Louisville, Kentucky – The 225th General Assembly completed action Tuesday afternoon on the business presented by its Mid Councils Committee, approving six items of business designed, committee moderator Ara Guekguezian of San Joaquin Presbytery said, “to bring more inclusion, parity and equity and thus more justice” to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) A seventh item was referred, and all seven items were approved overwhelmingly.
The referred item (MC-11) sought to include memorializing non-ordained members of the church during the necrology report of deceased ministers and ruling elders that is presented to each Assembly. “This is a very complicated process of gathering all of those names efficiently and effectively,” Guekguezian said. The motion to refer the item to the Committee on the Office General Assembly passed 361-31. Other items from the Mid Councils Committee also received lopsided votes.
By a vote of 306-96, the Assembly voted to authorize a task force “to explore the theology and practice of ordination, including commissioned ruling elders, as well as membership, church structure, accountability, and chartering.” In doing so, the Assembly expanded the scope of the task force, which was sought in an overture from San Fernando Presbytery.
The presbytery had proposed a study only of ruling elders, but Richard Poole of San Fernando Presbytery argued for the more expansive charge to the task force, saying, “As our world changes our understanding of the church must change, too.” The growth of new worshiping communities in our denomination has created an ‘intersectionality’ of ministry that extends beyond just ruling elders.” The proposal (MC-10 as amended) passed 306-96.
By a vote of 385-13, the Assembly voted to send a constitutional amendment (to G-3.0401) to the presbyteries that gives more leeway to synods to enroll as members persons who are serving as elected members of synod entities to more completely “fulfill the principles of participation and representation” outlined in The Book of Order. The Assembly utilized language proposed by the Advisory Committee on the Constitution for the final wording of its action (MC-06).
In other actions brought by the Mid Councils Committee, the Assembly:
- Made explicit, by sending a constitutional amendment (MC-05) to the presbyteries that “it is appropriate for councils to adopt procedures that may allow for electronic session meetings.” The proposed amendment to G-3.0104, passed 376-2.
- “Encouraged the Board of Pensions to prayerfully consider allowing ruling elders serving in mid council staff positions the option of enrolling in the Pastor’s Participation Plan of the Board of Pensions.” The Pastors Participation Plan is currently available only to ordained clergy. As Outlook reporter Eric Ledermann wrote June 22: “The issue arose when one synod hired a new ruling elder executive and was forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars more for medical benefits through the Board of Pensions than they would have had they hired a Minister of Word and Sacrament.” The vote on MC-02 was 379-21.
- Responding to an overture from Beaver-Butler Presbytery (MC-03), sent an amendment to G-3.0303c of The Book of Order to the presbyteries, adding a provision for presbyteries to establish “minimum compensation standards, including provisions for dissolution terms, for pastoral calls and for those serving in temporary pastoral service, Certified Christian Educators and Certified Associate Christian Educators within the presbytery.” Mid Councils Committee vice-moderator Wendy Wait of Homestead Presbytery said, “the committee spent a long, long time on this one.” The Assembly vote was 386-18.
- Proposed an amendment to G-3.0104 of The Book of Order, expanding the use of Commissioned Ruling Elders so they may serve “one or more” validated ministries. The proposal, MC-08, was approved 399-9.
The Tuesday afternoon plenary began with prayer and a video presentation from the Board of Pensions entitled “Strength and Stability to Serve a Changing Church.” The plenary took up, but did not complete before the dinner break, discussion on the agenda presented by the Polity Committee. Stay tuned to the Presbyterian Outlook for full coverage of this and all the plenaries of General Assembly 225.