Way Forward Commission Discusses Interagency Cooperation, Structure, Next Steps

Way Forward Commission

(By Leslie Scanlon, Presbyterian Outlook). Members of the Way Forward Commission are beginning to turn their thoughts to what sort of changes the commission might recommend for the Presbyterian Church (USA) – not discussing any specifics yet, but considering whether the commission might be ready to start moving in that direction when it meets next at McCormick Theological Seminary May 15-17.

Commission members agreed to think in the next few weeks about what Mark Hostetter, a teaching elder from New York and the commission’s moderator, described as “common elements” they would want included in a denominational structure based on the research they have done so far; the feedback they’ve received about what Presbyterians at the grass roots want; and their theological sense of what a church is called to be.

Commission member Jo Stewart, a ruling elder from North Carolina, put it this way: commission members should consider, in very broad terms, “if nothing existed today, what would you build?”

The commission met via video conference call April 18, discussing both its progress so far and next steps. Here are some highlights.

Limits to the Commission’s Power

The commission met for about 40 minutes in closed session with J. Herbert Nelson, the PCUSA’s stated clerk, giving as the reason for closing the meeting a discussion of personnel matters. When the meeting resumed again in open session, Hostetter said Nelson earlier had provided a written advisory opinion to a question asking him to clarify the commission’s powers.

In that opinion, Nelson wrote that the action of the 2016 General Assembly creating the commission “did limit the powers of the Commission” so that “recommendations for any missional and structural changes will be brought to the 223rd General Assembly” in 2018. (Read the full Advisory Opinion.)

Nelson’s opinion also states that recommendations from the commission involving “any amendments, replacement or setting aside of the Standing Rules of the General Assembly or the Book of Order necessary to accomplish its vision” would need approval from the 2018 General Assembly as well.

So “there is an edge to our power,” Hostetter said – meaning a limit to what the commission can do on its own.




  1. REPLY
    peter gregory says

    One of the many causalities of politically correct thought and discussion corridors, all the rage in academia and elitist circles is the death of truth, introspection, intellectual curiosity and even informed discussion. It is a collective and institutional brain death. The singular striking feature of Vision 2020, Way Forward and the all agency review is the complete lack to engage the “why” question, why are we at this juncture or position and how did we get here? The PCUSA is so the creature of identity,tribal theologies, thought police and administrative silos it lacks even the ability to deal with, let alone process the existential questions of how 60 years of secular/liberal/anti- faith policies from Abortion to Israel got them where they are now. And even if one did dare to cross that bridge they would be shamed and bullied into silence. And outside a policy of theft and extortion, which they call “gracious separation”, they lack even policy positions or process to recapitalize the institution.

    The old saw of changing round the deck chairs on the sinking ship and death spiral known as the PCUSA is most appropriate. As I have stated on the floor of Presbytery more than once, it is a Constitution, not a suicide pact. The fact that a presbytery, denomination or church or clergy X decide on institutional suicide does not bind me, or anybody else for that matter, by either polity, confession or some presumed vows to a denomination that no longer exists, to join them.

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