Update on ‘decision & dissent’

23.6.2022 | General Assembly

General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, meeting in Belfast today received an update from the Decision Making and Dissent Task Group. The Task Group has been looking at how PCI manages and discusses its business and policy.

As a result of the work undertaken by the Task Group, last year’s General Assembly approved recommendations that significantly altered the way in which PCI manages and discusses policy prior to a General Assembly, introducing, for example, regional / presbytery conferences and a ‘Green Consultation Paper Stage’, where significant changes in policy or controversial matters would be considered prior to coming to a General Assembly.

Updating the Assembly the convener of the Decision Making and Dissent Task Group, Very Rev Dr Noble McNeely said that this was the fourth year that the Task Group would be reporting. “The remit following the 2021 report was for the Task Group to draw up a comprehensive report for this assembly on the ‘Freedom of those in Ordained Leadership to Promote Opinions at variance with the clear position of the General Assembly’. Much work has been done on what is a significant issue, but the Task Group is requiring a further year to be able to fulfil the objective set.”

Dr McNeely explained that due to the Task Group not having available the final report of the Doctrine Committee on its review of the document on Faith and Order, it had been decided to delay the finalising of the report. He said that a revised statement would assist further deliberation and would ‘contribute significantly’ to the forming of a report that would come to the 2023 General Assembly.

Dr McNeely continued, “The principles of discussion and debate are recognised as significant and decisions taken by the church are to be appropriately respected. In the most part debate and making of decisions take place in the courts of the church and it is within the courts of the church we seek to be obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“It is recognised that discussion and debate does take place outside the courts of the church. Where this occurs leaders of the church should approach such in a gracious and diplomatic manner, respectful of the policies of the church and recognising their ordination vows.”

Dr McNeely also explained that The Task Group in the report of 2021 included recommendations to be adopted when important decisions on doctrine, morals, or policies were being considered. “The recommendations allow for wider and more detailed discussions to take place within Presbyteries. More scrutiny is advised and the process will allow for reviewing of legislation before decisions are made by the General Assembly. When these recommendations are put in place it will allow for free debate, and comprehensive and thorough discussion, prior to any decision that may be contentious or divisive,” he said.

Dr McNeely concluded by saying, “The issue of church leader’s use of public media or social media is recognised in the report. The task group has not completed its deliberation on this issue and requires more time to give it the careful attention it requires.”

The 2022 General Assembly opens on Wednesday, 22 June and closes on Saturday, 25 June. You will find the business before the Assembly here and the Reports that will be discussed here. You can  follow proceedings live via Twitter @pciassembly using the hashtag #PCIGA22 for all public sessions, which will also livestreamed from this website. You can also watch from the public gallery in the Assembly Hall.

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