222nd General Assembly

Independent Presbyterian Church

General Assembly

222nd PC(USA) General Assembly

Several thousand people from the Presbyterian Church (USA) gathered in Portland, Oregon June 18- 25 for the 222nd General Assembly, including Dr. William J Carl III.

 Consider this your cheat sheet for the General Assembly. The Presbyterian Outlook explains what you need to know about the 222nd PC(USA) General Assembly in one page. CLICK HERE to read it.


A letter from Pittsburgh Presbytery's General Minister.

Business as usual? Hardly so. Not at this General Assembly.

It began with the election of Co-Moderators to serve GA, an historic first in a church that has always elected a Moderator and a Vice-Moderator. Instead of a Moderator leading most of the Assembly assisted occasionally by a Vice-Moderator, our Co-Moderators alternated equally at the podium this year. This kept freshness in the Assembly and helped prevent burnout for the person in the Moderator's chair. Moreover, this is the first time that the PCUSA has elected two women to serve in the Moderator's office. 

Second, this Assembly approved two major constitutional changes - a recommendation that presbyteries approve a revised "Directory for Worship" as part of our Book of Order, and the addition of "The Belhar Confession" to our Book of Confessions. The revision of the Directory is less about changing the shape of our worship than about making the Directory clearer and more useful for worship planning, but it does include a few substantive changes. Belhar adds to our Book of Confessions a strong statement on the nature of the church's unity amid its diversity. Moreover, it stands as the first statement in our constitution that comes from our brothers and sisters in the global South. Together, these two constitutional documents will exercise a great impact on the church for many years.

A third unprecedented action was the Assembly's election of the first African-American to serve as our denomination's highest officer, Stated Clerk-elect  J Herbert Nelson. I have been privileged to count J Hebert as a friend for many years (yes, the "J" is always part of his given name), and can testify unequivocally to his passionate love for our Lord and commitment to his church.

Each of these historic milestones signals a strong current of intent to widen our arms - to one another in leadership and fellowship, and to the surrounding world in evangelism and justice. One marker of these widening arms was the Assembly's resolve on Middle East peace issues, that the church be equally attentive to the wellness of Israelis and Palestinians. Another marker is the Presbyterian Foundation's promotion of positive investment in business and education as a primary means for helping Palestinians and Israelis alike, a story told on  this video  that Moderator Edmiston urged those present to share around the church.

Yesterday saw debate and decisions on some of the most controversial matters before the Assembly. Outcomes of those deliberations are published in the Daily GA News. The thread that runs through those resolutions is that each was a vote to keep dialogue open between those who are at odds in difficult matters, from Israeli-Palestinian peace issues to sexuality divides to fossil fuel industry divestment. GA's actions demonstrate a confidence that reconciliation, not alienation, is the final word for those who trust in Jesus.

In worship yesterday, Rev. Jerry Andrews reminded the Assembly that our reconciliation with God has been already accomplished in Christ, yet we are called to be reconciled with God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) Similarly, reconciliation with one another is a gift, yet it requires our intentional commitment. How is that going for us?

Yours in the hope of our calling,

Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

Pittsburgh Presbytery


Dr. Carl says the assembly is primarily about the people. He's spent the last few days meeting with friends and making new ones within PC(USA). Here's a note from Dr. Carl:

Well, I landed last night safely in Portland, Oregon after a five hour flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, which seemed short in contrast to the 9 and 8.5 hour flights respectively from Kigali, Rwanda to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Atlanta last week. The Pacific time zone is only two hours different from Central Daylight Time, so I didn't have to use the jet lag program for this trip. I'm staying at the 113 year old, venerable Benson Hotel. This morning I caught the Green Line light rail that crosses the Willamette River which cuts through downtown, a beautiful and very interesting city.  It is located in the Willamette Valley Region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Though much of downtown Portland is relatively flat, the foothills of the Tualatin Mountains, more commonly referred to locally as the "West Hills", pierce through the Northwest and Southwest edges of the city.

This year's General Assembly is being held at the Oregon Convention Center, fairly new and easily accessible. Completed in 1990 the building was designed by the architectural firm of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF). It is the largest convention center in Oregon at nearly 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2). The complex includes 255,000 square feet (23,700 m2) of exhibit space. It features the largest ballroom in the City of Portland at 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2). 

On the light rail this morning, I met two women who also are here for General Assembly- one an executive presbyter here in Oregon and the other a pastor from Idaho. You see folks from everywhere here. 

That brings me to the main point I want to make while I am here--General Assembly is not primarily about votes; it's primarily about people. So I'm sending a few videos of people I'm running into and a couple of photos. There are amazing stories to be told of the wonderful things happening all over the country and around the world in the Presbyterian Church USA! 

CLICK HERE to view all of Dr. Carl's videos from the General Assembly.

  • CHANGES TO ELECTION OF MODERATOR OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY The 222nd General Assembly did not move the election of the General Assembly Moderator and Vice-Moderators to the end of the General Assembly meeting. The leaders will continue to be elected at the beginning. 
  • FINAL VOTE ON THE CONFESSION OF BELHAR (CLICK HERE to read article from First Avenue Presbyterian Church)
CLICK HERE to read more about the issues


Dr. William J. Carl III first introduced many of us to Dr. J. Herbert Nelson via video earlier this week. He was a stated clerk candidate from Washington, D.C.. He's now the new stated clerk of the General Assembly.

Nelson won with 80 percent of the vote. The third generation Presbyterian pastor is the director of PC(USA)'s Office of Public Witness and a fighter for justice. He says he wants to focus on "the impact God can make through us" by reaching beyond the church walls.

The man who strongly believes the church is reforming makes history. When he starts work in late July or early August, he'll be the first African American in the position.

Nelson replaces Gradye Parsons who retired after serving eight years.

Earlier this week, Nelson learned about IPC's rich history in the push for justice. He shared his hopes for the church in a special video. You can view it HERE.

The General Assembly made some headlines Thursday that may never appear in your 
usual sources of news. The headlines have to do with how we do church, how we listen to the leading of the Spirit, how we relate to each other.
"The Way Forward" committee made some of those headlines by the Assembly's approval of two new ways of doing church. This would not be news in Sheppards & Lapsley Presbytery since we have been engaged in this way forward for several years. The GA approved a 2020 Vision Team to listen and develop an "identity statement" much as we have done this past year (remember it? "partner with and equip..."). Also approved by the Assembly is the creation of an administrative commission which will have the authority to make changes in the structure, practices, and culture of the administrative offices in Louisville.  Long term vision, shorter term change. That is the way forward as we listen to Christ's will for the church.
The Social Justice committee made some headlines also. They and the Assembly as a whole turned from apologizing for harming the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community, and turned toward expressing deep regret for ways that those minorities of "God's beloved children" have been led to feel that they stand outside the grace of God and are unwelcome in the denomination. Deep sorrow is expressed for all in the PC(USA) who have left the fellowship of the church. Appreciation is expressed to those who have maintained relationships despite profound disagreement. In the spirit of the Belhar Confession, we are called to seek reconciliation and to reach out to those who have been marginalized.
Please keep Leanne and Robert and Eva and George and Noah and Rachel in your prayers. They did not complete their work until 11:20 PM last night.
Jay Wilkins
Transitional Presbyter, Sheppards & Lapsley Presbytery

CLICK HERE to read a message from Pittsburgh Presbytery General Minister about Thursday


Pittsburgh Presbytery General Minister explains what this means for you

Yesterday the General Assembly began meeting as a plenary body, to act on recommendations from its committees that had been meeting earlier in the week. Most committee decisions were affirmed at the outset through an omnibus consent motion - one vote passed them all. To be included on the consent agenda, a committee action needed more than a 75% affirmative committee vote, and to have no constitutional or financial implications for the national church. CLICK HERE to read more from General Minister Sheldon W. Sorge. Photo: Pittsburgh Presbytery


Women have only been able to serve as pastors for 60 years. Saturday, even more history was made. A change in standing rules two years ago paved the way for the first election of co-moderators. The first co-moderators elected Sunday are both women.

Denise Anderson, a pastor from National Capital Presbytery, and Jan Edmiston, a presbytery executive from Chicago, defeated Adan Mairena, a new-church 
Photo: Danny Bolin

development pastor from Philadelphia, and David P. Parker, a ruling elder and North Carolina layer. The women won with 76 percent of the vote.

"This is support for the leadership of women. We will be modeling a new way to be the church in the 21st century," said Edmiston in a news conference.

"We pledge to show respect and compassion. Listening is more than waiting to talk,” said Anderson.

Both acknowledge this is a time of transition within the denomination with churches leaving. But they also see opportunity and pledge to work together on the "nuts and bolts." 

GA News Article on Anderson, Edmiston


A third generation pastor, J. Herbert Nelson, elected as stated clerk. He's the first African-American to hold the position. READ more about him above. 

PC(USA) will continue to invest in fossil-fuel companies despite a committee recommendation to immediately begin divestment. 

Report re-evaluating a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine was approved by the General Assembly following a lengthy debate.

CLICK HERE to read highlights from other days

Quick Links

IPC Social Media:

Read/Download Newsletter

Get to know the people at General Assembly

Why General Assembly isn't just about the votes

A rap video about General Assembly 

Five part series looks at leadership, eco-justice, social justice, discernment and identity.

Church Website Software from E-zekiel