A Preliminary Report on General Assembly

Dear TFC Friends,

It was quite a week at General Assembly in Salt Lake City. Please consider this very much a Preliminary Report, with more communication to come. Bottom line: our desire would have been for the Olympia Presbytery overture, POL-01, to be voted down. It was approved. However, given the realities of the PCUSA, the amendments to the original overture seem to allow the room we hoped for to continue living out our mission.

Before getting to the details, we want to thank our amazing team who trained and supported the TFC friendly delegates: current board members, Tammy Mitchell and David Won, and former board members, Scott Mann and Bill Teng. They met with commissioners and delegates pre-GA, every night after committee work by Zoom, in person every night at GA in the TFC Hospitality Suite, and throughout GA. Thanks so very much to each for their hard work, prayer, and commitment.

POL-01 was separated into two parts following constitutional advice. The first part concerns discrimination, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We don’t support discrimination. We affirm that every human being is made in God’s image and deserves our respect and welcome into our life together as the church. We were pleased to receive assurance that our traditional interpretations are within constitutional bounds. However, the process was a sobering reminder how few conservatives are elected to GA.

Part two was amended twice, specifically to provide more balance and respond to conservative concerns. Many of our TFC friends participated actively and there were others, including progressives, who helped adjust the language to preserve a big tent. Specifically, “non-discrimination” was removed, and a reference was added to the Historic Principles of Church Order, which include freedom of conscience and mutual forbearance, to balance the proposed inclusion of “the principles of participation and representation.” The GA was repeatedly reminded that all of the adjusted language in part two is entirely included in long-standing examination requirements and represents no change.

We have many questions, as we’re sure you do. The next step will be for presbyteries to vote on the constitutional amendment. A majority is required. If it were to pass, presbyteries and churches will determine how to act on it. More questions. Regardless, our encouragement remains the same: lean into your relationships within your presbytery and across the denomination with people who may hold a different view from you. Lean in, listen to their stories, convictions, and concerns, and share your own. By the way, Dwight Radcliffe’s plenary message at the National Gathering gave us a good model of engaging for understanding: Lean in, Listen, and Respond.

Our team came away encouraged that the GA responded to some of our concerns with more balanced language and assured that traditional interpretations are within constitutional bounds.

The second overture TFC focused on advocated for the National Caucus of Korean Presbyterian Churches to be recognized as an official caucus of the PCUSA. We were disappointed that it was disapproved but encouraged that a number of commissioners spoke in support of NCKPC continuing to make progress in affirming women in ministry.

Finally, we look forward to future conversations with the new co-moderators and new stated clerk. We think that there is openness to considering the concerns of the whole spectrum of the denomination, including ours.

The final form of the constitutional amendment (POL-01) can be found here.

We close in prayer:

Father in Heaven, we thank you for holding all of us in the palm of your hand. You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. We praise you for being faithful, righteous, compassionate on all you have made, slow to anger and rich in love (Ps 145). Jesus, Savior and Lord, Head of the Church, we submit to your leadership in our lives. Help us to lead like you; mold us into leaders who are humble, surrendered, and full of grace and truth. Holy Spirit, you are the one who comforts and convicts us of our own sin, the one who gifts us and inspires. We pray that you would give us what we need to learn from each other and take the next faithful step. We pray for your wisdom. We declare that we trust you. We ask for your guidance in all that we do. We want to glorify you now and always. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Together in Christ,

The Fellowship Community Board

TFC Board

Mike McClenahan, President, Senior Pastor, Solana Beach Presbyterian Church, Solana Beach, CA

Dan Baumgartner, Secretary, Pastor, The Cove Fellowship, Santa Rosa, CA

Jim Witherow, Treasurer, Retired Pastor, Faith Presbyterian Church, Aledo, TX

Cynthia Betz-Bogoly, Pastor, Elkins Park Presbyterian Church, Elkins Park, PA

Paul Cunningham, Senior Pastor, La Jolla Presbyterian Church, La Jolla, CA

Tracey Davenport, Senior Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Plano, TX

John Fullerton, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, FL

Eric Hoey, Pastor, The Presbyterian Church, Henderson, KY

John Joseph, Associate Pastor, Providence Presbyterian Church, Hilton Head, SC

Tamara Mitchell, Associate Pastor, Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole, Jackson, WY

Timothy Scoonover, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Moncks Corner, SC

Jason Tucker, Lead Pastor, Tower Hill Church, Red Bank, NJ

David Won, Senior Pastor, New Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles, CA

Advisory Board

Jerry Andrews, San Diego, CA

Donna Marsh, River Forest, IL

Mark Perry, Peru, IN


TFC’s original statement on POL-01 can be found here.