PC(USA) Theological Task Force Discloses Tentative Timeline

The task force responsible for helping the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination find its “Christian identity in and for the 21st century”, disclosed the names and assignments of its members and scheduled an extra meeting to complete its work, following a recent closed-door session in Dallas.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church (TTF) began operating in 2001, after the denomination’s General Assembly charged it to “lead the PC(USA) in spiritual discernment of our Christian identity in and for the 21st century.”

Specifically, the TTF was asked to address the “issues of Christology, Biblical authority and interpretation, ordination standards and power.”

After more than three-years of operation, the TTF faces a Sept. 15, 2005 deadline to complete its final report so that it may be ready to be taken up by the 217th General Assembly in June 2006.

The TTF had planned to meet just one more time from July 18 to July 21 before releasing its final report, but “scheduled an extra meeting in Chicago in August…feeling the press of work needed to finish its final report,” according to Presbyterian News Service.

The extra meeting has been scheduled for August 24-25.

After their recent closed-door meeting in Dallas, one of the TTF members disclosed information regarding the progress of the report.

“We revisited our previous work and discussed possible conclusions,” the Rev. Gary Demarest, a TTF co-moderator, said during a March 4 telephone conference call with PNS at the end of the group’s recent meeting in Dallas.

According to Demarest, the TTF chose four writing teams to draft “test conclusions” for the report.

Three of the four teams will tackle the main issues at hand for the TTF: Theology, including Christology; Ordination, sexuality and “other controversial issues” and; Polity, process and decision-making.

The final team will review the other three reports and will frame conclusions and possible task force recommendations.

The draft sections of the report will be reviewed and edited at the July meeting, and the final approval is slated for the August meeting.

The following is the list of Taskforce members and their roles, as specified by the Presbyterian News Service:

Team 1, comprised of Scott Anderson, the Rev. Frances Taylor Gench, the Rev. William Stacy Johnson, the Rev. Jong Hyeong Lee, the Rev. Lonnie Oliver and Barbara Wheeler, will “review and summarize themes from the theological study sessions that task force members have conducted and the draft papers on theological issues they have produced,” according to the TTF release.

Team 2, which includes the Rev. Mike Loudon, the Rev. Sarah Sanderson-Doughty and the Rev. John Wilkinson, will “review and summarize themes from study sessions and papers on ordination, sexuality, and other controversial issues before the task force.”

The membership of team 3 will be the Rev. Mark Achtemeier, the Rev. Joe Coalter, the Rev. Vicky Curtiss and the Rev. John Wilkinson. They will “review and summarize study sessions and papers on polity, process, and decision-making.”

The Rev. Jack Haberer, the Rev. William Stacy Johnson and the Rev. Martha Sadongei will make up team 4, which will frame conclusions and possible task force recommendations after reviewing the draft sections produced by the other teams.
Barbara Everitt Bryant will edit the drafts into a single document.

In addition to the four writing teams, a communication/resource team will continue its work on behalf of the task force. Its members are Scott Anderson, Barbara Bryant, Mary Ellen Lawson, Joan Merritt and the Rev. Jose Luis Torres-Milan.

The TTF co-moderators, Demarest and Jenny Stoner, will coordinate the work of the writing teams. Gradye Parsons of the Office of the General Assembly will continue to resource the task force.