Presbyterian Church select committee makes significant decisions as General Assembly cancelled

Although this week’s General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland was cancelled for the first time in 180 years, several significant decisions were taken by a select committee.
PCI Moderator 2020-2021 Rt Rev Dr David BrucePCI Moderator 2020-2021 Rt Rev Dr David Bruce
PCI Moderator 2020-2021 Rt Rev Dr David Bruce

The 2020 Standing Commission of the General Assembly met by video conference on Monday evening to elect Dr David Bruce as Moderator for the year, in a livestreamed installation service from Assembly Buildings in Belfast.

The 25-member committee continued to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, again via video conference, to fulfil its remit by conducting much of the business that would normally be dealt with by the General Assembly each June.

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Clerk of the General Assembly and PCI’s General Secretary, Rev Trevor Gribben said: “The General Assembly has never delegated this kind of authority to a single group before, which shows just how unprecedented these times are. Given the responsibility given to them, members of the Standing Commission were intensely aware of the need to act wisely and responsibly as they tried to prayerfully sense the mind of the Church, and more importantly, the will of the Lord, in the decisions that it took.”

The Standing Commission took a series of routine non-controversial, but necessary decisions including, for example, the acceptance of six candidates as students for the Ordained Ministry, and nominations to various committees.

It also remitted to a Special Meeting of the General Assembly for its consideration – when it is able to meet again as a large gathering – almost all resolutions which were establishing new policy, for instance, resolutions regarding decision making and dissent within the Presbyterian Church.

The commission sent down two reports to the Church’s 19 regional Presbyteries for discussion and comment – the draft resource on ‘credible profession’ along with the draft updated pastoral guidelines on same sex attraction, and the draft pastoral guidelines for pastoral care of those who struggle with gender identity, and their families.

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Mr Gribben said that the Standing Commission did take some significant decisions on behalf of the General Assembly that were time sensitive. These included the adoption of a new ‘Vision for Union Theological College’ (UTC), the approval of a new undergraduate partnership between UTC and St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and the appointment of the Rev Professor Gordon Campbell as Principal of Union Theological College.

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