Four presbyteries — Foothills, Mission, New Harmony and Trinity — want broader agreement within the church before changes to the Book of Order can take place. Two-thirds seems to be the magic number.
An overture from Mission Presbytery would require a two-thirds vote of commissioners to a General Assembly to transmit a proposed amendment to presbyteries for their vote. Foothills asks that a two-thirds majority of presbyteries vote to ratify proposed amendments. New Harmony wants General Assembly commissioners to agree by a two-thirds majority to transmit proposed amendments to presbyteries, but also wants two-thirds of the presbyteries to agree to ratify. Trinity is asking for a “substantial” (two-thirds) majority to agree at every level: the entity proposing the amendment, commissioners voting at General Assembly, commissioners voting at each presbytery, and all pres-byteries voting to ratify.
The four presbyteries claim an assist from Roberts Rules of Order, which suggests that changes to an organization’s constitution should be approved by “at least two thirds.” Foothills argues further that changing the amendment process would allow the Book of Order to “become, in reality, a true constitutional document, instead of functioning as a ‘manual of operations.’”
If two-thirds is the magic number, the favorite words seem to be “consensus” and “peace, unity and purity.” There is an awareness that many in the denomination do not see God’s will in actions that are opposed by a significant minority. The presbyteries hope that if the amendment process is changed to require wider agreement, the church will benefit. Foothills Presbytery puts it clearly: “Serious issues of conflict that have arisen in our denomination in recent years might have been avoided if the threshold for amending our Constitution was that of a consensus . . . .”
Posted April 12, 2002
Matthew Covington is pastor of the Seven Oaks church, Columbia, S.C.
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