Saturday, 5 July 2008

PCNSW Assembly 2008

In the previous post I explained that several of us were at PCNSW Assembly for the week. I had thought I might post a few times during the week, however things got too busy and the only time I had a chance to write anything I would have had to sit in the outside in the cold at night to get a decent connection. So here are a few comments and reflections which are, of course, my own and not the official view of the PTC nor of the PCNSW!

This was the second residential assembly, the first was in 2004. Again we were at 'the tops' sight at Stanwell Tops. It is set in wonderful scenery, though you have to walk about 10 minutes to get a view like the picture. I don't think many of us had much time to enjoy the scenery as the business of the assembly took up more time than was originally planned. The residential Assembly is a good time to get to know people better. There is certainly a discipline in living together for a week, but I think it is a discipline which is good for us and I was glad that we finished by deciding to hold another residential Assembly in 2011.

Bruce Meller did a fine job as moderator. His opening address can be heard here. Given that Bruce only discovered a few minutes before the opening that there was no sermon and he adapted his brief address to a sermon, it is a good effort.

Much of the 'routine' business had been dealt with earlier in the year, and this meant that the Assembly was quite intense, since most of the debates had some significance.

The major issue was to be a consideration of a overture which was approved at the last General Assembly of Australia which would mean that only men could be ordained as elders. In order for this to become the case the overture must now be approved by a three fifths majority of Presbyteries and a majority of State Assemblies. Feelings are very high in the NSW church over this issue and the house was packed on Tuesday morning in anticipation of the debate. However the decision was made that the debate would be delayed for a year. The main reason given was that the Assembly should receive some legal advice on the implications of the possible decision. However I suspect that many voted to delay because it would have made the rest of the week living together far less happy. One commissioner commented to me that he thought the Assembly would be happy to postpone the debate indefinitely. I think he may be right, but we won't be able to do the same thing next year.

There is still some angst in the Assembly about the health of our churches, the need for a clear strategy, the need for recruiting more ministers and the level of financial support for the various programs of the Assembly and how that money is shared. This year that concern came out in some strong questions asked about the Ministry and Mission Committee and its recruiting role, and attempts to remove the Church and Nation Committee (unsuccessfully) and the Historical Records Committee (which is now a subcommittee of the Business Committee). There was a major debate about the possibility of introducing a compulsory assessment to fund the programs of PCNSW. The suggestion was defeated.

The Theological Education Committee report is of great interest to us at PTC (since TEC is our governing body). There was no TEC business to deal with (since that had been done in April) so we gave a presentation with a brief interview with a student, and an interview with a student who had done the WCF intensive and with me about the intensives. Ian introduced the Philosophy of Education we have been working on and talked about our hope of getting some residences near PTC. Robert Benn (the convenor of TEC) spoke briefly about other building matters and I introduced the Ministry Training for Women (more on the blog in the future). The chat around the Assembly was that the presentation had gone well and people were excited about what we were doing.

So there are a few highlights. Others who were at Assembly may want to comment on other debates.

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