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Denominational committees offer guidance on POL-01 to General Assembly

Several PC(USA) committees have submitted advise and counsel to GA on the Olympia overture.

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


From the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP):

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) advises that the 226th General Assembly (2024) approve Item (POL-01). ACSWP supports both changes, and respectfully urges the Office of the Stated Clerk to, if approved, send as two proposed amendments to the Constitution for presbytery vote.

We acknowledge the historic role that the church has occupied, both as the oppressor and as advocate. We acknowledge that there is still much work to do in fostering healing with our siblings who have been harmed by the church. Echoing the 223rd General Assembly, we celebrate the faithful, loving, and courageous Gospel witness of LGBTQIA+ persons. Our church is enriched, made vibrant and vital by the contributions of LGBTQIA+ people and they ought to be afforded the same constitutional protections that have been extended to those on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, location, and theological conviction.

The sufficiency of those protections as outlined in F-1.0403 is a matter that merits its own conversation and debate, both at General Assembly and (if the way be clear) in our presbyteries. The amendment to G-2.0104b seeks to further strengthen those protections by lifting up a commitment to these principles in the ordination examination.

From the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC):

The Racial Equity Advocacy Committee advises that the 226th General Assembly (2024) approve POL-01.

REAC notes that PC(USA) has already take the step in accepting “On Celebrating the Gifts of People of Diverse Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities in the Life of the Church.”  At the 223rd General Assembly in St. Louis in June 2018, the PC(USA) voted unanimously to pass three significant overtures related to LGBTQ+ inclusion.1  Therefore, in approving POL-01 PCUSA cements and demonstrates the denomination’s commitment to inclusivity and its Matthew 25 platform, which sends a resounding message of acceptance across the denomination.

From the LGBTQIA+ Equity Advocacy Committee (ACQ+E):

The LGBTQIA+ Equity Advocacy Committee advises that the 226th General Assembly (2024) approve POL-01.

Re. proposed F-1.0403: At the 223rd General Assembly (2018), the Assembly approved item 11-13 “On Celebrating the Gifts of People of Diverse Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities in the Life of the Church.”1 This statement affirmed the faithful presence and service of LGBTQIA+ folks in the PC(USA). This is one of many overtures passed at past General Assemblies (dating to at least the 222nd General Assembly in 2014) in support of LGBTQIA+ people in the church and around the world.

Thus the LGBTIQIA+ Advocacy Committee advises the Assembly to continue to embody this commitment by stating explicitly in our Foundations that, alongside “race, ethnicity, age, sex, [etc.],” sexual orientation and gender identity are similarly fundamental dimensions of personhood that shall not be used as barriers from membership in the Church universal or participation in the “worship, governance, and emerging life” of PC(USA) churches.

Re. Proposed G-2.0104b: The heart of this proposal intends for emerging teaching elders, ruling elders and deacons to make explicit their intention, as part of the preparation/examination process for ordination (prior to an ordination service), not to discriminate in the course of their service based on identity markers named in F-1.0403.  The committee believes that every person in the church has a right to be treated with equality, fairness and dignity.

On one hand, this proposed measure may be seen as a redundancy since the constitutional questions for ordination already articulate a commitment “to be governed by our church’s polity,” which, obviously, includes the current version of F-1.0403. On the other hand, this commitment has not, in practice, preserved ordained individuals from discriminatory behavior in the course of their service based on race, age, sex, etc. Also, this overture refers to the examination process and therefore neither requests nor requires a change to the constitutional questions.

Thus the LGBTQIA+ Advocacy Committee calls upon the Assembly to continue to support ordained individuals in keeping their ordination vows by making explicit in the preparation/examination process a determination of the candidate’s “ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.0404)” —including “the principles of participation, representation and non-discrimination,” [Proposed addition to G-2.0104b]. We also believe the changes to G-20104b are the action to the sentiments expressed in F-1.0403 and therefore they should not be separated into two amendments.

This assessment does not require uniformity of thought or conviction—only a commitment not to disrupt or block other individuals from living into their callings based on the identity markers named in F-1.0403. We not only support this regarding LGBTQIA+ identities, but also in regard to the other identities listed in F-1.0403 (all of which can and do intersect with LGBTQIA+ identities). People with a variety of identities and convictions exist in the church, are baptized in the name of the Lord, and are called to lay and ordained ministry, and all should be able to exist and serve in the church without discrimination or disruption.

From the Advocacy Committee for Women and Gender Justice (ACWGJ):

The Advocacy Committee for Women and Gender Justice advises that the 226th General Assembly (2024) approve POL-01-A.

Since the original overture addresses changes to two parts of the Book of Order, and in light of the Advice of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution, ACWGJ looks at the two parts separately. F-1.0403 outlines the principles of unity in diversity, citing Gal. 3:27-29 as the guiding scriptural basis for these principles. ACWGJ reads Gal. 3:27-29 alongside Col. 1:16-17. The diversity in which we are united is not only plentiful but also specifically flows from God. As a result, affirming these diverse identities with language that closer estimates the depths of human experience in the Foundations of Presbyterian Polity allows us to stand firmly in our Reformed Tradition. Only when we explicitly affirm the theological, ecclesial, and biblical foundations of openness and welcome to individuals with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities can we proclaim the “good news” Gospel truth.

From the Advocacy Committee for Women and Gender Justice (ACWGJ):

The Advocacy Committee for Women and Gender Justice advises that the 226th General Assembly (2024) approve POL-01-B.

Since the original overture addresses changes to two parts of the Book of Order, ACWGJ looks at the two parts separately, in light of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution. Ordination already calls us to uphold our commitment “to be governed by our denomination’s polity.” G-2.0104b explicitly names our baptismal call to include welcome and openness as named in 1 Cor. 12: 12-13. As a community of disciples who seek to embody the Gospel of Jesus Christ, asking those preparing for ordination to name their baptismal call with specific detail allows us to work towards the Great Ends of the Church together. Only by being explicit in this way can we stand for justice, rising up against the wicked and standing for God against evildoers (Psalm 94:16). Vague affirmation, like silence, only perpetuates the pain inflicted on our siblings in Christ when their experiences are not recognized as part of the Body of Christ. Naming our belief in participation, representation, and non-discrimination is not only important; it is precedented.

Finally, ACWGJ affirms the work of our siblings on ACQ+E to specifically advocate for individuals with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities before the Assembly.

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