PCUSA General Assembly Judicial Commission to hear three major cases

Larson v. Presbytery of Los Ranchos; Tom v. Presbytery of San Francisco; PCUSA v. Rev. Laurie McNeill

1. May a presbytery pass a resolution concerning the manner of life for its teaching elders as part of the proper exercise of the presbytery’s authority.   2.  Does a Presbytery have the right to dismiss a church with its property, in that the property is held ‘in trust’ for the denomination?   3.  May a pastor participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony?

 

The highest court of the Presbyterian Church (USA) will hear and decide three cases on Friday during its time together in Louisville, Ky.

While meeting at the Hampton Inn, Downtown Louisville, the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) will hear:

  • at 8:00 am: Larson, et al., v. the Presbytery of Los Ranchos
  • at 11:00: Tom, et al., v. the Presbytery of San Francisco
  • at 1:30 pm: Presbyterian Church (USA) through the Presbytery of Newark v. Reverend Laurie McNeill

The GAPJC is a permanent commission of the General Assembly of the PCUSA that exercises church discipline through judicial process.

Larson, et al., v. the Presbytery of Los Ranchos

An appeal of the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii Permanent Judicial Commission (SPJC)’s decision in the Larsoncase was filed on May 22 with the GAPJC.

The SPJC ruled that a resolution approved by the Presbytery of Los Ranchos in 2011 was constitutional.

The presbytery’s resolution, passed by a 125-51 vote at its Sept., 2011 meeting, said “the Bible, the Book of Confessions and the Book of Order set forth the Scriptural and constitutional standards for ordination and installation;”and that ordained ministers should live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness and will so notify candidates for ordination/installation and/or membership in the presbytery.”

It further stated that Los Ranchos “will prayerfully and pastorally examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation and suitability for the responsibilities of office, including a commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions of ordination and installation.”

The presbytery’s action was in response to the denomination’s ratification of Amendment 10A, which deleted the explicit “fidelity/chastity” requirement from the constitutional ordination standard.

A complaint filed with the SPJC alleged that the presbytery’s resolution was unconstitutional. On May 4, the SPJC rejected the complaint by a 6-2 vote but also admonished the presbytery, stating that the resolution caused potential harm to the peace and unity of the denomination.

The synod decision stated that the complaint rested on the question of “whether a presbytery has the right to pass a resolution concerning the manner of life for its teaching elders as part of the proper exercise of the presbytery’s authority within the powers reserved to presbyteries.”

The SPJC said the presbytery did have that right but that “while this PJC considers the resolution constitutional, the use of specific language known to be divisive and inflammatory flies in the face of the responsibility to seek the peace, unity and purity of the church.”

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