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221st General Assembly (2014)

Commissioners and Advisory Delegate Homepage

 

Registration Information
and Travel Expense Policies and Procedures
for Commissioners and Advisory Delegates

Please read this information about your assembly responsibilities and arrangements carefully before you make your travel and housing arrangements. These procedures and policies have been developed in the interest of good stewardship, and to provide fairly for the comfort and convenience of assembly commissioners and advisory delegates. Contact the G.A. Meeting Service of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) at (888) 728-7228 x2417 or gameetingservice@pcusa.org with any questions or concerns.  To download a .PDF of this complete memo, click here.


Your Role and Responsibility

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Please take time to become acquainted with the responsibilities of the General Assembly (Book of Order, G-3.0501), and to read the Foundations of Presbyterian Polity (chapters F-1 to F-3 of the Book of Order), which outline the principles of our representative form of government. “Presbyters are not simply to reflect the will of the people, but rather to seek together to find and represent the will of Christ.” (F-3.0204). Assembly commissioners are free to deliberate together, seek Christ's will, and by majority vote reach decisions on the business before them. Commissioners may not be instructed on how to vote nor on what positions to support. They are not the representatives of the people that elected them, but instead they represent the  “ . . . unity of the synods, presbyteries, sessions, and congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)." (G-3.0501)

“Presbyters are not simply to reflect the will of the people, but rather to seek together to find and represent the will of Christ.” (F-3.0204)

Advisory delegates “are selected to attend the meeting of the General Assembly in an advisory role so that the assembly may be assured of hearing and taking cognizance of their special viewpoints.” (Standing Rule A.2.a.). Though advisory delegates do not have the privilege of voting on business in the assembly business meetings, they have other opportunities to make their views known. They participate in the debates in business sessions, and are polled prior to the votes on many issues to determine their advice. In the assembly committees, advisory delegates have both voice and vote – just as commissioners do.

Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs) and Theological Student Advisory Delegates (TSADSs) are seated with the commissioners from their presbytery in the plenary hall.  Missionary Advisory Delegates (MADs) and Ecumenical Advisory Delegates (EADs) have assigned seating in the commissioner/advisory delegate area.

Serving on a Committee
All commissioners and advisory delegates are assigned to one of the assembly committees by a random selection process. You will be notified of your committee assignment by late April. The assembly committees meet Sunday through Tuesday, to consider the business referred to them and develop recommendations for assembly action.

Expense Reimbursement
As travel and hotel charges are paid directly by the assembly, and G.A. issued credit cards are used for meals on-site, most commissioners and advisory delegates will have no other expenses to claim.  Those who do (for mileage, etc.) will obtain an expense reimbursement form from the treasurer on-site.  Receipts are required. Reimbursement checks will be mailed following the assembly.


Where and When

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Most assembly meetings will be held at the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit, or in one of the nearby hotels.

The assembly convenes with Opening Worship at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 14, and will adjourn by noon on Saturday, June 21. You are expected to attend all sessions. Riverside Conversations are scheduled for Saturday morning (June 14). These sessions will help commissioners and advisory delegates begin engaging the key issues before the assembly. Most commissioners will travel to Detroit on Friday in order to take part in these.


Training and Orientations

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Advisory Delegate Orientations:  An orientation for YAADs will begin with breakfast on Friday, June 13. It is conducted by assembly assistants who serve as advisors for the YAADs throughout the assembly. YAADs should plan to travel to Detroit on Thursday, June 12, and their lodging expenses are covered from that night. Orientations for TSADs and MADs start with dinner (at 6:00 p.m.) on Friday, June 13; TSADs and MADs should plan to travel on Friday and arrive in Detroit in time to attend.

The full Schedule of Events will be available at www.pcusa.org/ga221.  It includes the docket of official meetings, assembly worship, and information on numerous optional activities. Please review this before you start to register.

Training and Orientations
Most presbyteries plan an orientation session to provide an opportunity to meet with your fellow commissioners and advisory delegates, review the information you are receiving, and ask questions of those who have been through this before. Contact your presbytery office to confirm the date and time of its planned orientation.


Travel

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Please complete your travel arrangements and registration by April 15. The Office of the General Assembly (OGA) has made arrangements with Azumano Travel and six hotels near the convention center in downtown Detroit to make this easy and cost effective.

Travel to Detroit
Please consider both cost and convenience as you plan how you will travel to Detroit.

Air Travel: Commissioners and advisory delegates receive an email from the G.A. Meeting Service with instructions for booking travel and a link to an on-line booking tool that enables airfare to be charged directly to the assembly through Azumano Travel, the designated assembly travel agency. Travelers may also call an agent to book their travel. Tickets booked through another travel agent or directly with an airline are not reimbursable.

Make your travel arrangements as soon as possible (by April 15) for the best fares and choice of flights.  To avoid the highest fares, the OGA limits payment for airfares to the 30-day advance-purchase amount.

The OGA pays for travel between your home and Detroit at the lowest logical round trip fare. If you request a more expensive itinerary  (a direct flight with a higher fare, a stopover in another city, etc.) you are responsible for paying the additional amount, as calculated by the GA travel agent.

Most fares are non-refundable, with hefty fees for changes. Be sure of your schedule and the accuracy of the reservation when you book your ticket. The OGA will pay for or reimburse change fees or new tickets only when the assembly requires the travel change.

Bus or Train:  Detroit is served by Megabus (megabus.com) and by Amtrak (amtrak.com); these may be convenient and cost effective for some. The Megabus stop is located, near the convention center and the GA hotels. The Amtrak station is located about 3 miles from downtown. These fares are reimbursable, up to the equivalent of the lowest logical airfare (as determined by Azumano Travel). Upgraded Amtrak services (sleeper cars, etc.) are not reimbursable.

By Car: Those who choose to drive to Detroit rather than taking reasonably available commercial travel options (plane, train, etc.) are reimbursed for:

  • mileage (at the IRS rate in effect over the assembly dates)
  • meals enroute (up to $30 per day)
  • lodging enroute (up to $65 per night)
  • parking charges in Detroit (up to $15/day)

Receipts are required for meal, lodging and parking expenses.  If this total exceeds the air/train fare that you and commissioners/advisory delegates who are your passengers would incur, reimbursement is limited to the equivalent of the lowest logical air/train fare(s), as determined by the assembly travel agency.

Drivers who live near enough to Detroit that commercial travel is unavailable or not logical are reimbursed for mileage at the IRS rate in effect for the assembly dates, and parking charges in Detroit (up to $15/day – receipts required). For those staying in an assembly hotel or requesting reimbursement for similar lodging expenses, mileage reimbursement is limited to one round–trip between your home and downtown Detroit. Please help avoid unnecessary travel expenses by car-pooling with others from your area.  


Registration

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How to Register:  Commissioners and advisory delegates receive an email from the G.A. Meeting Service with instructions and a link to on-line registration for the assembly.  This is a unique link for your registration that recognizes that you are a commissioner or advisory delegate. Please be sure to use this link - do NOT use the generic registration link at the GA web site. Do NOT forward your email/link to anyone else.

Contact the G.A. Meeting Service at (888) 728-7228 x2417 if you do not receive this email, or if you are not able to register on line.

Families: Spouses and children are welcome as assembly observers, at their expense. You may reserve a double room when you register. The assembly covers one-half the hotel room charge for commissioners and advisory delegates; if you are accompanied by your spouse/partner/family, you are responsible for paying the hotel directly for their half of the room charge. 

All observers, including spouses, who wish to observe the business meetings must register and have an assembly name badge to access the hall (except on Saturday, June 14, when badges are not required for visitors observing the afternoon and evening sessions). A badge is not required to visit the exhibit hall, participate in worship, or observe the assembly committee meetings. You may register your spouse/partner as an observer ($70 advance registration fee) when you register yourself. Or you may use the “Guest” registration feature to purchase tickets to meals or other activities for a spouse, other family members, or friends who are not registering in advance.  Anyone who does not need or want to make a reservation in one of the assembly hotels through the G.A. Meeting Service may register on-site (from June 13).  The on-site registration fee is $30, and it is waived for those for whom it is a financial hardship.

Changes and Cancellations
If at any time prior to the assembly you find that you are unable to serve as a commissioner/advisory delegate, immediately contact your presbytery (or your theological seminary if you are a TSAD) so that plans for an alternate can be made.


Lodging

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Assembly Lodging: The six assembly hotels are located within about 5 blocks of Cobo.  Complete your assembly registration as soon as possible - by April 15 - to reserve lodging in one of these hotels. Your allowable housing costs are paid directly by the Office of the General Assembly. 

Reimbursement for charges for other accommodations is limited to $65/night plus tax.  Those who stay at home or in other private lodgings and commute will be reimbursed for mileage and parking, not to exceed $65/day.

Shared Room Costs:  Accommodations in assembly hotels are paid for at the shared rate of one-half the hotel room rate, plus tax. If you share a room with another commissioner or advisory delegate, both your share and your roommate's share of the room charge are paid by the assembly, and you should not have out-of-pocket lodging costs unless you stay beyond the meeting dates. If you request a single room, or if you share a room with your spouse/family or any other participant whose charges are not covered by a GA agency, only your half of the room cost is covered by the assembly, and you (or your roommate) will pay the hotel for the other half, plus tax.

Roommates:  If you want to share a room but do not have a roommate, the G.A. Meeting Service can assist. If you would like us to select a roommate for you, indicate this when you register.

If you select your own roommate, fill in his/her name when you register. Make sure that he/she registers and lists you as the roommate. The reservation is not made until both registrations are complete.

You will pay the full room cost for any nights your roommate does not share the room, so choose a roommate with the same arrival and departure dates as yours to avoid incurring those additional costs.

Length of Stay: Lodging is covered for up to 8 nights (from Friday, June 13) for commissioners, TSADs and MADs to enable participation in the Saturday morning Riverside Conversations. Lodging for Thursday, June 12, is also covered for young adult advisory delegates attending the YAAD orientation that begins with breakfast on Friday.

Charges for additional nights are at your expense.

If you drive to Detroit, hotel charges prior to June 13 or after the night of June 20 are considered a driving expense. Include these with related costs on your expense voucher. These are reimbursable provided the total (mileage, parking, lodging and meal costs en route) is still less than the lowest logical airfare, as determined by the assembly travel agency.

Payment: You will need a major credit card or a cash deposit ($200 or more) upon arrival at your hotel to cover any room charges for which you are responsible, and incidental charges such as meals and phone calls.  Note that if you use a debit card for this purpose, the hotel will put a hold on the deposit amount so it will be unavailable until after you depart.


Ground Transportation

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Complimentary assembly shuttle service will operate from the Detroit airport to the downtown assembly hotels on Thursday and Friday, June 12 and 13, and from the convention center to the airport on Saturday, June 21.  More information on these arrangements will be provided later

The assembly hotels are located within about 5 blocks of Cobo, an easy walk for most; they are also near stops for the Detroit People Mover that also has a station in Cobo.  Commissioners and advisory delegates will receive People Mover passes to use throughout the assembly.

Car rental and other ground transportation expenses in Detroit are not reimbursable.

Parking:  See the section above on Travel by Car regarding reimbursement for drivers. Downtown Detroit is compact and the assembly hotels and venues are within walking distance of each other, and connected by the People Mover.


Meals in Detroit

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Commissioners and advisory delegates receive tickets to the seven group meals (which include the G.A. Breakfast on Monday) at no charge; these will appear as pre-checked activities as you register on-line.  You may purchase tickets as you register or family member or friends who wish to join you for these meals.

On Sunday, June 15, many congregations in the Detroit area will welcome assembly participants to worship with them, and host them for lunch.  Transportation is provided from Cobo for those that are not within walking distance.  Please sign up to visit one of these churches as you register - advance registration is necessary to plan for transportation and lunch. 

Other meals are covered with the assembly per diem of $50 ($12-breakfast, $13-lunch, $25-dinner). The per diem begins with dinner on June 13 and ends with lunch on June 21. When you check in on-site you will receive a credit card with a pre-set limit equivalent to the per diem amount for the length of your stay. It can be used at the Cobo concession areas, hotel restaurants, and most other restaurants in the area.

Assembly agencies and other organizations sponsor optional events before and during the assembly for those interested in learning more about their ministry and work. Most are scheduled over a meal break so that commissioners and advisory delegates may participate; many are ticketed meal events that involve a fee.  These tickets can be purchased as you complete your assembly registration. Your per diem cannot be used in advance to purchase tickets to these optional meals; if you wish to participate in any of those, you will pay that cost by credit card or electronic check. Please review the Schedule of Events before you begin that process.

Some events - including most of the mission tours - coincide with assembly committee or business meetings; these are planned for those who are not required to attend all the assembly meetings.


Children at the Assembly

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The General Assembly is a business meeting, with very long days and few family- oriented activities.  Commissioners are in meetings from 8:30am to 9:30pm or later most days, and should carefully consider whether to bring their children to the assembly.

Childcare options in downtown Detroit are very limited, and open only weekdays. The G.A. Meeting Service is seeking information on facilities that may have space to accommodate children of assembly participants that week.

Childcare expenses of up to $40/day are reimbursable for commissioners who would not otherwise be able to fulfill their duties.  Required documentation for reimbursement includes: the name, address and social security number of the caregiver, the number of days, and the number and ages of children/dependents cared for.


Assembly Business and PC-biz

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The assembly will act on hundreds of items of business, which it receives through the reports and recommendations of various assembly entities, and through overtures from synods and presbyteries. 

These reports and recommendations are available electronically, through PC-biz, the electronic system that is the primary way that participants access assembly business before, during, and after the assembly. Visit www.pc-biz.org for more information. As the reports and recommendations to the assembly are received and formatted, they are posted there.  You should read as much of this material as possible before you arrive in Detroit.

If you don’t already have a PC-biz account, you are encouraged to register for an account using the email address you will use for assembly registration. For assistance in setting up an account, use the online help available in PC-biz to send a message or ask a question about the system.

During assembly business sessions and committee meetings, most official participants will use laptop computers or tablets to access an Intranet and to read and track the business and the assembly’s actions on it in real time.

You will need a laptop computer or tablet in order to function most effectively as a commissioner/advisory delegate when you are in Detroit. The Resource tab at PC-biz includes FAQs that will show the minimum specifications for a laptop to work well, along with other information.  If you do not have access to a laptop that meets these specifications and that you may take to the assembly, please first contact your presbytery to inquire about borrowing one. The OGA will arrange to rent laptops for use on-site for those who cannot bring one, but in the interest of good stewardship of the church’s funds, we hope most will have another source.

The assembly registration process includes a step for indicating if you will need to have a laptop provided by the assembly.  If you are unable to access PC-biz or use a laptop on-site and need all of the reports in hard copy form, please contact the G.A. Meeting Service.


Mailings

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Standing Rule B.6 provides that “the Stated Clerk make available the list of participants registered for a session of the General Assembly to entities of the General Assembly, councils of the denomination, educational institutions, teaching elders, and independent organizations composed primarily of members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).” 

You may receive mailings that share information, invite you to events, or express concerns about business before the assembly from various organizations and/or individuals.  Enabling groups and individuals to communicate their concerns directly while trusting the wisdom and discernment of commissioners and advisory delegates in this matter is a principle that has been supported by previous assemblies. In these instances, the OGA will not share email addresses or telephone numbers of commissioners and advisory groups.

The OGA will share email addresses of persons – including commissioners and advisory delegates—who purchase tickets to assembly functions (optional breakfasts, luncheons, etc.) with the sponsors of those events.  Those sponsors agree to use these email addresses only to communicate information about the event.  If you feel that you are receiving inappropriate emails related to the General Assembly please contact the G.A. Meeting Service.

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