PCA Committee On Constitutional Business finds 3 overtures on Deaconesses contrary to Constitution

In their report to General Assembly, just released in the Supplement to the Commissioner Handbook, the CCB has found 3 of the 6 overtures concerning Deaconesses and related women’s ministry issues ‘contrary to the Constitution.

In Overture 2 from Central Carolina Presbytery: “Amend BCO 9-7 to Prohibit Deaconesses”, their opinion was “it is contrary to the Constitution as it relies upon the following unwarranted assumptions about the Constitution: (1) that the term “deaconess” necessarily denotes an office equivalent to that of deacon, whereas in Scripture, to which the Constitution is subject, the term diakonos is most commonly used to refer to a person being a servant and not an office bearer; and (2) that it restricts the use of a term (“commissioned”) not defined in the Constitution and uses the term as equivalent to the actions of ordination and installation.”

This finding was approved by an 8-0-0 vote of the CCB membership

The Committee found Overture 9 from Eastern Carolina Presbytery: “Revise BCO 9-7 to Prohibit Assistants 19 to the Deacons from Being Commissioned or Installed as Office Bearers” also contrary to the Constitution, since it was identical to Overture 2. That vote was also 8-0-0

A much different overture, this one Overture 10 from Northern California Presbytery: “Amend BCO 1-4, 4-2, 5-10, 7-2, 26 9-2, 9-7, & Add BCO 9-8 to Appoint Unordained Men and Women to Carry Out Diaconal Ministry” was also found in conflict with the Constitution on the following four grounds:

· The insertion of “ordained” to describe the office of elder and deacon in the proposed revision of BCO 7-2 implies that there is an unordained office, which conflicts with BCO 17-1.
· The statement in the proposed revision of BCO 9-2, “In a church in which deacons are not ordained,” could imply the existence of deacons who have not been ordained, which also conflicts with BCO 17-1.
· In the proposed new BCO 9-8, there is reference to “a local church which does not have ordained deacons,” which could imply the existence of deacons who have not been ordained, which also conflicts BCO 17-1.
· Regardless of what may be the intention of the Overture, the ambiguous wording of the proposed Amendments gives rise to various interpretations, at least one of which is in conflict with other parts of the Constitution.

The vote on this finding was also adopted 8-0-0

Two overtures dealing with the same or similar topic were found not in conflict with the Constitution, both by an 8-0-0 vote. They are

· Overture 7 from Evangel Presbytery: “Amend BCO 9-7 to Specify that Persons Who Assist Deacons may Not Be Ordained”

· Overture 13 from Westminster Presbytery: “Assistants to the Deacons Not to Be Elected, Ordained, or Installed as if They Were Office Bearers”. The finding in this case included the following codicil: “so long as it is recognized that election to a position by the congregation is not restricted to office bearers (for example, the election of a pulpit committee as in BCO 20-2).”

In regard to other overtures before the CCB, they made the following recommendations:

Overture 5 from Covenant Presbytery: “Amend BCO 26-2 to Clarify How Non-binding Sections of the BCO May Be Amended” was found to be not in conflict with other parts of the Constitution. Adopted 8-0-0

Overture 11 from Presbytery of the Blue Ridge: “Amend BCO 5-3 to Allow Latitude in Oversight of Mission Churches” is not in conflict with the Constitution. (Adopted 8-0-0)

Overture 15 from Potomac Presbytery: “Revise BCO 5-2; 5-3; 5-4; 5-8; 5-9; 5-10; 16 5-11; add new 5-5; and Renumber Thereafter” is not in conflict with other parts of the Constitution; but it should be recognized that the procedure proposed for calling a pastor for a mission church that is being particularized is significantly different from the current procedure. (Adopted 8-0-0)

Overture 18 from Louisiana Presbytery: “Require Presbytery Vote on BCO 59-1, 59-6” is not properly before the CCB at this time, as it contains no request for an amendment to the Book of Church Order (RAO 8-2a3; RAO 27 11-5), nor is it a non-judicial reference (RAO 8-2b.2). (Adopted 8-0-0)

In addition to dealing with overtures there were several other items of business referred to the CCB. Two involved Advice to the Stated Clerk.

The Clerk had presented one matter for the CCB’s advice, which was addressed during the March 9, 2010, conference call. The CCB responded by concurring with the Clerk’s proposed advice, but with an amended rationale. Under RAO 8-2.b (1), the CCB’s advice is not reported directly to the General Assembly. While the CCB states that “This matter will be addressed in the Report of the Stated Clerk”, there is nothing in the Clerk’s report which appeared in the original Commissioner’s Handbook which identified the topic of this referral.

The other involved advice on the BCO Amendment Proposed by the Administrative Committee. In the opinion of the CCB, the changes the Administrative Committee has proposed to BCO 14-1 and 14-2 are not in conflict with other parts of the Constitution. These changes are part of the Strategic Planning Committee report, as follows:

Proposed Changes to the Book of Church Order

14-1
4. It is the responsibility of every member and every member congregation to support the whole work of the denomination as they be led in their conscience held captive to the Word of God. The General Assembly, however, may require churches, teaching elders, and Presbyteries to contribute to denominational support services by their paying an Annual Registration Fee to assist in underwriting the ministry of the Administrative Committee.

14-2. The General Assembly, which is a permanent court, shall meet at least annually upon its own adjournment. It shall consist of all registered teaching elders in good standing with their Presbyteries, and ruling elders as elected by their Session, representing registered churches. Each congregation is entitled to two ruling elder representatives for the first 350 communing members or fraction thereof, and one additional ruling elder for each additional 500 communing members or fraction thereof. The voting members of the General Assembly shall consist of: (1) all teaching elders who have currently paid the Annual Registration Fee for teaching elders as approved by the General Assembly and who are members of Sessions whose churches have currently paid the Annual Registration Fee for churches as approved by the General Assembly, (2) all teaching elders who have currently paid the Annual Registration Fee for teaching elders as approved by the General Assembly and who are not members of Sessions, (3) and ruling elder commissioners as elected by their Session and whose churches have currently paid the Annual Registration Fee for churches as approved by the General Assembly. Honorably Retired Teaching Elders are exempted from this Annual Registration Fee.

The CCB also gave the following Advice to the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records:

In the opinion of the CCB, the response of Northern California Presbytery to the 37th General Assembly regarding the exceptions taken to its Minutes by the 35th General Assembly is not satisfactory in that, as was the case in the Presbytery’s response to the 36th General Assembly, it failed to address the issues raised by the exceptions – namely, that a diaconate (synonymous with the expression “Board of Deacons” [see BCO19-15 and 24-10]) may only include men who are elected, ordained, and installed; and that the practice in question denies qualified men their constitutional and biblical right to be considered for this office. (Adopted.8-0-0)

In the opinion of the CCB, the response of the Philadelphia Presbytery to the 37th General Assembly regarding the exception taken to its Minutes by the 35th General Assembly is satisfactory in that it agrees with the judgment of the 36th General Assembly that it was erroneous to call the body in question a “diaconate.” Although the presbytery correctly notes that having ordained deacons is not a requirement of the Book of Order for the formal organization of a church, the argument that one deacon does not constitute an organized Board does not preclude the ordination of only one qualified man as a deacon. It would be constitutionally appropriate for a congregation to elect one deacon and for the session to select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist that deacon (BCO 9-7). (Adopted. 8-0-0)