News Office Transferred to Administrative Committee
Colorado Springs, CO (June 12, 1997)--Oversight of the PCA News Office/Information Center was transferred today from Christian Education and Publications (CE/P) to the Administrative Committee "for the purpose of cultivating information relations with news media." In the same action, CE/P was "relieved of the responsibility of a PCA News Office."
TE David Brown of Northern California Presbytery proposed an amendment that the Stated Clerk's Office be instructed to provide to secular and religious media any requested material and information in a timely fashion and without charge. In arguing for his motion, Brown stated that, when he joined the PCA from the United Presbyterian Church some twenty years ago, he had been assured that the church would always be an "open" one, in contrast to his former denominational connection. He urged that his proposal would help to assure that continued openness.
Speaking against Brown's amendment was Stated Clerk Paul Gilchrist, who expressed concern about the possible cost of providing to news media all requested material. Also speaking against were members of the Administrative Committee.
Speaking in support of the amendment was a member of the press who was also a commissioner. He spoke of the importance of the denomination cultivating good relations with the media; and claimed that when he had requested fifteen pages of material from last year's Assembly, his news organization was in essence charged fifteen dollars for the information by the Stated Clerk's Office. "A dollar a page" was, in his estimation, "a little steep."
The Assembly, however, overwhelmingly voted down the amendment.
The transfer of a News Office from CE/P represents the first serious attempt in a decade to have the church at the Assembly level interface with the media.
In 1984, the General Assembly voted "That because the PCA continues to grow nationally and internationally and because it is important to keep our mission before the world; that the General Assembly allow the CE/P Committee and the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to develop a plan to establish a denominational news office and that a report of the progress be made to the 13th General Assembly" (M12GA, p. 106).
The next year, the Assembly decided "That consideration of an official PCA news office be presented to the Fourteenth General Assembly" (M13GA, p. 87). In 1986, the General Assembly voted to "appoint the editor of the Messenger as the News Officer of the Presbyterian Church in America and allocate appropriate funds for his activities . . ." (M14GA, p. 146).
The next year, the Assembly amended "its appointment of the editor of the Messenger as the News Officer of Presbyterian Church in America . . . by not designating a News Officer at this time, but that such designation be delayed until the subcommittee of COA studying this matter reports its recommendation" (M15GA, p. 190).
The 1988 General Assembly did approve, as part of CE/P's budget, the establishment of a News Office (M16GA, p. 297). However, apparently no one was appointed to fill that post.
In 1993, Southern Florida Presbytery overtured the General Assembly to establish a News Office for the denomination under the Administrative Committee, "specifically to promote the Presbyterian Church in America externally to the press and media of what the Presbyterian Church in America is doing and what positions it has taken on issues of interest and concern to the general public." In answering that overture in the negative, the General Assembly noted "there exist a multitude of ways in which to promote the PCA without the need of a public relations office", thereby implying that no such office existed; and also declared, "Our duty to be the salt of the earth and light to the world is to be carried out by the members and ministers of the covenant community individually and in the courts of the church as commanded by our Lord, rather than by abandoning our duties by delegation" (M21GA, pp. 158-159).