With 30-days-notice, congregation members lose no rights. Greater notice actually protects their rights. And this proposal has NOTHING to do with property. That’s a red herring. This proposal simply prevents a Session from calling a short-notice meeting on an important matter. Congregations can still make a disaffiliation decision by a simple majority vote.
Regarding the PCA General Assembly’s proposed change to BCO 25-11, I respectfully suggest the Editor’s September 11 article (Reasons for PCA Presbyteries to Vote NO on Amending BCO 25-11) that attempts to argue against this change, is incomplete and, frankly, is unnecessarily alarmist. For example, consider these excerpts:
“These attempts would be a backdoor means to secure possession of the property of any congregation against its will…”
This change “seeks to restrict and abridge local congregations of their right to determine their denominational affiliation.”
This proposal reveals an “obsession to force local PCA congregations to comply with someone else’s agenda.”
To be candid, these statements are inaccurate and hyperbolic.
While my Presbytery wasn’t one of those submitting this proposal last year, I think there are many reasons to support it. But first, some facts. This proposal on BCO 25-11 was submitted by three different Presbyteries. And after it was discussed by the GA’s Overture Committee (two representatives from each Presbytery) it was endorsed by a 79% majority of the OC. Then, when it was put to a vote on the GA floor, there was no objection. None. In other words, not one commissioner of the 1,200+ went to a microphone to speak against this proposal; not even the Editor of this journal. Not one negative speech. Not one negative vote recorded.
Another clarification is warranted. The Editor’s article indicated, “In 2017, Presbyteries in the PCA voted “NO” on amending BCO 25-3…” That’s true, in one sense, because that particular proposal did not garner the requisite 2/3 majority. However, a 59% majority of the voting Presbyteries voted in favor of that proposal. (44-30) So, it seems a bit of an overstatement for anyone to assert last year’s voting indicated a “definite NO” and that “Presbyteries rejected” that other proposal.
Regardless, this new proposal on BCO 25-11 is quite different. It simply requires a Session to give congregation members 30-days-notice for a meeting where the members will consider such an important vote. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine why someone would oppose this. For example, the BCO already requires Sessions to give members 30-days-notice of the names of men on the ballot for election as elders. We should give members at least as much notice for a meeting at which they will be asked to vote on disaffiliating with a denomination for which they have promised “to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability.” (See BCO 57-5.4. And note: Whenever the BCO capitalizes the word “Church” it always refers primarily to either the PCA or the Church universal, but never to the local individual church.)
With 30-days-notice, congregation members lose no rights. Greater notice actually protects their rights. And this proposal has NOTHING to do with property. That’s a red herring. This proposal simply prevents a Session from calling a short-notice meeting on an important matter. Congregations can still make a disaffiliation decision by a simple majority vote. This proposal ensures greater confidence that any such vote will be a vote taken with broad congregational participation. Who would want anything less? For someone to insist on only 7-days-notice for such a meeting makes you wonder what Session power the person might be trying to protect.
For example, some men have reported instances where, after a minister has been indicted or will likely be indicted by his Presbytery, he has persuaded his Session to call a short-notice congregational meeting where the Session makes a motion to leave the PCA. That’s really not how things should be done. Particularly in such an instance, the congregation should have 30-days-notice. That’s only reasonable. It should be easy to see, the congregation loses no rights with greater notice, and greater notice has nothing to do with property.
Again, this proposal increases protection of a congregational right – the right for the congregation to render its decision in this matter. Despite arguments to the contrary, this change actually provides greater protection of the “solemn covenant” mentioned by the Editor. The only “right” that’s affected is a Session’s ability to call a short-notice meeting.
I’ve known the Editor for many years, count him as a friend, and know him to be a loving, diligent servant of this branch of the Church. So, his concerns puzzle me. His article exhorts us to “trust” that local congregations are capable of determining their affiliation. Indeed. But in the end, arguments against the proposed 30-day notice are actually arguments in favor of Session rights instead of congregational rights.
For the several reasons above, and many others, the change to BCO 25-11 should be heartily supported.
Howie Donahoe is a member and ruling elder of Redeemer Redmond PCA Church in the Pacific Northwest Presbytery.