LOUISVILLE - In a move that has been talked about for months but landed like a bolt of lightning, Alex Metherell -- an elder and surgeon from southern California - delivered a petition today to Fahed Abu-Akel, moderator of the General Assembly, that he says has the number of signatures necessary to force the first special General Assembly in history.
Metherell's appearance at a joint meeting of the executive committee of the General Assembly Council (GAC) and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA)came as the two groups were preparing to discuss changes in standing rules and in Book of Order necessitated by last summer's GA decision to move to biennial General Assemblies following the 2004 Assembly.
Ironically, that same Assembly will now meet again.
COGA officials said the special Assembly could not be convened much earlier than mid-May. The 215th Assembly is scheduled to convene in Denver on May 24. Metherell handed Abu-Akel a notebook containing signed postcards requesting the special Assembly. Metherell had personally mailed the cards to all 554 commissioners to last summer's GA.
The Book of Order requires signatures of at 50 commissioners to the Assembly, including at least 25 Presbyterian Church (USA) ministers and 25 elders representing at least 15 of the 173 presbyteries under the jurisdiction of at least five of the 16 synods.
Metherell claimed to have 57 signatures - of 26 ministers and 31 elders from 46 presbyteries and all 16 synods.
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, the director of operations for the Office of the General Assembly, said the first task will be to attest the signatures to make sure they qualify.
Once that is done, next steps will be taken.
Metherell's petition mentions three purposes for the special meeting:
1. "Continue oversight of the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission decision in Londonderry Vs. Presbytery of Northern New England in order to effect compliance with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA)."
2. "Respond to the growing defiance of, delinquency, and enforcement of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) by officers, agencies and governing bodies with respect to G-6.0106b (the commonly called "fidelity and chastity" provision of the Book of Order) and the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission decision on holy unions (Benton vs. Hudson River Presbytery.)"
3. "Exercise all necessary powers authorized to the General Assembly under the Constitution to propose and adopt directives of officers, agencies, and governing bodies in order to deal with all matters relating to the issues detailed in items # 1 and 2 above."
The names listed on the petition (listed alphabetically, by presbytery):
Abingdon: Elder William W. Hull Baltimore: Rev. Phyllis M. DeSmit Central Florida: Rev. William C. Duckworth Central Washington: Rev. Stephen G. Barker Charlotte: Elder Mary E. Hendrick Detroit: Elder Beatrice Thomas Eastern Korean: Elder Yung Suk Park Giddings-Lovejoy: Rev. Nancy Gillard Great Rivers: Elder Ronald H. Leonard Greater Atlanta: Rev. Russell O. McKee Hanmi: Rev. Seung-Nam Kim Heartland: Rev. Jodi H. Mathews Huntingdon: Rev. Glen Eason John Calvin: Elder Rein Vander Naald Lake Michigan: Rev. David E. Gilbert; Elder John Somerville Los Ranchos: Elder Alex Metherell Mississippi: Elder Joyce Gibbens Muskingum: Rev. Diana A. Lantz Nevada: Rev. Bruce Kochsmeier New Covenant: Elder Edward F. Brodie Noroeste: Rev. Juan Bordoy-Acevedo Northumberland: Rev. Brent F. Davidson; Elder Bob Reich Peaks: Elder Dorothy Tatum Pittsburgh: Rev. Jane Johnson Prospect Hill: Rev. Brian V. Janssen Pueblo: Elder Roy N. Hollaway Sacramento: Rev. Margaret C. Suttle, Elder Yubang Lee San Diego: Rev. Lisa Johnson, Elder Russ Lowe, Elder Jillene Simms San Fernando: Elder Paul Carlson San Gabriel: Rev. Cynthia Reyes Fillmore; Elder John van Genderen San Joaquin: Rev. James B. Harper San Jose: Rev. David B. Rodriguez Savannah: Rev. David A. Long; Elder Neil Spradley Seattle: Rev. Robin D. Caudillo; Rev. Don Waite Sierra Blanca: Elder Terry Aiello Stockton: Rev. Robert Mitchell Tampa Bay: Elder David Armstrong Tropical Florida: Elder William D. Tenney; Elder Nancy Young Upper Ohio Valley: Elder Bruce Trushel Utah: Elder Herbert Minich Wabash Valley: Elder John McCrum Washington: Rev. Craig Kephart; Elder Doris M. Sawhill Western New York: Rev. Michael R. Burkley Western North Carolina: Rev. Bill Serjak Western Reserve: Elder Angela A. Davis Yellowstone: Elder Ida Norgaard
By Jerry L. Van Marter