By Mike Givler
Synod of the Trinity
Things really got moving Monday at General Assembly. For me, that’s a literal statement. Today was the first day in which all 14 committees met to discuss the overtures that had been placed in front of them. Some committees met Sunday night, but all 14 were in action today.
Overture committees are made up of the GA commissioners who have been designated from the presbyteries around the country. Since the Synod of the Trinity has 16 presbyteries and probably close to 80 commissioners in St. Louis from within its bounds, there is someone (and usually multiple people) from our Synod in every committee. Committees are broken down into different areas of focus, from General Assembly Procedures to Environmental Issues to Middle East Issues. The committees look over the overtures brought before them and make recommendations to the General Assembly on whether to approve or disapprove. The committees can also make amendments to the overtures, which can turn a discussion on an overture into a lengthy process.
With five overtures at this year’s General Assembly coming from presbyteries in the Synod of the Trinity, not to mention the six commissioner resolutions from our region that are prepared just prior to GA, it takes a good map, sturdy shoes and bottles of water to be able to keep up. All told, eight of the 11 overtures/resolutions coming from the Synod were discussed today. Fortunately, they were all on the second floor of the America’s Center. Unfortunately, the America’s Center is a big place.
With some things coming to the floor ahead of schedule and others delayed, it made for some hectic moments as I tried to catch at least a part of everyone’s presentation. I was able to sit down (and catch a breath) at five of the eight that were discussed today (one I arrived a half hour early and it had been moved up on the docket, so I was actually 30 minutes late).
Here’s a brief recap of what happened (most of which I saw) today, in chronological order:
- On realigning the border between the Synod of the Northeast and the Synod of the Trinity so the village of Waverly, NY, shall be within the Synod of the Trinity and the Presbytery of Lackawanna (from Lackawanna)
- Basically a rubber-stamp conversation on this overture that will be recommended for a quick approval.
- For the Protection of the Children of Israel and Palestine (from Philadelphia)
- Overture was met with lots of opposition and recommendation was for disapproval
- Suicide prevention (Wendy Keys, Redstone)
- Among other things, this resolution asks for an acknowledgement of “the church’s role in contributing to the stigma and silence that envelops the topic of suicide.” It was recommended for approval.
- Responding to people impacted by opioids and other addictive substances (Commissioner resolution: Sue Washburn, Redstone)
- “It encourages churches to take personal action regarding substance abuse disorder,” Sue explained. “I personally feel we need to take a stand against opioids. We need to bring this out of the darkness and into the light.” It was recommended for approval.
- On America’s interfaith context and the church’s challenge (Carlisle)
- “It’s a Kairos moment,” overture advocate Russell Sullivan said. “This (overture) calls us to action.” This overture was eventually recommended for approval, but not before an hour’s worth of discussion that involved several amendments to the original overture.
- On creating an administrative commission to work with the Synod of the Northeast regarding the Jarvie Commonweal Endowment Fund (Huntingdon)
- Lengthy discussion around this overture regarding concerns about the Presbyterian Foundation’s management and care of the Jarvie Fund. The recommendation was that this overture be approved.
- On support and prayer for the church and people of South Sudan (Shenango)
- This overture, which also had backing from Pittsburgh and Redstone presbyteries, was recommended for approval.
The evening was spent enjoying downtown St. Louis, with the four Synod staffers partaking of dessert at the “Three Sixty,” a restaurant on the rooftop of the Hilton hotel. Located triangularly from the St. Louis Arch and Busch Stadium, the skyline on this clear night was breathtaking. A stroll to the Arch was necessary afterwards, not only for the view but also to walk off the calories. Yeah, more steps…