DETROIT, Mich. – Commissioners of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) agreed to refer a recommendation calling for improvements in procedures for candidates moving between mid-councils to the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA).
The action for the referral was part of the GA’s consent agenda approved June 18.
Business Item 05-09 called for the 221st General Assembly to direct the Office of Vocations of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Office of the Stated Clerk to study the effectiveness of mid-council to mid-council reference checks and clearance procedures, and consider ways to improve the procedures for candidates moving between mid-councils.
During the Mid-Council Issues Committee meeting earlier in the week, COGA member Jim Wilson asked that the matter be referred to COGA with instructions to design an appropriate study and to report recommendations, proposed standards and expectations to the 222nd GA.
The Mid-Councils Issues Committee voted 66-0 in favor of the proposal to recommend the call for improvements in procedures to such a process.
The recommendation came as a result of a persistent failure to disclose fully all known information in mid-council background checks of person seeking to move their membership from one mid-council to another, noting the problem this creates for ecclesiastical bodies within those counsels. It acknowledged a need to impose standards that will require all individuals who provide inter-council references (executive/general presbyters, stated clerks, chairs of committees on ministry or preparation for ministry,) be required to provide full disclosure of all information concerning a candidate or a pertinent or potentially concerning nature.
Melinda Sanders, an overture advocate from Middle Tennessee Presbytery, explained to the Mid-Councils Issue Committee that there had been at least two incidents in the last 12 months where critical information was not shared about a candidate moving from one presbytery to another by executive presbyters, leading to the recommendation.
Rationale for the overture indicated that the practice of “passing on” pastors who have shown problematic behavior, without considering the ramifications within other mid-councils and churches, is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.