East Point, GA (October 2, 1998)-On the second day of its two day stated meeting, the Mission to North America Committee took an extraordinary action. On this Friday morning, at approximately 8:35 AM, the Committee went into executive session.
The parliamentary move came just as the Committee was starting to debate a proposed response to Central Georgia Presbytery. Just prior to the debate, it had been announced that several MNA personnel were going to make a personal appearance before Central Georgia Presbytery at its October stated meeting.
Leading off the debate on the proposed response was Chairman Phil Douglas, who stated: "Mission to North America is not a court of the church, but we take responsibility for training. . . . The Assembly . . . has simply refused to make any more specific comments about worship than what we have."
TE Ron Whited of Orange Park, FL, said, "Mr. Chairman, if you go to Central Georgia, what is the purpose?" Referring to Central Georgia's overture to the 1998 General Assembly regarding church planting in Utah, he stated: "Some of the wording of the overture was mean and maybe not even accurate." If MNA was going to make the trip to Central Georgia, "What are they [the men in Central Georgia] bringing to the table?" At that point, a member of the MNA Committee moved that the Committee go into executive session.
When the motion was made to go into closed session, the Chairman, Dr. Phil Douglas, asked the mover if he wanted to amend the motion to allow staff members to remain. The suggested change was agreed to, and the Committee passed the motion.
As a result of the motion, ruling and teaching elders who were present as visitors were excluded from the meeting. Allowed to remain were members of the MNA Committee, co-opted members (i.e., people who have been named by the MNA Committee to assist the Committee), and staffers.
Among the co-opted members who remained in the room were Dr. Charles McGowan, who is presently serving on the Standing Judicial Commission, and the Rev. Mr. Harry Reeder. Three women also were among those allowed to stay: two female staff, and the Women in the Church (WIC) liaison to MNA. [P&R News is unaware that the General Assembly has given specific approval to having a liaison between WIC and MNA. The position apparently is un-paid, and would not be a staff post.-Ed.]
According to an informed source, the Committee in closed session discussed personnel matters, as well as the proposed response to Central Georgia Presbytery. After almost two hours, the Committee came out of executive session and invited the visitors to re-join the Committee members, co-opted members, the male staff, and the distaff.
[The Nineteenth General Assembly approved an overture,
as amended, from New River Presbytery, which stated, among other
things, the following: "Whereas, the Presbyterian
Church in America declared itself to be a 'Sunshine Denomination',
and Whereas, the Third General Assembly declared that 'all
Permanent Committee meetings may be attended by any member of
the PCA and that such members shall be afforded a place on the
Committee's docket when a request to do so is received by the
Committee at least ten days before the Committee meeting, and
that the dates of stated Committee meetings must be published
at least 30 days prior to the meeting' . . ., and Whereas,
the meetings are thereby public meetings and their records are
public records. . . ." In the same action, the Assembly provided
for the possibility of executive sessions.-Ed.]
It's ten a.m. Do you know where your MNA Committee
Immediately after going into executive session, the MNA Committee's proceedings were interrupted by a fire alarm. The (false) alarm sent the closed meeting to take an unscheduled break, for about five minutes, out by the Crowne Plaza Hotel's pool.