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The 2013 General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church Of South Australia – A Report

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20130530-173303.jpgThe 2013 PCSA General Assembly was conducted on Tuesday, May 28 after a commencement service the evening before. Our venue was the North Adelaide Presbyterian church, Archer Street, North Adelaide.
It was a great pleasure to be installed as Moderator by Ian Touzel, my friend and colleague in ministry here in Mount Gambier.
Since this year we didn’t have any official visiting guests I preached on both Monday night and at Tuesday morning’s communion service. This gave me an opportunity to explore the first chapter of second Corinthians with the Assembly; verses 1-11 Monday night and 12-22 on Tuesday.
Firstly I spoke of the ‘Abundant Consolation’ which is ours as Christians, an experience of God’s character which is both the fruit of our relationship with Him and the roots of our ministry to others. Far better to focus on whether we are a church of comfort rather than a comfortable church. As a small and struggling group, we need not despair or look to better days as the time when our ministry will flourish, but rather we should be encouraged that God is currently equipping us with such profound experience of His comfort, so we can comfort others right now.
This led into the second sermon, ‘Always Yes’, which began with the though that pastoral search committees don’t usually ask a prospective pastor when his heart has been broken and how God comforted him. Unfolding Paul’s explanation of his change of plans with regard to the church in Corinth provides us with an insight into how our plans need to be formulated, but also open to change as circumstance unfolds and as new insight comes to light. What anchors this process is the reference point that we serve the one true constant, that God saves His people through the Gospel of the person and work of The Lord Jesus Christ, and we hold every non-essential (including locations, buildings, who will be working, and what the nature of the work will be) in such a way that we are always able to assert with a clear conscience that we believe this is the wisest way of carrying out our ministry and mission at this time in this place.
The primary challenge before our grouping of churches continues to be that the city of Adelaide, population 1.2 million and the fifth largest city in Australia, does not have an independently viable Presbyterian Church of Australia Congregation. We have two churches which are close to that status and four other locations that function at a very modest level.
As such, the focus of our denominational committees must not divert energy away for working towards healthy Presbyterian churches in Adelaide, and, where possible, their efforts should strive to work in harmony with that goal.
A Special Committee charged with trying formulate a streamlined denominational structure for the church in order to facilitate support of Adelaide, brought a report noting, that on advice from the Federal Church, that the present structure be maintained, and instead that the body which has oversight of the Adelaide churches be supplemented by assessors from the Federal Church and our other Presbytery. The Adelaide Presbytery of Torrens, acting on an interim report of the special committee have already initiated this direction with assessors already having been present at meetings of the Presbytery. The Presbytery, so augmented will now evaluate each of its parishes and formulate a strategy to nurture healthy Presbyterian churches in the city.
The Finance and Administration Committee’s proposals included financial support for the ministries of the North Adelaide and Para Hills churches, the two Adelaide congregations which conceivably at this point could attain non-dependent status. In addition pastoral remuneration continued to be set at the level established by the New South Wales assembly, in order to ensure, as much as is possible, that pastors from other regions in Australia will feel encouraged to consider serving here. Support of the patrol work of the Presbyterian Inland Mission in outback South Australia was also approved.
The Mission Committee’s recommendations largely took up the denomination’s practical support of those in cross cultural situations outside of Australia. Workers in Vanuatu, India and a closed location were supported; along with other agencies.
The Theological & Christian Education committee sought support for the annual Ladies Weekend Camp, commended the usage of Sonworld Vacation Bible School program material, and were authorised to continue production and distribution of South Australian News.
Resolutions from the Church & Nation committee expressing support for existing laws relating to prostitution and euthanasia, and opposing proposed changes in these areas, were supported by Assembly.
Karnkendi Campsite and Dunbar Homes both reported on their operations during 2012.
The Assembly took time to note the deaths of Noel Cusack and Sarah Macgowan, who were both active in wider denominational life. We also remembered long standing members of Assembly Bob Arstall and Brian Redpath who both died during the twelve months since our previous Assembly.
The Assembly directed the Code Committee to publish a new edition of the recently revised rules and regulations, declaring all previously printed copies as superseded. The new edition is the version published on the PCSA website.
With great pleasure we also heard from David and Gae McDonald, Presbyterian Inland Mission patrol padres who care for the iconic Flynn patrol in outback South Australia. It was a great encouragement to hear that the work seems to be fully operational after their commencement and initial establishment phase.
The Assembly also directed the Moderator to represent them at the commencement service of the PIM church-plant in Alice Springs on July 21. Keith and Jenny Bell are spear-heading this exciting work to plant a new church in the geographic heart of of Australia. Maybe Mrs Moderator will be able to come along too.
The Assembly was pleased to receive the nomination of Rev. Chris ten Broeke, pastor of North Adelaide to serve as moderator of the 2014 Assembly, and unanimously elected him to that position.
Flowing from that we decided to return to North Adelaide for our commencement service next year, with our business session the next day to be conducted at Norwood Presbyterian Church.
We also noted that Rev. David Cook, who will become Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in September 2013, has accepted our invitation to attend next year’s Assembly. We look forward to him having significant input into our devotional and practical theology sessions. Perhaps we will add a planned time of training to our Assembly in order to avail ourselves of that which the retired principal of Sydney Missionary and Bible College can share with us.
The congregation of North Adelaide supplied supper, lunch, morning and afternoon tea, making us all feel very much at home.
Business was concluded at 4.08 which left us a couple of hours to relax before most commissioners regathered to enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant.
Personal thanks to Brian Johnson (Clerk) and Alan Clarkson (Business Convenor) for organising everything.

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