Believing that “realignment is pastoral and would allow for a measure of fellowship to remain between believers within the church rather than a complete breaking of fellowship” a presbytery has sent an overture to the 221st General Assembly in hopes of allowing churches to change presbyteries.
Overture 42 from the Presbytery of Beaver-Butler seeks to amend section G-3.0403(c) of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Book of Order so that churches whose theology isn’t compatible with its presbytery can “transfer to another presbytery acceptable to both the congregation and the synod,” as long as certain conditions are met.
The full text of the paragraph to be added to the PCUSA’s constitution reads:
“When a congregation finds it is disengaged from its own presbytery due to theological or practical differences, it may petition its synod to transfer to another presbytery acceptable to both the congregation and the synod. Such a request should only be made after a period of prayerful discernment between the congregation and the presbytery of current membership. The synod shall exercise due diligence in consulting the congregation, its teaching elder(s), and presbytery of membership before deciding upon the request to transfer. A congregation that transfers membership to another presbytery may not request dismissal to another denomination for at least ten years from the date of transfer.”
PCUSA presbyteries vary greatly in their theological stances, and the result, according to Beaver-Butler, is that “churches find themselves in presbyteries where the practices and policies, while permissible by Book of Order, go against the collective conscience of a particular local church.”
“Rather than having the only options of obeying the conscience being to leave the church or disengaging from one’s presbytery,” Beaver Butler believes that “allowing movement within the denomination would allow for the preservation and strengthening of the Presbyterian Church (USA),” while also slowing the “current erosion within our greater fellowship.”
The amendment calls for a 10-year period of time between when a congregation transfers to a new presbytery and when it can be dismissed to another denomination.
That requirement is meant to “discourage any congregation from seeking transfer to a presbytery with a favorable dismissal policy,” indicates Beaver-Butler’s overture.
Eastern Korean Presbytery concurred with the overture, and if approved by the General Assembly, the recommendation will be sent to the denomination’s 172 presbyteries for ratification.