06-09 On Amending G-6.0106b.
Source: Presbytery Sponsor:
Western Reserve Presbytery
Committee:
[06-09] Church Orders and Ministry
Type:General Assembly Full Consideration
Topic:Unassigned
http://pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=2309
ASSEMBLY ACTION
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Approve
Electronic Vote - Plenary
Affirmative: 373
Negative: 323
Abstaining: 4
COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION
On this Item, the Church Orders and Ministry Committee, acted as follows:
Approve
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Affirmative:36
Negative:16
Abstaining:1
Final Text:

Shall G-6.0106b be amended by striking the current text and inserting new text in its place: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

MINORITY REPORT
On this Item, the Church Orders and Ministry Committee, acted as follows:
Approve Alternate Resolution
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Affirmative:0[**This action has not been verified for accuracy by committee leadership.]
Negative:0
Abstaining:0
Final Text:

We recommend that the following motions be substituted for the Committee report.

1.   We move that the following Pastoral Letter be substituted for the recommended action on Item 06-09, and that the letter be sent to all sessions in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from the 219th General Assembly (2010).

2.   We move that the 219th General Assembly (2010) approve Item 06-04.

Rationale

The Pastoral Letter is a proactive and loving way to encourage sessions to repent of past neglect of the LGBT community and to reach out to that community with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Currently there is NO definitive guidance offered to the church on this matter, and this action would restore definitive guidance that the church has had available for the past thirty years.

Pastoral Letter
July 10, 2010
Dear Church Session within the PC(USA),

The 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from July 2 through July 10, 2010, was a special time of meeting new friends, renewing old friendships, and hearing new life stories. Again, the ordination standards for church officers within the PC (U.S.A.) were examined within the context of the instruction of our church Constitution that “… [i]nsofar as Christ’s will for the Church is set forth in Scripture, it is to be obeyed…” and that “… matters are to be ordered according to the Word by reason and sound judgment, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” (Book of Order, G-1.0100c.).

Our hope in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was renewed as we heard many stories from brothers and sisters in Christ, from within our church. We were amazed and encouraged as we heard from so many who have experienced God’s abundant grace as their lives were dramatically changed, in obedience to Scripture and the transforming work of Jesus, from sexual practice within same-sex relationships to living in fidelity within the covenant of marriage to a person of opposite gender, or experiencing God’s strength as they lived in celibacy in singleness. God’s Holy Spirit was upon us as we heard life testimonies that affirmed the theme of the General Assembly: “…‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water”’” (John 7:37–38).

As we heard story after story, our awareness of the marginalization of members of the LGBT community by our churches has been heightened. We repent for this neglect in the demonstration of the love of Christ to these individuals.

While maintaining current constitutional ordination standards for officers, we urge sessions throughout the PC (U.S.A.) to seriously examine attitudes and practices towards LGBT persons within the churches they oversee, as well as the communities they serve. We also ask sessions to consider joining this General Assembly in our repentance as we, with greater intent, engage in more specific ministries to the LGBT community—ministries that brings new hope and the joy of life through Jesus Christ’s transforming love.

In the name of the Giver of Living Water,

The 219th General Assembly (2010)

Larry Lindsay, Presbytery of Santa Barbara

John Wamsley, Presbytery of South Louisiana

Danny C. Murphy, Presbytery of the Trinity

Daniel McMillan, Presbytery of South Alabama

Robert Powell, Presbytery of Plains and Peaks

Benjamin Peak, Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley

Keith Sandell, Presbytery of Baltimore
Chuck Dobbins, Presbytery of Tres Rios

Donna Rivett, Presbytery of Tropical Florida

David Moody, Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois

Daniel Packer, Presbytery of Charleston-Atlantic

Jack Emerick, Presbytery of Washington
Jeffrey Ogden, Presbytery of Stockton

General 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.

RECOMMENDATION

The Presbytery of the Western Reserve overtures the 219th General Assembly (2010) to direct the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to send the following proposed amendment to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes:

Shall G-6.0106b be amended by striking the current text and inserting new text in its place: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

RATIONALE

The integrity of the church demands that those who serve in ordained office meet high standards—always seeking to live according to the life and teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we affirm in the words of the Theological Declaration of Barmen: “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to … trust and obey in life and in death” (The Book of Confessions, 8.11).

And yet no person follows perfectly; each of us is entirely dependent for our salvation, and for our growth in faith and obedience, on the grace of Christ:

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:22b–26)

The current text of G-6.0106b was added to the Book of Order in an attempt to bring closure to the issue of the ordination of persons in same-sex relationships; instead, it has brought continual contention to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It purports to apply even-handedly to all candidates, but is overwhelmingly used only to exclude gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons—many of whom exhibit abundant gifts and strong calls to ministry. With its reference to any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin, it has rarely or never been honestly applied to any candidate ordained or installed since its adoption.

The PC(USA) has no consensus in the interpretation of Scripture on issues of same-sex practice. When convictions about important issues are so different, and so firmly-held, our long-standing Presbyterian commitment to freedom of conscience and mutual forbearance is vital to maintaining our fellowship:

That, while under the conviction of the above principle we think it necessary to make effectual provision that all who are admitted as teachers be sound in the faith, we also believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which men of good characters and principles may differ. And in all these we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other. (Book of Order, G-1.0305)

The proposed amendment would maintain high standards for ordination and installation by renewed focus on the questions candidates must answer, but without imposing a single, highly contested interpretation of Scripture on the whole church.

COMMENT
ADVICE FROM THE ACC

The Advisory Committee on the Constitution advises the 219th General Assembly (2010) regarding Item 06-09 with the following comment.

Rationale

The Advisory Committee on the Constitution refers the 219th General Assembly (2010) to its advice on Item 06-04 that sets forth the background the Advisory Committee on the Constitution believes the assembly should consider in addressing each of the items related to ordination and installation of church officers.

Like Items 06-06, 06-08, 06-10, 06-12, 06-13, 06-14, 06-15, 06-16, and 06-17, Item 06-09 seeks to replace the current language of G-6.0106b with a different standard.

This overture seeks to restore the ordination practice and principles affirmed in the Adopting Act of 1729, the paradigm through which the tension between the differing points of view and the unity of the church have been maintained through much of our denomination’s history. Examining bodies are required not only to examine “… each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office,”but are also required to judge the candidate’s “… ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003)” (Item 06-09, emphasis added). These questions require that the candidate affirm the authority of scripture, adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as contained in our confessions, and submit to the polity and discipline of the church. Moreover, the overture specifically states, consistent with the Adopting Act, that the examining bodies “… shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates...” (Item 06-09, emphasis added).

The proposed language is clear and not inconsistent with any other provision of the Book of Order. The Advisory Committee on the Constitution notes, however, that the language has some similarity, and a similar intent, to the amendment submitted by the 218th General Assembly (2008) to the presbyteries and rejected by a majority of the presbyteries.

Implications of the proposed revisions to the proposed revised Form of Government before the assembly: To the extent the 219th General Assembly (2010) wishes to make amendment to the current G-6.0106b, the identical provision in the proposed Form of Government is found at G-2.0104b.

COMMENT
ACSWP Advice and Counsel

Items 06-06, 06-07, 06-08, 06-09, 06-10, 06-12, 06-13, 06-14, 06-15, 06-16, and 06-17, from differing presbyteries, all overture the 219th General Assembly (2010) to direct the Stated Clerk to send to the presbyteries amendments that would delete G-6.0106b (Item 06-07) or replace it with language intended to support greater flexibility in discernment by the governing body responsible for approving a candidate for ordination and installation.

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) offers the following advice and counsel:

Since 1978, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) and its predecessors have recognized that ordination issues are justice issues that are linked to a range of cultural changes. The history of the church’s struggle to embrace equality in ordination for women and racial/ethnic men is a clear example of this connection. The action of the 217th General Assembly (2006), to approve paragraph five of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church report, was intended to provide a way by which we could live together in mutual forbearance and respect our differences regarding ordination of homosexual persons. In response to a decision by the Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) in Bush v Presbytery of Pittsburgh (Remedial Case 218-10), the 218th General Assembly (2008) approved two authoritative interpretations intended to return to governing bodies the responsibility to determine what is “essential” and to avoid rigid and legalistic standards, particularly ones that highlight certain sexual sins while not naming many other forms and categories of serious sin. (Minutes, 20008, Part I, p. 319–323)

Items 06-06, 06-07, 06-08, 06-09, 06-10, 06-12, 06-13, 06-14, 06-15, 06-16, and 06-17 share this intention. All affirm the need for ethical standards shaping the whole of life, for reasonable regulation applied fairly by councils of the church, and that the responsibility for discernment of readiness for ordination lies with the local governing bodies as they examine candidates as individuals in a case-by-case basis. By deleting G-6.0106b and offering replacement language, they intend to remove the narrow focus on sexual sins and to remove the ambiguities of relying on authoritative interpretations rather than amending Part II of the Constitution of the PC(USA). ACSWP agrees with the general intent of these items and finds them to be consistent with the historical practice of the church to strive for balance in articulating its standards and respect for individual conscience and the diversity of perspectives existing within it. As the church’s constitution states:

… So far as may be possible without serious departure from these standards, without infringing on the rights and views of others, and without obstructing the constitutional governance of the church, freedom of conscience with respect to the interpretation of Scripture is to be maintained (Book of Order, G-6.0108a).

… The decision as to whether a person has departed from essentials of Reformed faith and polity is made initially by the individual concerned but ultimately becomes the responsibility of the governing body in which he or she serves” (Book of Order, G-6.0108b).

If the 219th General Assembly (2020) chooses to send an amendment on this issue to the presbyteries for their consideration, ACSWP concurs with the Advisory Committee on the Constitution that Item 06-09 is the preferred language.

ACWC Advice and Counsel
Item 06-09 deals with amending G-6.0106b.

The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns advises that the 219th General Assembly (2010) approve this overture.

Rationale

After reviewing all the overtures on ordination, ACWC chooses to speak on Item 06-09. We believe this overture offers the best possibility of moving us forward as a denomination in this more than thirty-year debate. It calls for high standards for ordination, outlines the process of examination for each candidate—calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for office—while lifting up the importance of the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003) without limiting the examination only to those questions.

We would, however, advise the substitution of the Rationale for Item 06-17 as it is much more comprehensive.

The PC(USA) has no consensus in the interpretation of Scripture on the issue of same-sex practice. When convictions about important issues are so different, and so firmly-held, our long-standing commitment to freedom of conscience and mutual forbearance is vital to maintaining our communal relationship. This proposed amendment would maintain high standards for ordination and installation by renewed focus on the questions candidates must answer, but without imposing a single, highly contested interpretation of Scripture on the whole church.

CONCURRENCE
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy (with Additional Rationale)

The integrity of the church demands that those who serve in ordained office meet high standards—always seeking to live according to the life and teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we affirm in the words of the Theological Declaration of Barmen: “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to … trust and obey in life and in death” (The Book of Confessions, 8.12)

And yet no person follows perfectly; each of us is entirely dependent for our salvation, and for our growth in faith and obedience, on the grace of Christ:

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:22b–26)

The Office of Theology and Worship, in a publication on Ordination and Authority,correctly points out that the vows of ordination create a hierarchy of authority: obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, guided by the confessions, governed by the church’s polity, within a collegial ministry. This demands that the ultimate authority in call is Jesus Christ, and we further recognize that a call to ministry is never the result of our perfection but of Christ’s ability to make us useful, even in our imperfection.

The current text of G-6.0106b was added to the Book of Order in an attempt to bring closure to the issue of the ordination of persons in same-sex relationships; instead, it has brought continual contention to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It purports to apply even-handedly to all candidates, but is overwhelmingly used only to exclude gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons—many of whom exhibit abundant gifts and strong calls to ministry. With its reference to “any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin,” it has rarely or never been honestly applied to any candidate ordained or installed since its adoption.

The PC(USA) has no consensus in the interpretation of Scripture on issues of same-sex practice. When convictions about important issues are so different, and so firmly-held, our long-standing Presbyterian commitment to freedom of conscience and mutual forbearance is vital to maintaining our fellowship:

That, while under the conviction of the above principle we think it necessary to make effectual provision that all who are admitted as teachers be sound in the faith, we also believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which men of good characters and principles may differ. And in all these we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other. (Book of Order, G-1.0305)

The proposed amendment would maintain high standards for ordination and installation by renewed focus on the questions candidates must answer, but without imposing a single, highly contested interpretation of Scripture on the whole church.

Presbytery of Heartland (with Additional Rationale)

Currently some church members believe that homosexuality is sinful; however, homosexuals are members of the church, a church that is composed entirely of sinners. All church members are subject to the Great Commission, which commands the followers of Christ to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:16–20). The ability to completely fulfill the Great Commission requires the capacity to exercise all of the gifts of the Spirit, including ministry (1 Corinthians 12). Therefore, homosexual church members, if called by God, should be allowed to serve in ordained offices, thereby empowering these church members with the ability to fulfill the Great Commission.

Currently some church members believe that homosexuality was considered sinful by the early church and consequently homosexuals should be prohibited from the current practice of ordination. However, the practices of slavery and the prohibition against women serving in ordained leadership positions in the church appear to have been condoned by the early Church, but these practices and prohibitions have since been recognized as being an obstruction to God’s will.

Currently some church members believe the role of the church is to discern God’s will primarily through the love and grace of Jesus Christ. To say that the Spirit cannot move the church to revise its stance on the ordination of homosexual church members who are called by God to service and who are gifted with abilities to serve in ordained offices would be to impugn the sovereignty of God.

Currently some church members believe that homosexuality is not a sin, but is a part of God’s created order and should be celebrated as such. God testifies to the inherent goodness of creation (Gen. 1:31) and states that all of us are wondrously made; therefore the church should not bring reproach upon God’s own creation (Ps. 139:14). God has always known us, God formed us, and God sets us apart for service (Jer. 1:5). Those who abide in God do not face condemnation from God, nor should they be censured by human standards, nor be condemned by the church (Rom. 8:1). Accordingly, any church member who is called by the Spirit should be allowed to serve in ordained ministry.

Currently some church members deny homosexual Christians the opportunity to be ordained to serve in Christ’s name, thereby denying Christ’s authority (Mt. 28:18b). Such action causes the church to commit the corporate sin of disobedience by blocking paths to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky