Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – Online committees, in-person plenaries

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The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly convened for its monthly Zoom meeting on October 20, 2022.

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly has signed off on a new format for the 226th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Last summer, the 225th General Assembly voted for a hybrid Assembly in 2024 with a few changes. Committees will be meeting virtually while plenaries will be held in person in Salt Lake City. During its fall meeting last month, COGA began looking at a handful of options around how to structure the committee gatherings. On Thursday, Office of the General Assembly staff offered a new proposal that would schedule online committee meetings over three days, a two-day break for travel, followed by several days of plenaries in Salt Lake City. COGA unanimously approved the format.

Highlights of the plan:

  • Committees will be encouraged/required to meet for learning opportunities, Riverside Conversations and group building before the official start date
  • Committees will meet for three days with the schedule accommodating various time zones
  • The Moderator/Co-Moderator election will be held during the first plenary after committee meetings
  • All moderatorial candidates will be trained fully before the election
  • If hybrid commissioner/advisory delegate participation is approved, participants will have to work around Salt Lake City’s Mountain time zone.

“We know folks had difficulty in recruiting and based on the feedback, we know it is easier to arrange lives around one concentrated time instead of multiple times,” said Kate Duffert, OGA’s manager for GA Business and Per Capita. “For Young Adult Advisory Delegates, doing summer course work around multiple GA dates is difficult for them.”

While the format is approved, finalizing the dates is still under consideration. OGA staff is reviewing to format plans. Plan A would have committees meeting online Saturday through Monday, June 22–24, with plenaries being held from Thursday through Monday, June 27–July 1.

“This plan is contingent on availability of space and rooms needed for committee meetings,” said Deb Davies, OGA’s manager for meeting services. “Our current contract with the convention center would start on Wednesday, the 26th. We would release a lot of rooms that we have under contract for four nights after July 1st.”

Davies says Plan B would provide a brief opening plenary and committee meetings from Wednesday through Friday, June 26–28, with plenaries being held Monday through Friday, July 1–5.

“We like the idea of concluding the General Assembly before July 4, but it was the willingness to meet over the 4th that got us the more favorable rates in Salt Lake City,” she said.

Among the challenges still to be addressed are how to provide technical support for as many as 12 committees and the training that’s necessary for committee moderators, vice moderators and assistants.

“This Assembly will be different than any previous Assembly. But as an educator with experience teaching online, leading a productive well-run meeting on Zoom requires a completely different skill set than doing it in person,” said COGA member and Ruling Elder Robin Pugh. “We will need to provide training on best practices for leading on Zoom.”

OGA staff will be meeting with Salt Lake City convention planners as well as the Presbytery of Utah next week to begin discussing the 226th Assembly and will bring back the financial implications for both plans at the November COGA meeting.

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