All eight were approved by the 221st General Assembly this past June, and now must be ratified by the PCUSA’s 171 presbyteries.
A booklet of the proposed amendments, which includes a note from Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the PCUSA’s General Assembly, has been published by the Office of the General Assembly and can be downloaded here.
In a note published in the booklet, Parsons requested that presbytery votes be taken by May 15, 2015, so that any changes to the constitution that might be approved can be published in the 2015-16 Book of Order. Also a separate vote on each amendment is required.
Probably the most controversial amendment proposed – 14-F – is the one that seeks to change the definition of marriage.
While same-sex marriage is now permitted by PCUSA pastors in PCUSA churches in states where it is legal as a result of the General Assembly’s approval of an Authoritative Interpretation, amendment 14F seeks to change the related language found in the Book of Order’s Directory of Worship.
The proposed amendment re-writes the entire section on marriage, but the most significant change is in the second sentence which says, “Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.” The current definition of marriage states that marriage is between “a man and a woman.”
Since the amendment seeks to change the Book of Order, a majority vote of the denomination’s 171 presbyteries is required for it to be ratified.
The 2014 General Assembly voted to send the amendment to the presbyteries for ratification by a vote of 429 (71 percent) to 175 (29 percent).
Resources for vote on 14-F include:
- GA approves same-sex marriages in PCUSA
- General Assembly action on marriage (pz-biz)
- The Layman Online’s GA actions/reactions resource page (includes section on marriage)
- Theology Matters’ resources on marriage
- Side-by-side comparison of current and proposed definitions of marriage
The first proposed amendment listed in the booklet–14-1 –would add the Confession of Belhar to the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions. The 2014 General Assembly voted by an 86 percent margin to send the confession to the presbyteries for ratification.
A super-majority – or two-thirds vote – of the presbyteries must be reached and the 2016 GA must vote to approve it, before Belhar can be added to the other 11 confessions in the denomination’s constitution. This is second time a General Assembly has sent Belhar to the presbyteries for ratification. In 2010, Belhar failed to receive the requisite two-thirds presbytery vote needed to be approved.
Resources for Belhar include:
- The Belhar Confession
- General Assembly action on Belhar Confession (pc-biz)
- Presbyterian Coalition’s Belhar Confession resources from 2010-2012
- 221st GA approves the Confession of Belhar (The Layman Online)
- Belhar, the committee & our disunity
- Presbyterian Coalition’s Belhar Confession resources from 2010-2012
Other proposed amendments include:
14-A. Renunciation of jurisdiction: This amendment would add a new paragraph to G-2.0509. It reads:
“Whenever a former teaching elder has renounced jurisdiction in the midst of a disciplinary proceeding as the accused, 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).
14-B1. Final assessment. This proposed amendment was approved by the General Assembly after it was recommended by the Special Committee to Review the Preparation for Ministry Process and Standard Ordination Exams. It would make the following changes to G-2.0607:
Shall G-2.0607 be amended as follows? [Text to be deleted is shown with strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown in italic.]
“A candidate may not enter into negotiation for his or her service as a teaching elder without approval of the presbytery of care. The presbytery shall record when it has certified a candidate ready for examination by a presbytery for ordination, pending a call. Evidence of readiness to begin ordered ministry as a teaching elder shall include:
“a. [Text in a.–c. remains unchanged.]
“d. satisfactory grades, together with the examination papers examination materials, together with evaluations that declare those materials satisfactory in the areas covered by any standard ordination examination approved by the General Assembly. Such examinations shall be prepared and administered by a body created by the presbyteries.”
14-B.2. Accommodations. This also was recommended for GA approval by the Special Committee to Review the Preparation for Ministry Process and Standard Ordination Exams. If approved the a majority of presbyteries, it would amend G-2.0610 to read:
Shall G-2.0610 be amended as follows? [Text to be deleted is shown with strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown in italic.]
“G-2.0610 Exceptions Accommodations to Particular Circumstances
“By a three-fourths vote, a presbytery When a presbytery concludes there are good and sufficient reasons for accommodations to the particular circumstances of an individual seeking ordination, it may, by a three-fourths vote, waive any of the requirements for ordination in G-2.06, except for those of G-2.0607d. If a presbytery judges that there are good and sufficient reasons why a candidate should not be required to satisfy the requirements of G-2.0607d, it shall approve by three-quarters vote some alternate means by which to ascertain the readiness of the candidate for ministry in the areas covered by the standard ordination examinations. A full account of the reasons for exception any waiver or alternate means to ascertain readiness shall be included in the minutes of the presbytery and communicated to the presbytery to which an inquirer or candidate may be transferred.”
14-C. Child Protection Policy. The proposed amendment would add the words “and a child protection policy” to G-3.0106, so that the sentence would read: “All councils shall adopt and implement a sexual misconduct policy and a children protection policy.”
14-D. Minimum Composition of a presbytery, would amend G-3.0301 by adding the words in italics. “The minimum composition of a presbytery is ten duly constituted sessions and ten teaching elders, unless an exception is approved by its synod and the General Assembly giving consideration to the responsibilities assigned to presbyteries in G-3-01 and G-3.03.”
14-E. Interreligious Stance was approved by the 2014 GA following its recommendation from the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (GACEIR). It would amend G-5.0102.
Shall G-5.0102 be amended as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]
“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at all levels seeks new will be open to and will seek opportunities for conversation and understanding respectful dialogue and mutual relationships with non-Christian entities and persons from other religious [entities] traditions. It does this in the faith that the church of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is a sign and means of God’s intention for the wholeness of all humankind and all creation.”