry,” are coming from the Presbytery of Lake Erie. The fourth is from Pittsburgh Presbytery, which has presented an overture that is related to “divestment recommendations.”

Lake Erie’s shared ministry overtures, which were prepared with the help of some members from Pittsburgh Presbytery, deal with terms of call, the definition of pastoral relationships and installations in multiple congregations.

“The three overtures sponsored by the Presbytery of Lake Erie are related and share a common goal: to add flexibility to the Book of Order in the calling and installing of pastoral leaders, especially in smaller church situations,” said Anita Bernhardt, the general presbyter in Lake Erie. “They ask for more adaptability for defining fair terms of call, defining healthy pastoral relationships, and for installations of pastoral leaders in shared ministry settings – as the titles suggest.”

Tim Harmon, the stated clerk at Lake Erie, offered additional clarity on the importance of these overtures.

“We in Lake Erie struggle with pastors, both teaching elders and commissioned, not only for smaller congregations and BoP (Board of Pension) salary issues but in finding numbers,” he said. “We have some congregations sharing pastors now but the system needs to be much more open to congregations sharing and pastors terms to not be a series of individual part-time calls but one call which serves more than one congregation. So, these based on the Pittsburgh experiment with shared ministries seemed perfect to our discernment of the Spirit moving us. It moves us to look at innovation, and we think the PCUSA as a whole also needs this opportunity to be normalized.”

The following is a breakdown of the three overtures sponsored by the Presbytery of Lake Erie that will be reviewed by the Ordination Committee:

  • On Amending G-2.0804 to Include Shared Ministry in Terms of Call
    • “Regarding a minister to work full-time in ministry, obtain benefits from the Board of Pensions, and thereby bringing their best gifts to God and their congregations.”
    • Click here to review
  • On Amending G-2.0504 to Include Shared Ministry in the Definition of Pastoral Relationships
    • Similar to above, “this overture recognizes demographic trends in the denomination and the financial challenges small churches face in calling sustainable pastoral leadership.”
    • Click here to review
  • On Amending G-2.0805 to Include Installations in Multiple Congregations in Shared Ministry
    • Similar to above, “the change to G-2.0805 aligns the text with submitted overtures regarding shared ministries, i.e., ‘Amending G-2.0504 to Include Shared Ministry in the Definition of Pastoral Relationships’ and ‘Amending G-2.0804 to Include Shared Ministry in Terms of Call.’”
    • Click here to review

Pittsburgh’s overture, which will be reviewed by the Financial Resources Committee, specifically names General Electric and Palantir Technologies, Inc., two companies that “are involved in activities that conflict with the mission-directed investment policy of the PC(USA).” The overture asks that “We urge the General Assembly to direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board to instruct MRTI to begin a focused engagement process with General Electric (GE) and Palantir Technologies, Inc. with the aim of moving these companies away from actions that create human harm, are a barrier to peace, and violate human rights.”

To review this overture, click here.

This year’s General Assembly is once again using a hybrid format for its gathering. While the plenary sessions will be held in Salt Lake City from June 30 to July 4, the committees initially reviewing the overtures and offering their feedback will meet online from June 25-27. At the 225th General Assembly (2022) in Louisville, KY, the locations were reversed, with the committees meeting in person and the plenaries being online. In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 224th General Assembly was held entirely online. The last completely in-person General Assembly was held in St. Louis in 2018.