Posted June 25, 2018 in Around the Synod

LackawannaNotes from PCUSA General Assembly

Our hardworking Presbytery of Lackawanna team met for dinner last night and shared thoughts and observations about our experience to the mid-point of General Assembly. Together we are: Elder Commissioner Bonnie Yuscavage (Inkerman), Stated Clerk Marge Zeigler (Presbytery staff, West Pittston), Minister Commissioner Rev. Scott Loomer (Covenant) and Young Adult Advisory Delegate Josiah Armstrong (Wyoming Valley).

Below I’ve listed some of the comments we shared, but if you want the official news on business and events straight from GA, here are two sources:



The BIG NEWS is that our Overture 024, to include Valley United PC in the Presbytery of Lackawanna and Synod of the Trinity, was passed as part of today’s consent agenda. WELCOME, Valley congregation and Pastor Sharan! We celebrate this action and are so blessed to have you among us officially.


  • It’s hot here, mid-to-upper 90s and humid as an indoor swimming pool, just the tip of summer swelter according to the locals. Fortunately, the indoor spaces we are using (downtown hotels and America’s Convention Center) are sufficiently refrigerated to keep us more than comfortable.
  • The committee on General Assembly Procedures passed a recommendation to reduce the proposed per capita amount for 2019 and 2020 to 10 per cent OVERALL. (Originally it was 39%, then 20%…hmmm…think it will pass?)
  • The Young Adult Advisory Delegates were unhappy (as in very, very) that, in their first advisory capacity advising the commissioners in the election of moderators, they were ignored. The moderator team they would have elected narrowly came in second. They are proposing that, when it comes to electing a moderator in the future, their votes count. Josiah weighs in: The definition of advisory delegate is one who advises. ‘nuff said.
  • One of the new co-moderators, Cindy Kohlmann, trained our New Beginnings leaders at Camp Lackawanna in 2014. (That’s why she looked so familiar!)
  • When the committee on Mid-Councils (presbyteries and synods) passed our border-bump overture making Valley United PC a part of our presbytery and synod, they also commended us on helping small churches find a way to grow in mission and ministry. Everyone pat yourselves on the back…NOW.
  • Bonnie’s committee on Polity and Ordered Ministry covered everything from alternate ways to become an elder (other than serving on session) to family leave and dealing with sexual misconduct. Yikes! Watch for their recommendations and the assembly’s votes on these practical matters.
  • There was an altercation – we all missed it – outside of the committee on Middle East Issues, which reportedly included death threats. Look for the PCUSA Stated Clerk’s statement on that incident.
  • The people in the orange shirts are speaking for divestment of fossil fuels. We figured that out.
  • The march to the courthouse, for social justice, carried $47,000 in donated funds to help with judicial procedures for those who can’t afford them. Josiah represented us in the walk.
  • Josiah’s dad Rev. Dr. Harold Armstrong was listed in the 2016-17 Necrology, which was honored in a special service during a plenary meeting on Sunday.
  • Scott’s committee on finance-related agencies within the PCUSA structure dealt with important but not-so-scintillating issues about loans, endowments, terms, etc. He reports mostly routine decisions with only “minor, very minor” fireworks when it came to a discussion on restricted funds. Minor fireworks are good.
  • The Way Forward Committee, which heard recommendations and counter-recommendations from the Way Forward Commission, All-Agency Review Committee, and Presbyterian Mission Agency, was always a packed house. One of the news articles attempting to explain their mind-dizzying efforts for everyone to just get along summed it up skillfully: “This is complicated stuff.”
  • Among the complicated stuff mentioned in the Way Forward reports was the idea that PCUSA communications are confusing…ya think?! They said Presbyterians should not have to resort to Google to find anything on the agencies’ multiple, un-coordinated websites. True that.
  • There is a commissioner’s resolution suggesting that one way to reduce the per capita budget is to reduce the cost of GA by considering extending the time between assemblies, reducing the time spent at assembly, and utilizing technology to better prepare for the event in advance. (Seriously, the first day they read to us from the handbook.) Dilly dilly!
  • We split in all directions for worship on Sunday – my experience featured prayer and songs performed by Grammy winner Fernando Ortega. Very inspiring. You should check him out.
  • At a Mid-Council dinner, I sat in on two conversations where we were asked, “What can we do for you?” Always a dangerous question! One was on small churches, where there was talk of simplifying information sent to and requested from congregations by PCUSA agencies. Another discussed leadership training and our group requested consistent criteria and training for commissioned lay pastors serving churches and for elders facing transitions in their churches. Each facilitator mentioned that these were common themes, SO maybe something will happen…

You never know what will happen next! Keep watching the news feeds (you can even watch live stream!) for updates. We’ll all be back next week and will share some of our experience with the presbytery at its September meeting. Thanks for your prayers and support.

See you all soon, Marge