An overture on evangelism developed by Knox Fellowship and endorsed by three church sessions was approved July 23 by the Presbytery of Tampa Bay. Before the overture can be considered by the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), another presbytery must concur.
The Presbytery of Tampa Bay approved the overture in a 81-44 vote despite a recommendation by the Bills and Overture’s Committee to disapprove.
The evangelism overture requests that the section G-2.0607c, Final Assessment and Negotiation, be amended by adding “practical training in evangelism;” defined as “agile speaking and teaching concise truth about Jesus Christ as confessed in the Nicene Creed,” so that the section would read:
a transcript from a theological institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools acceptable to the presbytery, showing a course of study including Hebrew and Greek, exegesis of the Old and New Testaments using Hebrew and Greek, practical training in evangelism (agile speaking and teaching concise truth about Jesus Christ as confessed in the Nicene Creed), satisfactory grades in all areas of study, and graduation or proximity to graduation; and …
“We have seen astonishing year over year decline, a significant rise among the non-Christian population while there is no comprehensive practical evangelism training across the PCUSA enterprise,” said the Rev. Carl Lammers, in his statement supporting of the overture during the presbytery meeting. With an affirmative vote, the Tampa Bay Presbytery will promote constructive constitutional dialogue addressing central concepts such as missions, evangelism and contextualization grounded in a central Confession, the Nicene Creed, the most ecumenical of all confessions. The overture is correctly placed to call for a structural change designed with prescriptive wording to get at the very heart of the problem many of us have—to articulate our faith in Jesus in any climate or place to any tribe, tongue or nation. We need to equip the next generation differently for the formidable task ahead.”
Included in the presbytery’s meeting packets was a document highlighting the merits of the overture.It spoke not only of the PCUSA’s membership and generational declines, but of the “rise of the nones” – a reference to the increase of those with no religious preference. A book by the same title, “Rise of the Nones”, by James Emery White was published in 2014. Nearly 30% of US respondents do not identify as Christian according to Pew Research poll published May 12, 2015.
“An Evangelism Overture is required to initiate a constructive constitutional dialogue about the future of evangelism,” according to the document. “The GA is the only forum in which presbytery delegates and Seminary representatives will converge to discuss evangelism with hope of productive outcome. Without a formal overture, Presbyterian evangelism cannot be discussed in any constructive way leading to results. Presbyteries through an Evangelism Overture would constructively engage PCUSA Seminary Curriculum Committees, Committee on Theological Education (COTE), and the newly created PCUSA Mission Agency Ministry Area known as Theology, Formation and Evangelism.”
The 222nd General Assembly will be held Jun 18-25, 2016 in Portland, Ore.
The Merits of an Evangelism Overture, which was included in the Tampa Bay Presbytery’s meeting packets.