Friday, June 27, 2008

Report from Mike Cole on Ordination Standard Changes

From General Presbyter Mike Cole:

( Editor's note: a more complete report than the earlier post on this subject)

The General Assembly passed along to the presbyteries an overture to change the language in the Form of Government 6.01016b by a 54% to 43% margin. The suggested change is:

[DELETE]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.

The second major part of the overture to provide the following authoritative interpretation:

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.

The first part of the overture will have to be approved by a majority of the presbyteries. The second half of the overture (Authority Interpretation) goes into effect immediately.

This AI goes along with an Authoritative Interpretation passed earlier by the GA by a similar margin:
“[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).”

This AI also goes into effect immediately and appears to give to ordaining bodies the prerogative of determining who can and who cannot be ordained. My read of this is that presbyteries and congregations cannot be forced to ordain someone, not can they be forced not to ordain someone - it is up to the ordaining body to determine who is qualified and on what basis.

1 comment:

Alan Trafford said...

God help us. I wonder whether the 54% realise what they have done? We can look forward to another season of intense conflict in our presbyteries. Presumably, somebody will attempt to introduce a new AI for the 2010 GA (if there's anyone left to care). I don't remember signing up for this when I was ordained.
Not a good day.