Formed following the 221st General Assembly, The Foothills Presbytery General Assembly Reform Group has taken on the task of seeking large-scale reform of how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) changes its constitution. To do this, the group has been in communication with the executives and stated clerks of all 171 presbyteries, 16 synods, General Assembly moderator Heath Rada and key leaders in the Office of the General Assembly. The group has drafted nine overtures that address three areas of Presbyterian polity: the purpose of GA and the proposed cycle for GA meetings; the process by which the PC(USA) discerns its social witness and bears this witness to the world; and the scope and function of the constitution of the PC(USA). These overtures can be found on the Foothills Presbytery website.
To date, Yukon Presbytery has concurred on overture 6, North East Georgia Presbytery on overtures 1-8 and John Calvin Presbytery on all 9 overtures. Forty presbyteries accepted invitations to discuss these changes and six have put them on their dockets to consider.
The Outlook has posted a series of commentaries from multiple viewpoints on Foothills Presbytery’s overtures on reforming how the General Assembly operates. Gordon Raynal, a member of the group that crafted these overtures, comments on overture one. Ray Roberts, co-chair of ACSWP, offers his opinion on the changes proposed in overture one. Paul Hooker reflects on what he believes to be some of the ramifications of all nine overtures.
Among the changes the overture proposes:
- Each General Assembly would be organized around one of the Great Ends of the Church, considered in rotation.
- Every third General Assembly would depart from that rotation, to consider all proposed amendments to the PC(USA) constitution. In other words, proposed constitutional changes would be considered only once every six years.
- An overture to amend the constitution must be endorsed by one-third of the presbyteries in order to be considered by the assembly.
- Constitutional changes would require approval from two-thirds of the presbyteries.