Editor's Note: In response to yesterday's called presbytery meeting General Presbyter Rev. Mike Cole revised his Top 10 actions of the GA to include Christian-Muslim dialogue. He also revised the information regarding the proposed change to the Heidelberg Confession based on new information he received from the Office of the Stated Clerk.
The most prominent issues coming out of the General Assembly:
1. Approved an overture for presbyteries to vote on that would allow ordaining bodies more latitude in their examination of candidates. This overture needs a majority of the 173 presbyteries voting affirmatively in order to take effect. The specific language of the overture is:
[DELETE THE FOLLOWING] “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.”
[REPLACE WITH THE FOLLOWING] “Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate's sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.”
2. Issued a new Authoritative Interpretation which goes into effect immediately:
“Interpretive statements concerning ordained service of homosexual church members by the 190th General Assembly (1978) of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and the 119th General Assembly (1979) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and all subsequent affirmations thereof, have no further force or effect.
3. Issued a second new Authoritative Interpretation which also goes into effect immediately:
"The 218th General Assembly (2008) affirms the authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 approved by the 217th General Assembly (2006). Further, the 218th General Assembly (2008), pursuant to G-13.0112, interprets the requirements of G-6.0108 to apply equally to all ordination standards of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Section G-6.0108 requires examining bodies to give prayerful and careful consideration, on an individual, case-by-case basis, to any departure from an ordination standard in matters of belief or practice that a candidate may declare during examination. However, the examining body is not required to accept a departure from standards, and cannot excuse a candidate's inability to perform the constitutional functions unique to his or her office (such as administration of the sacraments)."
4. Disapproved an overture seeking divestment from Caterpillar and Motorola.
5. Approved an amendment of the Heidelberg Catechism, which seeks to correct improperly translated scripture texts in the Heidelberg Catechism, the most notable of which was an insertion by the 1962 translators of the phrase, “homosexual perversion,” which was not in the original scripture text. According to the Office of the Stated Clerk, the Moderator of the GA will appoint a task force to study the amendments to the Heidelberg Catechism and make a recommendation to the 2010 GA. If the 2010 GA approves, the amendments will be sent to the presbyteries for a vote. Since this is a proposed change in our constitution, it will require 2/3 of the presbyteries to cast an affirmative vote.
6. Disapproved an overture to redefine marriage.
7. Referred the Form of Government Task Force Report to the church for a period of two years of study, consultation and review. A new task force will be formed to receive suggestions and will revise the Form of Government for presentation to the 2010 General Assembly.
8. Called for tolerance and peaceful relations between Muslim and Christian communities and “state that though we hold differing understandings of how God has been revealed to humankind, the PC (USA) affirms that as children of this loving God, we share the commandments of love for God and neighbor and the requirement to care for the poor.” This action encourages our congregations to engage in dialogue with Jewish and Muslim communities and commissions a study on Islam and Christian-Muslim relations. In a related action the GA supported an invitation to dialogue and cooperation entitled, “A Common Word Between Us and You,” a document from 138 Muslim clerics.
9. Elected Bruce Reyes-Chow as the Moderator of the General Assembly for the next two years and Gradye Parsons as the new Stated Clerk of the General Assembly for the next four years.
10. Affirmed our commitment to peace and justice in Palestine and Israel.