Group hears from All Agency Review Committee and Way Forward Commission
by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
DALLAS — Following an opening devotional led by team member Rebecca Snedeker-Meier, the 2020 Vision Team of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) started its meeting today to begin forming a draft recommendation to the 223rd General Assembly of the denomination meeting in St. Louis this summer.
The group’s task, as defined by the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the PC(USA), is to “develop a guiding statement for the denomination and make a plan for its implementation with all deliberate speed. The process of developing such a guiding statement will help us to name and claim our denominational identity as we seek to follow the Spirit into the future.”
Early in the day, the team held a video conference call with the All Agency Review committee, meeting concurrently in Louisville, and Mark Hostetter, moderator of the Way Forward Commission.
“We’ve been talking around this table about who does this visioning work on an ongoing basis,” said Deborah Block, moderator of the All Agency Review committee. “How it fuses and informs the work of the General Assembly rather than merely using the mission directives to evaluate the effectiveness of our agencies in review.”
Continued coordination and anticipated needs for commissioner education coming into General Assembly 223 (2018) were also discussed, given the volume of reports and recommendations coming from the three Assembly-directed committees.
Guiding Statement Work
Team member Sabrina Slater presented a draft of the “guiding statement” as part of its report to the Office of the General Assembly due February 16, which in its initial form commits the denomination to be “prayerful, courageous, united, serving and alive,” the first letters of these attributes spelling out the church’s acronym — PCUSA.
Team members enthusiastically received the guiding statement, saying it was a hopeful representation of the denomination’s future, yet spent the entirety of the day wordsmithing the document to refine its message.
“By saying ‘we commit to being,’ has a cost,” said team co-moderator Bernadette Coffee. “It means we’re taking on the task of becoming this type of church.
“The first thing that came up was that it reflects who we are at our best as the PC(USA),” said team member Deborah Foster. “It captures what I thought was unique about our tradition, as a teenager, as compared to other faith groups.”
“What if our first thought about the character and identity of the PC(USA) was these words?” asked Slater. “That’s a pretty powerful shift in identity.”
Asking who the group’s statement was directed to inform, team member Karen Sapio began a discussion wondering if the intended recipient was the General Assembly, church members or outside audiences.
“Our statement needs to be thoroughly Presbyterian, but there needs to be insight for those who aren’t insiders,” suggested team member Chris McCain. “It’s a tension we’re not going to resolve, but we should keep asking the question how different audiences might interpret what we are saying.”
Knowing that the Way Forward Committee at General Assembly 223 may revise the work of the 2020 Vision Team, co-moderator Lisa Juica Perkins said it may be best for the group to issue a draft report and ask for a continuation of their work for the next two years.
Looking further into the report structure, team member Joshua Andrzejewski asked when the appropriate time would be for the group to engage a consultant to “help us with our one-liner,” referencing the desire to create a denominational slogan or tagline.
“That would have financial implications we hadn’t planned for,” he said. “I don’t know if we have that skillset among us.”
The group ended its deliberations after 9:30 pm, settling on a revised draft document and encouraged by Juica Perkins, “to sleep with it, pray with it” and return to further work Tuesday morning.
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