Theologically diverse Presbyterian study group assesses the Olympia overture 

A group of liberal, evangelical, conservative, centrist Presbyterians critiques POL-01’s second point, which will alienate conservatives and evangelicals, they say.

Editor’s note: This article is one response to POL-01, the “Olympia overture.” To read more opinions, click here.

We are Presbyterians — liberal, evangelical, conservative, centrist, and mixed in our theological commitments. Some of us have been leaders and members of affinity groups that have played major roles in the denomination’s struggle over contested issues. Because we are committed to the unity of the church as an essential witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have been meeting for nearly a decade for prayer, study and direct engagement with each other’s perspectives. Still, we continue to disagree about important theological matters.

We are, however, in agreement about the Olympia overture (POL-01) “On Amending the Book of Order to Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Among the Categories Against Which This Church Does Not Discriminate.” 

  1. The first proposed amendment, to F-1.0403, does not change the denomination’s policies. Since the days of the Definitive Guidance, the PC(USA) has stated that it does not discriminate based on identity, including gender and sexual identity. At a time like the present, however, when queer persons are under attack in many settings, we understand the value of reaffirming this longstanding policy and agree that this addition should be approved.
  2. The second proposed change, to G -2.0104b, is bad polity and practice. It elevates one paragraph of the Book of Order over all the rest. It is likely to invite inquisitorial examinations for ordination and installation of conservatives and evangelicals who seek responsibly to serve the denomination and who are promised non-discrimination on theological grounds by the same section that is proposed to be amended. At a time like the present, when in so many social settings minorities are being bullied and bridges are being burned rather than built, the proposed change will be read as doing precisely that. We agree that it should be rejected.

We invite others to join us in urging the General Assembly to take these actions.

Jerry Andrews, Pastor (Retired), First Presbyterian Church, San Diego, CA
Kimberly L. Clayton, Interim Pastor, The Presbyterian Church of Fredericksburg, VA
Chris Currie, Senior Pastor, St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church, New Orleans, LA
Tracey Davenport, Senior Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Plano, TX
Christopher Edmonston, Senior Pastor, White Memorial Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC
Ed Hurley, Senior Pastor Emeritus, South Highland Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, AL
Brian Paulson, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville, IL
Lori Raible, Senior Pastor, Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC
David Renwick, Sr. Pastor (Retired) National Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.
Joseph D. Small, Former Director, Office of Theology and Worship, Louisville, KY
Jessica Tate, Associate Pastor, The Georgetown Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.
Marianne Meye Thompson, Professor Emerita, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA
Ted Wardlaw, President Emeritus, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, TX
Barbara Wheeler, Former President, Auburn Theological Seminary, New York, NY

The Presbyterian Outlook is committed to fostering faithful conversations by publishing a diversity of voices. The opinions expressed are the author’s and may or may not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Outlook’s editorial staff or the Presbyterian Outlook Foundation. Want to join the conversation? You can write to us or submit your own article here