Similar attempts to change the Heidelberg Catechism have already been disapproved by the 209th and 210th General Assemblies (1997) and (1998). This minority report stands with these previous General Assemblies.
The historical and theological issues of debate today are identical to those of previous General Assemblies. No new information has been given that would compel us to amend The Book of Confessions. According to the General Assembly Council comment on this item of business, the issue at hand in considering these proposals is " . . whether a different translation of the Heidelberg Catechism would better declare to its members and to the world who and what it is, what it believes, and what it resolves to do" [taken from G-2.0100a of the Book of Order].
Accordingly, the proper question here is not primarily about whether or not the PC(USA)’s Heidelberg Catechism could be a closer word-for-word translation of the German or Latin texts of the 16th century. Instead, the question is whether the proposed changes would better tell our members and the world who we are, what we believe, and what we resolve to do. We believe the answer is clear—our beloved and hurting church does not need either (1) the confusion these changes could cause, or (2) the pain and divisiveness this process would inflict on the church and its members.
These proposed changes to the Heidelberg Catechism, particularly to 4.087, which would delete a reference to homosexual practice, would create confusion rather than clarity and would deepen dissension at a very delicate moment in the life of our denomination. This proposed change would essentially delete a portion of Scripture (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) in order to replace it with a translation of a German paraphrase from 450 years ago.
These proposals would launch the church into years of committee meetings, General Assembly actions, and debate and votes in presbyteries—all of which would, almost certainly, result in greater hurt and division within the church. All of this is based on the assertion that we need to change 66 words in the catechism, while prestigious scholars have issued letters to this General Assembly on both sides of the issue. Rather than launch a new controversy, this minority report would instead leave in place the version of the Heidelberg Catechism adopted as part of The Book of Confessions by the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1967 and as readopted by the reunited church in the 80’s, and as reaffirmed by General Assemblies in 1997 and 1998.
Steve Aeschbacher, Presbytery of Seattle
Seung Won Yu, Presbytery of Atlantic-Korean
James Hatch, Presbytery of Tampa Bay
Bob Monroe, Presbytery of New Hope
Robert Charles, Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky
Gary Mathews, Presbytery of Eastern Oklahoma
Ben Ray, Presbytery of Southern Kansas
Ron Urzua, Presbytery of Santa Barbara
Ann Felten, Presbytery of Trinity
Todd Mulford, Presbytery of South Louisiana
Lawrence Ruby, Presbytery of Pittsburgh
John Sheldon, Presbytery of West Jersey
Wesley Owens, Presbytery of St. Augustine
Steven Frank, Presbytery of Wyoming
Robert Leach, Presbytery of Wabash Valley
Nancy Cormack-Hughes, Presbytery of Utah
Brody Luebkeman, Presbytery of San Francisco
Amy Florence, Presbytery of Indian Nations
Jonathan J. Tony, Presbytery of Chicago
Sue Erickson, Presbytery of Alaska
Assembly committee moderator’s statement:
In accordance with Standing Rule E.7.h.(1), I affirm that the position expressed as recommendation for action by the assembly in this minority report was presented to the whole committee during its consideration of the matter.