PITTSBURGH – The General Assembly left mostly unchanged the ordination policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) during its June 30-July 7 session here. Proposals presented and discussed at length in the assembly’s church orders committee were all approved by their fellow commissioners in plenary.
Commissioners did vote to amend the ordination standard approved in 2011 by adding the sentence, “This includes repentance of sin and diligent use of the means of grace.” If ratified by a majority of presbyteries through the next 12 months that standard will then say:
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.” (italics added)
The assembly followed the lead of the committee, adding its disapproval of amendments that would have turned the clock back a year to reinstate the language the above paragraph replaced, specifically requiring candidates to live “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”
The new change approved by this GA hearkens back to the final sentence extracted by the 2011 replacement, “Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”
Pat Thompson, a teaching elder from Central Washington and a member of the Church Orders committee asked the assembly, “Why wouldn’t we want to have these words in this? If you do believe in repentance of sin and the reasons Jesus died on the cross, then vote for this.” The addition passed by a vote of 329 – 275 – 9, and now goes to the presbyteries for ratification.