UPDATE: This has to go at the top because this post may be incorrect in its basic point. It seems there’s real question about whether the GA passed the $2 million request, or simply set up a fund that concerned Presbyterians could donate to, or something else all together. I’ll get clarification and post more on this later.
UPDATE: This is the final text of item 3-21, which is the overture regarding legal fees:
That the 218th General Assembly (2008) do the following:
1. Provide funds to the Office of General Assembly for the purpose of sharing the cost of legal fees defending our Constitution against the New Wineskins Non-geographic Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and a group which has joined that denomination.
2. From these funds, reimburse the Presbytery of Northern New England for half of all of its remaining legal costs up to a maximum of $185,000.
3. That the Office of the General Assembly establish and promote an Extra Commitment Opportunity (ECO) account that will be the source of this support and welcomes contributions from the whole church.
What that says to me is that anyone who wants to pony up contributions for taking EPC, its churches, its ministers, or even its laypeople (see: Londonderry Presbyterian Church in New Hampshire) are welcome to do so. It also suggests that at least some funds will come from general revenues, but doesn’t specify how much, though it does promise the Presbytery of Northern New England up to $185,000 to fund its efforts.
Why does that not make me feel any better?
And now back to the original post:
The GA Junkie, Steve Salyards, has been live-blogging the PCUSA General Assembly sessions, and I for one can’t thank him enough for his reporting. He offers an interesting juxtaposition from last night’s session:
Item 03-20: Creating an office on healing from clergy sexual abuse.
One commissioner who was a member of the San Francisco task force spoke about the need for healing
Another commissioner spoke about the need for resources for “alternative resolution” when a negotiated settlement is reached and there is no clear closure.
Passed on voice vote
One minute of silent prayer for the victims of abuse.
Item 03-21: Commissioner resolution about financial support for presbyteries’ legal fees on property issues
Allocate $50,000/presbytery for $2,000,000
This will increase the per capita by $0.92
Amendment – Add section 3 to create an extra commitment account
(people are lining up at the microphones)
Voice vote too close
Electronic: Advisory split; commissioners vote yes 60%
Debate on the main motion
One commissioner points out that they just could not spend $100,000 on healing abuse victims, has a moral problem now approving $2,000,000 on taking churches to court.
[This may be the quote of the day!]
Debate closed on a voice vote
Advisory vote is YAADs no, others yes; Commissioners 57% yes. [Emphasis added.]
What Steve is referring to here is this: shortly before the discussion of whether to shell out $2 million for lawyers to defend PCUSA’s property claims on departing congregations, there was a vote on a overture entitled “On Creating a Presbyterian Office for the Prevention and Healing of Minister of Word and Sacrament Mis-conduct and Abuse.” The overture as it originally appeared would have required the spending of a bit over $100,000 to establish such an office. In committee, the Office of the General Assembly, the General Assembly Council, and the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns recommended disapproving the overture because of the cost. The result was a compromise between the presbyteries that presented the overture and the Louisville agencies that, by my reading, amounts to, “we’ll try harder to do a better job of dealing with this.”
So here’s the motto of this GA, and more importantly of the denominational officials who engineered this: “Millions for lawyers, not one red cent for abuse victims!”