SACRAMENTO — The Synod of the Pacific handed down a ruling June 20 that overturns all four policies adopted by the Sacramento Presbytery as it sought to respond to actions of the 2006 General Assembly.
At stake were four resolutions approved at the SP’s called meeting last Sept. 9. The presbytery voted 1) to require all candidates for ordination, installation, and or membership in the Presbytery to comply with all standards in the Constitution, i.e., allowing no “scruples;” 2) to not receive into membership, nor recognize as a member, any minister who had been ordained elsewhere, “under a scruple that is taking exception to any of the ordination standards;” 3) to allow churches to withhold per capita support of upper governing bodies and not to make up the difference for doing so; and 4) to allow congregations wishing to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to go with their property,
All four resolutions were overturned by the synod’s permanent judicial commission.
The SP-PJC ruling states that the first resolution would “apply the standards of the church without applying the spirit of the Authoritative Interpretation” that was adopted by the 2006 GA. This ruling was supported by a vote of 9-1.
All other actions were supported unanimously.
The second resolution was rejected as “more egregious than Resolution 1 as it is contrary to the long established history of connectivity, church-wide standards, the conscience of individual candidates, and the collective discernment in the application of the standards for ordination.”
Resolution number three “represents obstructive behavior and does not reflect reasonable pastoral concern.” It “falls short of the Presbytery’s duty not only to the larger church but to the individual congregations which consider protest methods or alternatives.”
The fourth resolution was overturned for the same reasons as number three, with the additional comment that it “contravenes the trust provisions of Chapter 8 in the Book of Order and this is inappropriate and unconstitutional.”
Complainants filed two other charges, alleging unfairness to the opponents of the resolutions. The SP-PJC rejected those complaints, concluding, “…. each party acted upon sincere belief.”
The ruling added additional comments that “A presbytery may not a priori exclude persons who declare a scruple within the accepted standards for such declaration in the ordination or installation process. It is incumbent upon the presbytery, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Book of Order, Scripture, and the Confessions, to decide if a particular scruple disqualifies a person from ordained office.” ‘
The ruling closes on a pastoral note. “The Commission is aware the matter brought before us reflects significant discord within the Sacramento Presbytery. We believe the elders and ministers of Word and Sacrament should prayerfully seek ways to develop trust, recognize the need for each other and how together the presbytery can reflect unit in Christ. We strongly encourage the presbytery staff and council to develop a plan of reconciliation to further the witness and mission of Sacramento Presbytery.”