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     Report on February presbytery meeting

    Presbytery of South Alabama
    gathers at Swift Church

     Calling of Rachael Knoll as regional presbyter is biggest news 

    by Greg McNair, elder and presbytery commissioner

    Representatives from the 22 churches of the Presbytery of South Alabama met Feb. 10 and 11 at Swift Church. Attending were 26 pastors, 26 ruling elders and 25 visitors. Two of the visitors were from the Presbytery of Mississippi and served on the search committee for regional presbyter.

    This semi-annual gathering was a time for worshiping God, studying in small groups, sharing meals, partaking of the Lord’s Supper and fellowship, attending to business of the church and sharing information.

    Rev. Dr. Rachael Knoll

    The biggest news from the meeting came Saturday with the calling of the Rev. Dr. Rachael Banzhoff Knoll as regional presbyter. She will also serve the churches in the Presbytery of Mississippi, one of three presbyteries in the neighboring state. She will begin her duties March 15, and 25 percent of her efforts will be with Mississippi and that presbytery’s share of her compensation will be the same percentage.

    Since 2006, she has been associate pastor of McDonough Presbyterian Church in McDonough, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb. Earlier, she served as associate pastor at Timberridge Presbyterian Church in McDonough and was youth director at Rehoboth Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia.

    She was awarded a bachelor of arts degree in international affairs from The George Washington University, and two degrees from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia — master of divinity and doctor of ministry in church and ministry.

    Her husband, Eric, works in municipal finance for BNY Mellon. He and their 12-year-old son, Jack, will join her in South Alabama at the end of the school year.

     † † † 

    Dr. Walter Lawrence, a ruling elder at Green Hill Church of Enterprise and a physician, was installed as presbytery moderator for the next 12 months. He replaces the Rev. Matt McCollum, pastor of Trinity Church of Fairhope.

     † † † 

    Proposed amendments to the PCUSA Book of Order were read, discussed and voted on after recommendations of the permanent judicial committee were given:

    ● Pastor titles — After some discussion on pastor titles, a 27–25 vote favored changing the title “teaching elder” back to “minister of Word and Sacrament” and changing the term “commissioned ruling elder” back to “commissioned lay pastor.”

    ● Discipline — Two proposed amendments on pastor discipline were defeated.

    ● The Lord’s Supper — After a number of opinions were aired and questions were raised, an amendment carried by a 46–3 vote that that would invite everyone to the communion table, not just those who have been baptized. One sentence that would be added is: “If some of those who come have not yet been baptized, an invitation to baptismal preparation should be graciously extended.”

    Regarding children, this would be added: “In cases where baptized children who have not yet begun to participate in the Lord’s Supper express a desire to receive the Sacrament, the session should provide an occasion to welcome them to the table in public worship. Their introduction to the Lord’s Supper should include ongoing instruction or formation in the meaning and mystery of the Sacraments.”

    ● Child and youth protection — The presbytery voted unanimously in favor of adding the words “and youth” to the requirement that all councils adopt and implement a sexual misconduct policy and a child protection policy.

    ● Directory of worship — A 48–2 vote favored replacing the wording of the directory with the proposed text.

    ● Ministry of members — The presbytery voted 46–5 in favor of adding the phrase “caring for God’s creation” in the section titled “The Ministry of Members.”

    The proposed amendments were approved by the 222nd General Assembly (2016) and recommended to the presbyteries for their vote. After all vote results are reported to the General Assembly office by the June 25 deadline and counted, those passing by majority will take effect and be included in the 2017–19 Book of Order.

     † † † 

    The people of Swift Church were thanked for their hospitality. Many people helped before, during and after the event. The next presbytery meetings will be Aug. 15 at First Presbyterian Church, Bay Minette; and Feb. 9 and 10, 2018, at Evergreen Presbyterian Church, Dothan.


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      23208 Swift Church Road
      Foley, AL 36535
      Phone: (251) 943-8367
      email: swiftpc@gulftel.com