A summary of selected actions of the 45th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, including the actions on the recommendations presented by the “Ad Interim Study Committee on Women in Ministry.” The report is provided for the Assembly, but is not adopted by the Assembly.
1) Approved to be sent down for the advice and consent of the Presbyteries:
- Overture 16 to amend Book of Church Order (BCO) 25-3 by increasing the quorum for a congregation meeting called to vote on a proposal to withdraw from the PCA to ½ the resident communing members.
- An editorial adjustment to Rules and Assembly Operation (RAO) 14-8 on the preparation of committee of commissioners’ reports;
- An addition to RAO 13 on memorials for deceased elders;
- An amendment to RAO 17-4, and a number of amendments to “Operating Manual of the Standing Judicial Commission,” all minor adjustments or conforming changes;
- Overture 7, as amended, a change to RAO 7-3, providing that any concerns of the Cooperative Ministries Committee concerning long-range planning come to the Assembly for action through overtures from the lower courts;
- Overture 14, as amended, to revise RAO 13-3 to condition the Assembly’s reception of new business proposed from the floor;
- Overture 18, as amended, to revise RAO 9 to limit a proposal for an ad interim or a study committee to overture by presbytery.
3) Recommitted to the Overtures Committee for recommendation to the 46th General Assembly:
- Overture 2, to amend “The Directory for the Worship of God” by giving chapter 59, “The Solemnization of Marriage,” full constitutional authority after being submitted to the Presbyteries, receiving the necessary two-thirds (2/3) approval, and the approval of the 46th General Assembly.
4) Declined to adopt:
- Overture 1, to provide financing for Bible translation;
- Overture 4, to identify as “essential” the position of the BCO that males only may be ordained as elders or deacons;
- Overture 5, to amend BCO 8 adjusting qualifications and characteristics of the elder;
- Overture 6, to amend and strengthen the proof texts of Confession of Faith 24.4;
- Overture 8, to amend BCO 7 prohibiting simultaneous service by a man as an elder and a deacon;
- Overture 9, to amend BCO 24-7 to permit the use of sabbaticals for church officers;
- Overture 10, to revise RAO 11-5 to direct the Stated Clerk to refer overtures regarding Committees and Agencies, and Ad Interim Committees, to the Overtures Committee as well;
- Overture 11, to amend BCO 15-3 to permit Presbytery judicial commission minority reports;
- Overture 15, to amend BCO 43 on Complaints, sending the Overture back to Pacific Northwest Presbytery without prejudice;
- Overture 17, to encourage presbyteries to consider with candidates for ministry what biblical grounds there may be for opting out of social security;
- Overture 25, a declaration of the necessity of a “wholly” Christian education for covenant children.
APPENDIX 1: “Ad Interim Study Committee on Women in Ministry”
The report of the Study Committee can be found here. The report is provided for the Assembly, but is not adopted by the Assembly.
The General Assembly adopted the following 8 recommendations from the Study Committee:
- “That Overture 3 from Westminster Presbytery, to ‘Declare that the 44th General Assembly erred in the formation of an Ad Interim Committee on the role of women as not being properly before the court, and dismiss the Ad Interim Committee with apology,’ be answered in the negative.”
- “That sessions, presbyteries, and the General Assembly recognize that, from the founding of the PCA, there has been a variety of views and practices regarding the ways in which women may serve the Lord and the church within scriptural and constitutional parameters, without ordination, and that such mutual respect for said views and practices continues.”
- “That sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly strive to develop, recognize, and utilize the gifts, skills, knowledge, and wisdom of godly women in the local, regional, and national church, and particularly consider overtures that would allow qualified women to serve on appropriate committees and agencies within the church.”
- As finally amended, “That sessions, if possible, establish a diaconate of qualified ordained men.”
The recommendation, as proposed, read, “That sessions, if possible, establish a diaconate of qualified ordained men. Though The Book of Church Order does not specifically prohibit the practice of going without ordained deacons, it seems poorly aligned with the spirit of the principle of the two church offices outlined in The Book of Church Order.”
The proposed recommendation was first amended to read: “That sessions, if possible, establish a diaconate of qualified ordained men. The practice of going without ordained deacons is poorly aligned with the spirit of the principle of the two church offices outlined in The Book of Church Order.”
- “That sessions consider how to include non-ordained men and women in the worship of the church so as to maintain faithfulness to Scripture, as well as utilizing the gifts God has poured out to His entire church (see exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14:26 in Chapter Two).”
- As amended, “That sessions and presbyteries select and appoint godly women and men of the congregation to assist the ordained diaconate.”
The recommendation, as proposed, read, “that sessions and presbyteries select and appoint godly women of the congregation to assist the ordained leadership; these godly, unordained women have often historically been referred to as deaconesses.”
- “That presbyteries and the General Assembly consider an overture that would establish formally the right of sessions, presbyteries, and the General Assembly to establish the position of commissioned church worker within the PCA for qualified and gifted unordained men and women.”
- “That sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly consider how they can affirm and include underprivileged and underrepresented women in the PCA.”
APPENDIX 2: “Committee on Review of Presbytery Records”
A 6 page (!) minority report from 8 members of the Committee was heard by the Assembly and its substitute for recommendation 52 was adopted: “Exception: January 30, 2016 (Ex. 20:4; WLC 109) – Presbytery distributed to worshipers in the Worship Guide the cover of which included an apparent representation of the second person of the Trinity, thereby introducing that representation into worship.” A copy of the allegedly offending cover was included in the report.
APPENDIX 3: “Ad Interim Study Committee on Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation”
The Ad Interim Study Committee on Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation (TE Kevin Smith, chairman, TE Carl Ellis, RE Alexander Jun, TE Sean Lucas, TE Jonathan Seda, TE Richie Sessions, TE Alex Shipman, voting members; RE Sylvester Brown, RE Otis Pickett, TE Russ Whitfield, advisory members) offered the Assembly a brief initial report and the Committee’s recommendations were adopted.
- That the Committee and its funding be continued for another year.
- That a budget of $50,000 be approved to secure the services of Life Way Research to “Assess the current situation in the PCA concerning racial and ethnic reconciliation.”
- That there be a follow-up study in three years to assess the growth and progress of the PCA in biblical racial reconciliation practice.
David Coffin is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of New Hope PCA in Fairfax, Va.