Our General Assembly Commissioners

Ellie Van Der Griend YAAD ga221 Oak Park Fair Oaks

Ellie Van Der Griend, YAAD to 221st General Assembly from Oak Park Fair Oaks

By Rev. Dr. Barbara A. Bundick, Stated Clerk

Every presbytery, based on their size, sends a certain number of commissioners to the General Assembly (GA). Commissioners include both teaching elders (ministers) and ruling elders (congregational lay leaders). In addition, a young adult advisory delegate (YAAD) is sent. This year ours is Ellie Van Der Griend, Oak Park Fair Oaks, who is a college student in Iowa. Ellie will serve on the General Assembly Procedures Committee.

The GA will also be blessed by the presence of Theological Student Advisory Delegates from our seminaries; ecumenical delegates from other Christian denominations; advocates for the various overtures that the GA will consider; representatives from national mission networks; support staff from the various General Assembly missions and services; stated clerks, executive presbyters and staff from presbyteries and synod, and all manner of visitors. It’s a diverse, joyous, wrangling, caring, and very Presbyterian crowd.

The Presbytery of Chicago is sending ten commissioners, one YAAD, and five or six overture advocates (listing below). Executive Presbyter Bob Reynolds and Stated Clerk Barbara Bundick will be there to support them. (Barbara has already been deputized to supply the commissioners with Hershey’s Kisses with Almonds.)

Commissioners to General Assembly POC 2014 ga221

Some of the POC contingent: (L to R) Front row: Beth Freese Dammers, Karen Maurer, Barbara Bundick, James Acquaah, and Jefferson Caldeira. Back row: Bob Reynolds, Jim Lifton, Pauline Coffman, Tom Sullivan and Jennifer Burns Lewis

Training was held in mid-May where the commissioners were all advised to listen to each other, to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit, and to vote their consciences at the GA. Each commissioner has been assigned – at random – to one of 15 General Assembly committees.

Once the commissioners return from Detroit, they will be available to share their stories and answer your questions.

Commissioner Profiles

Teaching Elders

Jefferson Caldeira, has been serving as the pastor of the Chicago Vida Nueva since 2006. Originally from Brazil, he worked as a missionary in Bolivia and Chile after his ordination in 1991. He’s served in Puerto Rico, moderated the Committee on Preparation of Ministry of San Juan Presbytery, and in 2004 was a delegate from San Juan to the 216th General Assembly. He will serve on the committee that oversees the Board of Pensions, the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, and the Presbyterian Foundation – some of the key foundations quietly supporting the work of the PCUSA.

Anne Fisher has served as an intentional Interim Pastor for 25 years. Congregations which have benefited from her ministry include Barrington, Deerfield First, Clarendon Hills Community, Libertyville First and Evanston Northminster. Anne has also stepped north of the border to serve congregations in Wisconsin. Anne will serve on the Social Justice Issues Committee which will address the PCUSA’s efforts at increasing its racial and cultural diversity, along with significant urban issues.

Beth Freese-Dammers, currently serves as the Interim Associate Pastor of Education at Arlington Heights First. She came after serving at Elmhurst Yorkfield, Oak Park First United, Itasca First, and Northlake Trinity. Beth will serve on the Civil Unions and Marriage Issues Committee. This committee will consider whether to change the PCUSA position on same-gender marriage.

Jennifer Burns Lewis came to Chicago in 2003 when she was called to serve as the pastor at Western Springs. Jennifer has been particularly active with the Synod of Lincoln Trails where she is a member of the Synod’s Board of Directors, its Personnel Committee, and its Transition Team. She served as Vice Moderator of the Synod in 2012, and Moderator in 2013. Jennifer will serve on the Congregational Vitality Committee which will review the work of the 1001 New Worshipping Communities program and also recognize the Women of Faith award winners for 2014, one of whom is Rev. Joyce Shin, Chicago Fourth.

John Vest is the Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry at Chicago Fourth and the current Moderator of the Chicago Presbytery. John has been active both locally and nationally, having co-moderated the Future Outdoor Ministry Task Force of the Presbytery, and supported the presbytery-level youth ministry. John has been appointed to serve as the Vice-Moderator of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee. One of the committee’s key tasks is to decide whether to recommend a new position paper entitled “The Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”

Ruling Elders

James Acquaah is the Commissioned Local Pastor of Chicago Ghana Fellowship, meeting at Chicago Second. James, who was born and raised in Ghana, came to Chicago to further his education in finance and accounting. He will serve on the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee, which among other topics, will consider our overtures about drones and helping the Congo.

James Lifton, founding member of Chicago Friendship, a congregation formed from the merger of Norwood Park and St. James Presbyterian Churches. Jim grew up in the Norwood Park church, where he served as both a ruling elder and a deacon, sung in the choir, as church treasurer for 25 years. Jim will serve on the Mission Coordination Committee, which oversees the national mission of the PCUSA, including the Young Adult Volunteer Program, foreign mission, and Presbytery Disaster Assistance.

Karen Maurer is a life-long Presbyterian and Christian Educator and a member at Homewood. She first became interested in Christian Education when she was eleven, and first taught Sunday School at age fifteen. She also earned a living, no surprise, as an educator. Karen will serve on the Church Polity and Ordered Ministry Committee, which reviews ordination questions, and this year will look at the PCUSA candidacy process and ordination exams.

Joseph Morrow was born and raised in Chicago and recently received his M.Div. from North Park Theological Seminary. He is a member of Chicago Edgewater where he serves as Youth Director. Joseph will serve on the Theological Issues and Institutions and CE Committee which among other topics, will decide whether to recommend changing our Book of Confessions to include the Belhar Confession.

Julio Peña, a member of Chicago Pullman, recently completed his term as Presbytery Assembly moderator. He is a social worker and has shared his gifts by serving as a charter member of the True North Response Team and on the original Child Protection Team. Julio will serve on the Middle East Issues Committee, which will tackle the PCUSA stance towards peacemaking and divestment.

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