I was pleased to have been able to represent the Community of St Aidans as the Commissioned Elder at the 2016 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa. This year General Assembly was held in Dunedin at the University of Otago with two services held at Knox Presbyterian Church. Pat accompanied me as an Observer.
General Assembly (GA) is the governing body of the Church, with delegated authority given to the Council of Assembly for the period between the convening of General Assembly.
The business of GA was conducted over three and a half days, each morning commenced with worship led by Rev Malcolm Gordon. There were a number of issues to be considered by GA. Some were discussed on the floor of GA, with decisions taken at that time; others were referred to dialogue groups where good discussion took place, with feedback and suggestions being consolidated and reported to the whole GA, for further discussion and decision.
Dr Rod Wilson presented three inspirational key-note addresses around the GA theme ‘Hope’. One of his addresses used the George Frederick Watts painting entitled ‘Hope’ as its focus. To quote Google – ‘…it shows a lone blindfolded female figure sitting on a globe playing a lyre which has only a single string remaining. The background is almost blank, its only visible feature a single star. Watts intentionally used symbolism not traditionally associated with hope to make the painting’s meaning ambiguous’. I was reminded of the quote from Israeli violinist Yitzhak Perlman, ‘Our task is to make music with what remains.’
For St Aidans, the key discussion and decision was the Northern Presbytery’s overture seeking the Church Property Trustees’ (CPT) review of the decision requiring repairs to church property to be undertaken by mid-2017. There was wide debate of the proposal and when put to the vote, only 57.72% of the votes were in favour. PCANZ, GA decisions require a 60% majority to pass. Unfortunately, I believe the timing of the earthquakes in Hamner, Kaikoura and Wellington had an effect on the decision-making. The CPT Deputy Chair has indicated that they would be open to reasonable approaches from Parishes which have buildings with an earthquake assessment of less than 66%.
During GA invited guests from other countries made presentations and were appropriately acknowledged – Australia, Korea, Vanuatu, and Taiwan.
The participation of Te Aka Puaho and Pacific Island Synod representatives was an important component of proceedings.
Concurrently with the GA, a resourcing conference was held. The programme included a variety of speakers as well as workshops. Pat was able to attend a number of these – principally relating to music and kids friendly. The GA programme allowed for Commissioners to attend one of the workshops.
The whole GA was noted for its collegial spirit and mostly respectful participation. We met a number of interesting people and have made some good connections.
The GA concluded with Commissioners being encouraged to bring good business to the next GA that was future focussed and hopeful. It was suggested that perhaps the wrong people were making decisions for the future and space needed to be made for the younger generations to attend and make decisions for the future.