PITTSBURGH, July 3, 2012 — On Tuesday afternoon, the General Assembly committee on church orders approved an overture recommending an addition to the Book of Order.
This committee had considered many additions and changes in wording to the Book of Order during their deliberations, but had remained very cautious and reticent to approve overtures that recommended changes. However, as the committee neared the end of its business, overture 7-05 from the Presbytery of San Jose caused much discussion. This overture recommends the addition of the italicized wording to G-2.0104a.
“To those called to exercise special functions in the church—deacons, ruling elders, and teaching elders—God gives suitable gifts for their various duties. In addition to possessing the necessary gifts and abilities, those who undertake particular ministries should be persons of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world. This includes repentance of sin and diligent use of the means of grace. They must have the approval of God’s people and the concurring judgment of a council of the church.”
A representative from the Presbytery of San Jose explained that similar wording about repentance was removed when 10-A passed, also deleting the fidelity and chastity clause. Further, he stated that the presbytery was not interested in changing the “local option for determining who is qualified for ministry” afforded by 10-A, but hoped to return some language to the Book of Order.
Speaking against this overture, one committee member noted, “participating in the Christian life is our means of grace” and adding such additional language seemed only to confuse matters. Others spoke for this amendment saying that all were in need of repentance of sin and this addition was very much in line with Presbyterian theology.
The committee went on to question whether councils would be divided by this addition. Speaking against the overture, one member stated that although the amendment did not mention homosexuality specifically, she believed it to be the “elephant in the room.” Others speaking against said it would be difficult for a presbytery to determine what “sin” is, just as it is difficult to define what a life of faith is. Likewise, they questioned whether this clause added any substance not contained elsewhere within the current Book of Order.
Speaking for the overture, one committee member stated that the wording did not mention a specific sin but addressed whether the life of an individual speaks to a life of repentance. The representative from the Presbytery of San Jose reminded the committee that the presbytery had voted in favor of 10-A but believed this language to be important to our common life in the church.
After much deliberation, this overture passed with 28 affirmative votes, 20 negative votes, and 5 abstentions.