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Some more GA news: on-going tweaks to make a richer church.


International Affairs Committee made a recommendation endorsing visits to the Holy Land sponsored by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem. It failed to pass after commissioners suggested evidence had been found for Sabeel being anti-Semitic; it was also recommended that the court be offered more than one tour group through which to visit the Holy Land.

* The Women's Missionary Society submitted that both numbers and funds are decreasing dramatically. "We have no doubt that God does have a plan," said convener, Druse Bryan. In 2009 the WMS will be forced to decrease contributions to regional staff from $396,000 to $200,000. The Moderator commended Bryan for stepping up in such a difficult time, and assured the WMS of prayers.

* The Pension and Benefits Board recommended that congregations and other employers paying premiums for active members of the Health and Dental Plan should be exempted from paying premiums for the first quarter of 2008. In addition, given the financial status of the Pension Plan an adequate surplus is not available to enable the board to grant a cost of living increase for 2009.

* While some presbyteries suffer from a short supply of interim moderators, that position cannot be filled by ruling elders. The Clerks, in consultation with the Committee on Church Doctrine, suggested that serving as an interim moderator is different from serving as moderator and requires a minister of Word and Sacraments. An overture requesting the Assembly to permit elders not serving on session to be equalizing elders was also defeated, with the clerks noting that elders must be "on the constituent role of one court in order to serve on the constituent role of another."

* The Clerks also recommended against establishing a special committee of past moderators, saying they are concerned this would "amount to an additional body within the governance of our church that would run counter to the fundamental roots of our polity."

* Minor changes in by-laws and staffing at Knox College were adopted. "We basically did a clean up of 1998 bylaws--they were too detailed; we wanted room to move," said Dr. Dorcas Gordon, principal of Knox College.

* Rev. Dale Woods was appointed as Director of Pastoral Studies at The Presbyterian College, Montreal, for a three-year term effective July 1, 2008.

* Rev. Dr. Stuart Macdonald was granted tenure and promoted to full professor of Church and Society at Knox College.

* Changes to the Church's camping and outdoor ministries were initiated by the Life and Mission Agency. All camps and outdoor ministries will abide by the Leading with Care policy; LMA will help make financial resources available to camps, including a meeting with a financial strategist, in hopes of establishing long-term endowment funds and a clear financial strategy for camping ministries; a means of assistance will be explored for camps not yet fully accredited due to financial stress as long as these camps move toward full provincial accreditation by 2010; and LMA will provide governance training for camps and supervising bodies. And, it was decided national funds will be alloted for the operation of camps owned and operated by the PCC.

* Rick Fee, who recently battled a very rare virus, was remembered by LMA convener Rev. Daniel Cho. "God has answered our prayer. He is recovered."

* Congregations were encouraged to explore energy conservation measures for their buildings, and where possible, conduct energy audits. Congregations were reminded that the church's Lending Fund may provide up to $60,000 in loans for such endeavours.

* A response to an overture requesting biennial assemblies was deferred until 2009, as was a report on the translation of Living Faith and the Book of Forms into Korean. Any further work and discussion on a stole for the Moderator of the General Assembly will cease.

* The Committee on History has been authorized to create the National Presbyterian Museum Committee comprised of nine members who will run the museum, coordinate finances, nominate a curator, and advise and support the curator. The change comes after Rev. Dr. John Johnston, the museum's founder and curator, passed away in January. A minute of appreciation was recorded in his honour.

* Canada Ministries is planning a new program which will give greater assistance in planting new congregations by providing, at the request of the presbytery, a fund to allow the use of a consultant; along with a 'coaching' program for each New Church Development worker, a mentoring program, annual New Church conferences, bursaries and continuing education events. Canada Ministries believes there is a need to become more intentional about planting churches throughout Canada.

* Rev. Dr. Jim Czegledi, former associate secretary for Worship and Evangelism Minutes and Mr. Keith Knight, associate secretary for Resource Production and Communication were both remembered by Assembly.

* Assembly Council presented two policies for approval: The Policy of The Presbyterian Church in Canada for Dealing with Allegations of Racial Harassment--Growing in Christ: Seeing the Image of God in our Neighbour, and A Statement of Commitment Toward Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Leadership at the National Level of The Presbyterian Church in Canada which dealt the issues of hiring national staff and appointment of volunteers to national committees.

This triggered an emotional response: One commissioner said the KKK couldn't have written a more racist policy. "You're proposing to hire people based on race; this is not justice," he said.

Incredulous at this sort of response, and in tears, Sheldon Lawrence, an elder from West Toronto whose roots trace to African descent said, "We should all be looking past our own skin. Has it really come to this?"

"I don't see it as promoting people because of their race," responded another commissioner from Toronto. "I see it as saying, 'Don't leave out others because of their race or background.'"

Another concurred, "This is a small denomination and I have been on nominating committees within presbyteries where people are scratching their heads wondering who they can wrangle into their jobs, and we don't think to ask those who haven't spoken up, who haven't been part of the same crowd ... We could be richer as a church if we did."

Both policies were accepted. "There's such a thing as structural discrimination; it's not intentional," said Assembly Council convener Lisbeth Duncan. "This is a statement reminding us all this is a vision we hope to see become reality."
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Title Annotation:134th GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Author:Wierenga, Emily
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Article Type:Conference news
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jul 1, 2008
Previous Article:Strong feelings--great!
Next Article:Seeking gospel engagement: the challenge is not reaching the numbers but remaining true to Christ.

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