Two presbyteries have submitted overtures to the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to address issues regarding pastors renouncing the jurisdiction of the denomination.
Both overtures seek to add a sentence to G-2.0509 of the Book of Order, but each uses slightly different wording.
Overture 06-03 from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta would add:
“Whenever a former teaching elder has renounced jurisdiction in the midst of a judicial proceeding, no PCUSA congregation shall be permitted to employ that former teaching elder in any capacity, nor shall it permit that former teaching elder to perform any volunteer work.”
Several presbyteries have concurred with the overture, including: Boise, Giddings Lovejoy, Glacier, Northumberland, Santa Barbara and West Jersey.
Overture 06-05 from the Presbytery of Western Reserve would add the following sentence:
“Whenever a former teaching elder has renounced jurisdiction in the midst of a judicial proceeding, that former teaching elder shall not be permitted to perform any work, paid or volunteer, in any congregation or entity under the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
Greater Atlanta and Santa Barbara presbyteries concurred with the overture.
Both presbyteries use the same rationale for the overtures: “When a teaching elder renounces the jurisdiction of the church in the midst of formal judicial process, there is no resolution for either party, particularly for the complainant. Because there has been no acquittal or determination of guilt, the teaching elder has, by virtue of renunciation, removed himself/herself from leadership and office within the church. It could be argued that the church remains vulnerable due to lack of information regarding the circumstances and facts uncovered in the investigative process that might have come to light in the judicial proceeding. Renunciation to stop judicial process should not be an alternative vehicle to continue to work or volunteer in the church when facts and circumstances have not come to light.”
In additional rationale for Overture 06-03, West Jersey Presbytery wrote, “Background checks are commonplace at every level of our society: volunteer coaches, teachers, church custodians, etc. Almost every other mainline denomination requires background checks for its pastors. It is time for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to take the simple but effective step to strengthen our requirements to protect those under our care.