Fidelity-chastity on the ropes, nFOG holds slim lead, Belhar teeters: An update on amendment voting

UPDATED APRIL 19, 2011 – The Presbytery of deChristo voted on Saturday to a 62-62 tie – which counts as a collective “no” vote – becoming the third presbytery to turn away from supporting elimination of the fidelity-chastity ordination requirement (in 2009 it voted 59-48 to overturn the policy).

However, given that 16 presbyteries have reversed their vote in the opposite direction, time is running out for those who hope to retain the constitutional prohibition adopted in 1997 that has denied ordination of all those sexually active outside of heterosexual marriage.

The proposed new Form of Government amendment continues to hold a slim lead in presbytery voting. The Belhar Confession is drawing a solid majority, but it continues to track just below the two-thirds margin required to be added to The Book of Confessions.

So far, 80 presbyteries have voted to support Amendment 10-A, which would delete from the PC(USA) constitution the requirement that candidates for ordination practice “fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.” Sixty (60) presbyteries have disapproved the amendment. Compared to the last round (in 2008-09) of voting on that proposed change, sixteen (16) presbyteries have switched from opposition to support, while three (3) presbyteries have withdrawn their support.

Passage of the amendment requires 87 affirmative votes, including a minimum of net nine presbyteries to switch from opposition to support, so the net change so far of 13 presbytery votes indicates a strong trend toward passage. Thirty-four presbyteries have yet to vote.

Support for the proposal to replace the Form of Government section of the denomination’s Book of Order holds a slim 72-62 margin. A simple majority of 87 votes is needed for approval, and 48 presbyteries have yet to vote.

Support for adding the Belhar Confession to The Book of Confessions leads 68-43 in voting so far. The confession was written to guide the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and was recently adopted by the Reformed Church in America and will be considered at the 2012 general synod meeting of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

The proposal to add it to The Book of Confessions requires support by two-thirds (116) of the presbyteries to pass. Of the presbyteries that have voted, 61 percent have endorsed its adoption. In order to pass, 48 of the 62 presbyteries that have yet to vote on the proposal must approve it. For final adoption, the 2012 General Assembly must also approve the change.

                                                           Summary as of April 19, 2001




Needed for approval

Ordination Standards








Belhar Confession




Do you want to track the voting on these amendments? The official tabulation of votes is managed by the Office of the General Assembly (OGA). Some affiliated advocacy organizations are also tracking the votes on their Web pages.

Office of the General Assembly

Covenant Network – which supports ratification

Presbyterian Coalition – which opposes ratification