Feedback from the 219th General Assembly (2010)

After participating as a Theological Student Advisory Delegate (TSAD) at the 219th General Assembly of the PC(USA), an e-mail was sent out asking for feedback.  This was probably more feedback than was necessary, but I guess I had a lot to say.  Not sure why this took me so long to post.  Time has just gotten away from me!

~~~~~~~~

Do you think the social media policy at General Assembly was appropriate?

  • Yes, completely appropriate
  • Yes, mostly appropriate
  • Yes, somewhat appropriate
  • No
  • Not sure

I chose “Yes, mostly appropriate.”

Comments about the social media policy:

It seems that some read the social media policy as a restriction of social media. When I read it, I understood it to delineate a judicious and appropriate use of social media (i.e., not to find out how other people want me to vote). It seemed that the policy acknowledged the presence of social media as a part of life (i.e., not a “fad”) but somehow that seemed to get a little bit lost.  As a connectional church, I found it appropriate and AWEsome that 1) so many people were interested in the business of the church and 2) that we now have way for people to easily *participate* in this part of the life of the church in meaningful ways.  I have heard it said quite a few times that there is a disconnect between what happens at GA and what is going on at local churches and social media combined with audio/visual coverage of GA has unbelievable potential to bridge that gap.  With this in mind, it seems a bit short sighted to communicate anything less than full acceptance and even encouragement of social media at GA.  It was neat to be able to answer general questions people had about the business at hand for those on Twitter who were following along via the live feed.

Most important three issues covered at GA: 1) General Assembly Review Committee of the whole PCUSA, 2) Special Committee to Consider Including the Belhar Confession in The Book of Confessions, 3) Other – Young people in general: Whether it was the YAADs, the TSADs, or overtures that directly or indirectly related to young people, these issues are very important to me. Honestly if it were not for the fact that I have discerned a call to ministry within PCUSA, I do not think I would feel welcome in this denomination. That is a sad state of affairs. It seems to me that there are many people who think youth and young adults should be seen and not heard and that is unacceptable. And the mixed messages we send our young people (read under 30 or even under 40) are scandalous and in my personal opinion, young people are the most unserved and unchurched people group in the United States. If you want young people in PCUSA, that means allowing young people to have not just a voice, but a vote. The overtures to limit the participation of YAADs as well as the general hesitancy or flat out unwillingness to allow young people to serve in positions of responsibility were discouraging and offensive. Do we worship experience and tenure or a God who equips the called?

Regarding financial implications, I think the way in which committees/commissioners/advisory delegates are informed about financial implications needs to be recontextualized.  What I mean is this: when the numbers were presented at the beginning of plenary sessions, they were VERY large numbers that to many probably seem very abstract. While the per capita increase was also given on this same slide, it was only at the end that I think people really understood how much the things we implemented actually cost. It was like we went shopping with a credit card and a bunch of different stores and then started to ask questions when we got the statement so to speak. I am sure it is necessary and beneficial to provide the big numbers, but I think the emphasis needs to be on per capita when it will affect that. One person I heard suggested a ticker of some sort that would be updated to how not just the per capita amount for the individual piece of business (i.e., 2 cents), but rather what the over all per capita would be (i.e., going up from $6.20 to $6.22).  While all the things the assembly voted on were very important, it seems to me that we probably needed to prioritize our spending instead of jacking up per capita as much as we did.  Maybe a portion of the screen could be devoted to this similarly to how the clock was put on the screen to keep track of speaking time.  That and notifying the whole assembly about the anticipated rise in per capita even before anything is approved.  Like in big white letters on a completely red screen so everyone gets the point loud and clear.
On the topic of PC-Biz, I think there needs to be more coordination between what is going on on the platform and on PC-biz.  There were many times that the business was not even up on PC-biz and it was being voted on.  True people need to look at things before hand, but it is impossible to remember every overture.  And yes, paper copies were provided, but that takes time to find as well.
On the note of the the FAQ documents, I thought these were VERY helpful and wish they had been placed on top of the paper copies of the overtures instead of mixed in with all of that. There were quite a few questions asked that were on the FAQ sheets and while I am sure that would happen regardless, it the FAQ sheets were 1) placed on top and 2) made available on PC-Biz that would have been helpful.
I would like to close by saying that all of my critiques and criticisms are not meant to be discouraging.  I hope my straight-forwardness is understood to be a result of the medium (i.e., this survey) and not any critical spirit towards anyone involved with GA.  Having never been to GA prior to this, I was VERY impressed with the planning and execution of such a large, multifaceted event.  From the moment I registered to the moment I arrived at the airport (and everything in between) I felt cared for and very much appreciated the personal service provided by all.  Thank you for a tremendously educational and beneficial experience! If I can be of any service to anyone regarding my specific thoughts, please feel free to contact me via the e-mail address provided in the Big Tent question. Shalom.

Regarding financial implications, I think the way in which committees/commissioners/advisory delegates are informed about financial implications needs to be recontextualized.  What I mean is this: when the numbers were presented at the beginning of plenary sessions, they were VERY large numbers that to many probably seem very abstract. While the per capita increase was also given on this same slide, it was only at the end that I think people really understood how much the things we implemented actually cost. It was like we went shopping with a credit card and a bunch of different stores and then started to ask questions when we got the statement so to speak. I am sure it is necessary and beneficial to provide the big numbers, but I think the emphasis needs to be on per capita when it will affect that. One person I heard suggested a ticker of some sort that would be updated to how not just the per capita amount for the individual piece of business (i.e., 2 cents), but rather what the over all per capita would be (i.e., going up from $6.20 to $6.22).  While all the things the assembly voted on were very important, it seems to me that we probably needed to prioritize our spending instead of jacking up per capita as much as we did.  Maybe a portion of the screen could be devoted to this similarly to how the clock was put on the screen to keep track of speaking time.  That and notifying the whole assembly about the anticipated rise in per capita even before anything is approved.  Like in big white letters on a completely red screen so everyone gets the point loud and clear.
On the topic of PC-Biz, I think there needs to be more coordination between what is going on on the platform and on PC-biz.  There were many times that the business was not even up on PC-biz and it was being voted on.  True people need to look at things before hand, but it is impossible to remember every overture.  And yes, paper copies were provided, but that takes time to find as well.
On the note of the the FAQ documents, I thought these were VERY helpful and wish they had been placed on top of the paper copies of the overtures instead of mixed in with all of that. There were quite a few questions asked that were on the FAQ sheets and while I am sure that would happen regardless, it the FAQ sheets were 1) placed on top and 2) made available on PC-Biz that would have been helpful.
I would like to close by saying that all of my critiques and criticisms are not meant to be discouraging.  I hope my straight-forwardness is understood to be a result of the medium (i.e., this survey) and not any critical spirit towards anyone involved with GA.  Having never been to GA prior to this, I was VERY impressed with the planning and execution of such a large, multifaceted event.  From the moment I registered to the moment I arrived at the airport (and everything in between) I felt cared for and very much appreciated the personal service provided by all.  Thank you for a tremendously educational and beneficial experience! If I can be of any service to anyone regarding my specific thoughts, please feel free to contact me via the e-mail address provided in the Big Tent question. Shalom.

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