[Committee on] Church Orders votes 41-11 to recommend deletion of G-6.0106b
by Jerry L. Van Marter
SAN JOSE, June 24, 2008 — By a vote of 41-11 Tuesday evening, the Assembly Committee on Church Orders and Ministry recommended to the 218th General Assembly that it send an amendment to the presbyteries to delete G-6.0106b — which requires “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” for church officers — from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Order.
A number of committee members, knowing the inevitable vote was coming, didn’t return to the committee’s meeting room after the dinner break. The Rev. Emily McColl, who was on the losing side of the vote, asked committee members to call those who didn’t return for the evening, saying she was “so saddened by their absence that my heart can hardly stand it.”
She also expressed hope that congregations that simply cannot tolerate another debate over ordination standards will be allowed to “graciously leave” the denomination.
The overture approved by the committee came from Boston Presbytery. Overture advocate the Rev. Roderick MacDonald said the proposal — which includes replacement wording for the current G-6.0106b as well as amendments to G-14.0240 and G-14.0450—“offers something in place of what is removed. It reaffirms standards that are important to us in our ordination questions.”
The proposed new G-6.0106b states:
“Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate’s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.”
The other two proposed amendments (to G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) lift up assent to the ordination questions as key components of examination of candidates for ordination.
Speaking in favor of the overture, committee member Andrew Cook said, “It seems to me the revised language reaffirms the importance of all the ordination standards, rather than singling out just one. It says we care about standards and determining if candidates are prepared.”
Committee member David Reimer predicted the fallout would be heavy. “I have a fear that the ramifications will be severe,” he said. “Churches won’t wait for the ratification votes [by the presbyteries] but will leave immediately, though I hope they won’t.”
McColl agreed with Reimer, saying “many churches will no longer consider us Reformed in their understanding of biblical interpretation and theology.”
Robert Bruce, a youth advisory delegate, responded that he hoped “we will look at God’s will for this church, not at the numbers.”Since G-6.0106b was put in the Book of Order in 1996, two General Assemblies—in 1997 and 2000—sent out amendments to delete it. On both occasions, the presbyteries rejected it.
Committee member the Rev. Sue Fisher was undaunted by the history of previous efforts to remove G-6.0106b from the Book of Order. “I feel compelled to take a motion to the floor so the Assembly can decide whether to send it to the presbyteries,” she said.
“One day this will be deleted,” Fisher said, “if not today then some day and I want to give the Assembly the opportunity to determine if this is the day.”