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219th General Assembly
For our index page for GA 2010 >>

We welcome your reports and comments
on preparations for the 219th General Assembly.
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The overtures are coming! The overtures are coming!!

by Doug King, WebWeaver and Communications Coordinator

Click here for further information on overtures being submitted for the 219th General Assembly.

The Office of the General Assembly has already received and posted some 46 overtures at last count, with many more to come, proposing a wide variety of actions to the coming 219th General Assembly, which will be meeting in Minneapolis on July 3 - 10, 2010.

For a list of those received and posted as of February 12, click here >>

Some notes about this article

To access material posted on the General Assembly’s website, PC-Biz, you may need to go to the entry page.  Then click on “Explorer.” Then enter “OVT” in the search box, and click on Search. That should take you to a list of all the overtures posted thus far. You’ll see a note on the top of each one (so far) that it has not yet been edited by the Office of the Stated Clerk, but is posted as received from the submitting body.

But we have posted links directly to the overtures mentioned, within the summary that follows.

Authorship:  This summary has been prepared and written by Doug King, the Communications Coordinator of the Witherspoon Society/Voices of Sophia, and manage of this website. It is presented here as a personal effort, and not intended as a commentary or statement of the organization.

This is a work in process, and I would greatly appreciate comments, corrections, and suggestions, either to be posted with credit to the author, or simply to be considered in my own next revision. Please send a note, and tell me whether to post it, or just to think about it.

Doug King

More Light Presbyterians is providing a helpful blog listing overtures and reports relating to ordination and marriage, some of them not yet posted on the official GA website.

Here’s a quick survey of the overtures listed so far, to help you find any in which you may have a particular interest, either to support them, or take into account the arguments advanced in the rationale for the recommended action, or to develop actions of your own in support or in opposition to a particular recommendation.

Here are some of the main issues being addressed in overtures:

bulletPeacemaking and international issues, including:
"On strengthening the Peacemaking Program"
Divestment from Caterpillar
Christians in Muslim nations
bulletProposed new Form of Government
bulletProposal for a new synod for conservatives
bulletBelhar Confession
bulletThe role of Christian Educators


It’s no surprise that there are lots of overtures on this topic, but some of them offer new approaches to the issue – some for further steps toward fair and inclusive ordination policies, others calling for a reinstatement of the more complete ban on LGBT ordination, and still others calling for delay, in one way or another, of any further action. 

There are of course efforts to overturn the action of the 218th General Assembly, which removed the various statements, of Authoritative Interpretation and Definitive Guidance, propounded since 1978, which effectively banned the ordination of LGBT Presbyterians. The ban remains in effect through provision G-6.0106b in the Book of Order, but it is now left to the ordaining body (congregation or presbytery) to determine how to weigh its relevance to each particular candidate.

To restore the ban:

Overture 001, from the Presbytery of San Diego, would reinstate the various interpretive statements, thus restoring the absolute ban on ordination. The presbyteries of Central Florida and Cherokee have concurred with this overture, along with the presbyteries of The Mid-South, South Alabama, Yukon, and Redstone.

The Presbytery of Beaver-Butler has sent Overture 046, which would replace the current G-6.0106b with a longer and more intricate statement, which claims that “foremost” among the standards for ordination are “the New Testament Epistolary ethical requirements for ordained officers of ministry, which include but are not limited to chastity in singleness and fidelity in monogamous heterosexual marriage.” On first reading, this seems to elevate the letters of the New Testament over the Gospels and the life and teaching of Jesus – perhaps because the latter were never quite specific enough in condemning certain groups or actions.

The lengthy rationale for this proposal includes a quotation from H. Richard Niebuhr’s well-known critique of mid-20th century liberal Protestantism. They got the words right, but moved Niebuhr from his place at Yale Divinity School to Union Theological Seminary in New York, apparently to take the place of his brother Reinhold.

To end the ban:

But more overtures have been submitted aimed at removing the ban. Overture 018  from the Presbytery of Hudson River does the job most directly, simply calling for the deletion of G-6.0106b entirely, arguing that “G-6.0106b is superfluous. The Church’s need to protect the mystery and the integrity of calls to ministry by followers in the Way of Jesus is already well and carefully met in G-6.0106a.” New York City Presbytery has concurred.

Overture 017,  from the Presbytery of Detroit, would replace G-6.0106b with an affirmation of the moral commitment being undertaken by a candidate for ordination, but with the emphasis on candidates’ pledge “to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, as revealed in Holy Scripture, striving to follow where He leads through the authoritative witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions.” There is no specific mention of sexuality or marriage.

The core of the rationale for this change is this: “Although the hierarchy of the church’s authority is clear, it is subverted by the current language of G-6.0106b, which substitutes for our obedience to Christ two concepts that are foreign to Reformed understanding: ‘obedience’ to Scripture and ‘conformity’ to the confessions. We do not confess, ‘Scripture is Lord’ nor ‘the Confessions are Lord.’ Instead, we boldly confess that ‘Christ is Lord!’ ” The Presbytery of Genesse Valley has concurred with this overture.

Hudson River Presbytery, along with its simple call for deleting G-6.0106b, has offered another option in Overture 019,  which would substitute for that narrow ban on certain sexual relationships a much broader and positive call “to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples, to love neighbor and enemy, and to express the love of Christ in faithful relationships with others.” The presbyteries of New York City and Cayuga-Syracuse have concurred.

Overture 030, from Western Reserve Presbytery, would also replace G-6.0106b with an affirmation that ordained service should “reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000).” The proposed statement also affirms the responsibility of the examining body to “be guided by scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.” The rationale for this change concludes: “The proposed amendment would maintain high standards for ordination and installation by renewed focus on the questions candidates must answer, but without imposing a single, highly contested interpretation of Scripture on the whole church.”

Overture 041,  from the Presbytery of Southern New England, affirms that “Jesus, the Head of the Church, has established standards for church officers.” Scripture, the Confessions, and the Constitution of the church are all seen as reflecting Jesus’ own standards, and are to be used as the examining body considers each candidate’s “calling, gifts and preparation and their willingness to adhere to church standards. Those seeking office shall demonstrate their understanding of and affirm their willingness to adhere to church standards.”

Other overtures have also been approved which have not yet been posted on the PC-BIZ website. The Presbytery of Albany on February 6 passed an overture to amend G6-0106b, modeled on the Detroit overture.

We will try to add reports on others as we receive them.

Or – a plea to stop talking about it

On the other hand, some presbyteries seem to be proposing steps that would simply postpone any action – for eternity, perhaps? The Presbytery of New Harmony, in Overture 007,  would amend Standing Rule A.3. of the General Assembly by adding a new section, stating: “Should an overture require an amendment to the Constitution that proposes substantially the same action as that which was approved by one of the two previous sessions of the General Assembly and subsequently failed to receive the necessary number of affirmative votes for enactment when transmitted to the presbyteries, it shall not be considered as an item of business unless and until 75 percent of the commissioners present and voting vote to do so.”

Overture 011,  from the Presbytery of Prospect Hill, is more straightforward, calling for “a moratorium until the 220th General Assembly (2012) on motions and overtures that would change, alter, or remove the current standards of ordination for the offices of deacon, elder, and minister of Word and Sacrament.”

Evangelical pastor Bob Campbell comments on Overture 011 and its implications for the Form of Government report, which will also be considered by the Assembly.

And then the Presbytery of Foothills, in Overture 009, goes even further, calling for the holding of General Assemblies only once every six years.

A couple general observations:

These overtures might offer chance to talk seriously about the moral dimension of ministry

Those calling for a decisive move from legalism toward fairness, from an ethic of “purity” toward an ethic of love and justice, are being very clear that this is not removal of all moral expectations of candidates for ordained office in the Presbyterian Church. But they are asserting in various ways that the moral expectations are much broader and deeper than narrow strictures about sexual behavior. The various alternatives being proposed could offer our church a golden opportunity to “reason together,” carefully and creatively, about how the moral and ethical dimensions of ordained service really ought to understood, as a positive framework for ministry.


Overtures on dealing with marriage – inclusive or exclusive

Toward an inclusive affirmation of marriage

Once again the question of marriage will come before the Assembly. So far Baltimore Presbytery has submitted Overture 015, with the simple title, “On Amending W-4.900 Regarding Marriage." As with past suggestions, it would change the definition of marriage from “a civil contract between a woman and a man” to “a covenant between two people [which] according to the laws of the state also constitutes a civil contract.”

The rationale for this change is headed, “Marriage: Sharing God’s Gift Equitably in the Church.”

The first set of arguments focus on marriage as “an Act of Pastoral Ministry.” It notes that “The Directory for Worship defines marriage as ‘...a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family.’ (W-4.9001). A gift conferred by God can only be denied by God the giver of the gift.” Marriage as “an act of pastoral care” is clearly a way in which the church supports loving, committed relationships, and there is no reason why such support should be limited to heterosexual couples alone.

The biblical and theological arguments are opened with a quick refutation of the assumption that there is a single “biblical meaning of marriage”: 

A search of marriage in the Scripture reveals a broad spectrum of historical marriage practice, some of which we consider foreign today, including: Solomon’s many wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3), levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5-6 and Matthew 22:23-32), wives sharing female servants with their husband to increase progeny (Genesis 29-30), divorce and remarriage as equal to adultery (Mark 10:12), and women being commanded to remain silent in church and only ask their husbands for instruction at home (1 Corinthians 14:33-36).

Beyond that simple biblical diversity, Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor is presented as the basis for all discussions of marriage – and that love as Jesus spoke of it and lived it is never limited by questions of gender or sexual orientation.

The Presbytery of Hudson River has sent Overture 020, which proposes essentially the same changes in the Directory of Worship. The rationale opens with this fine statement of what marriage is all about: 

Marriage is beyond gender. It refers to the commitment of two people to live beside each other with a love expressed as tenderness and justice. It refers to the deep promise to live together through the thick and thin of their journey together through the years. It refers to the mystery in which the love of God meets, is joined to and made manifest in the love of two people whose hearts are a home place to each other. The notion of marriage is demeaned by any lesser definition. Recognizing this, some states are already ahead of the Church in moving the legal definition of marriage beyond gender.

The closing paragraph is equally helpful: 

The proposed changes would grant all loving couples the right to have their marriages performed in our congregations, strengthening all our communities and families, gay and straight, since they allow us to recognize the love of two hearts declaring themselves to be a home to each other, before God, with gratitude.

The Presbytery of Boston, in Overture 027,  proposes to amend Book of Order provisions W-4.9000-9006 and D-14.0200 to change all references to marriage between a man and woman to marriage between “two people” or “couple.” In support of these changes, the rationale reminds us of the action of the 218th General Assembly in 2008, which voted by 516 to 151 to “request the Stated Clerk, the General Assembly Council, and other representatives of the PC(USA) to urge state legislatures and the federal government to apply the principle of equal protection to same gender couples and their children.” That action also expressed support for congregations and pastors as they seek “to extend pastoral care as well as outreach and evangelism to same-gender couples and their nontraditional families who are more and more our neighbors on our streets and our fellow members in our pews.”

Given this action, and the slow trend among the states to legalize same-sex marriage, “[i]n a state where same-gender marriage is recognized under the law, it is pastorally unconscionable to apply exclusionary principles to certain members of the congregation by declining to perform their marriage.”

Opposing any change in the understanding of marriage

But there are those who rejected these modest steps toward an inclusive notion of marriage. New Covenant Presbytery has submitted Overture 010,  “On Affirming the Biblical Teaching on the Topic of Marriage.” It calls on the Assembly to “joyfully affirm the historic, biblical, and Christological teaching of the Church on the topic of marriage as a gift from God to bless humankind. As God created man and woman, so does God call some men and women to live together as husband and wife. God’s very order and design defines the institution of marriage.” [But you might look back at the “biblical meaning of marriage” as summarized so neatly in the Baltimore overture.]

The Presbytery of Prospect Hill has submitted Overture 042, which urges the Assembly to “[d]eclare ... that no sexual union outside the bonds of marriage, such as in co-habitation, adulterous affairs, domestic partnerships, or same-sex unions, is within the will of God or approved by this body.” [We humbly note that this list does not seem to follow Jesus’ apparently negative views of marriage of divorced persons.]

The Presbytery of Santa Barbara has sent Overture 037, with the catchy title, “On Accountability for Presbyterian Organizations at General Assembly Sponsored Meetings and Events.” This calls on the Assembly to “require events sponsored by PC(USA) aligned groups taking place at General Assembly or other G.A. sponsored gatherings to be evaluated by the Office of the General Assembly in advance of all General Assemblies or other G.A. sponsored events to assure that the activities of all PC(USA) aligned groups are conducted in a manner that honor the constitutional standards of the church.” To be sure that this is done, the overture further calls for the establishment of a “Board of Oversight and Review” to monitor Presbyterian-related organizations and events – and advises that this board should “be available to receive complaints from Commissioners at G.A.” A GA morals squad!

Just in case anyone might wonder what inspired this interesting idea, the Presbytery offers this explanation: 

On June 21, 2008, during the General Assembly that took place in San Jose, More Light Presbyterians held their traditional reception and dinner, advertised to all G.A. attendees. At that gathering a planned "wedding" took place between two gay men officiated by an ordained Presbyterian pastor.

Well, “never again,” if Santa Barbara Presbytery has its way. Click here for our report of that celebration at the 2008 GA.


Peacemaking and international issues

On Strengthening the Peacemaking Program

The Presbytery of Pittsburgh has sent Overture 013, calling on the 219th General Assembly to strengthen the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the important document, Peacemaking: The Believers’ Calling, and the establishment of the Peacemaking Program. It would do this by the creation of a nine-member task force to review the document from 1980, and to present suggestions to the 220th GA for updating the church’s peacemaking efforts in light of more recent developments such as the emergence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the recovery by the U.S., after Viet Nam, of its status as a respected “superpower,” the end of the “cold war,” new wars, globalization and the current global financial crisis, the role of religions in wars and in peacemaking, and “the rise of Muslim influence and militancy.”

Three personal observations: 

bullet I note here the focus of concern on “weapons of mass destruction,” which is a term used largely in accusations against those accused of terrorism, without any reference to the nuclear arsenal and other forms of warfare such as drone aircraft, which are primarily a part of the arsenals of U.S. and other “Western” nations. And I wonder.
bullet The overture calls for the creation of “an advisory committee of six expert persons to meet quarterly to counsel the Peacemaking Program on issues regarding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and other emerging issues.” It is unclear to me why the standing committee for the Peacemaking Program would need to be supplemented with such an “advisory” body.
bullet There is a very interesting call for “a seminary and college-wide review of peace studies and peacemaking opportunities appropriate to the major shifts in the approach of the United States international relations ...” It goal would be to “engage students in active peacemaking and to share the wisdom of faculty among our church-related educational institutions.” [See also a possible overture drafted by the Rev. Len Bjorkman, which pursues this possibility in more detail. >> ]


The Presbytery of Hudson River has sent Overture 022, “On the War in Afghanistan,”  which calls on the 219th General Assembly to “declare itself in opposition to further military operations by the United States in Afghanistan.” The overture includes a comment that General Assemblies have not offered any response to the war in Afghanistan, which has gone on for more than eight years. The implication is that it’s about time we said something.

This would include urging the U.S. government “to engage in a responsible withdrawal plan,” which would involve only “non-combative actions” to further peace and prosperity in the area, cooperating with the UN and neighboring nations in that process, and cooperating with the UN in expanded development and humanitarian programs.

Among other specific policy directions are urging the U.S. government “to provide adequate healthcare and rehabilitation ... for members and veterans of its armed forces,” and also “to tabulate Afghanistan war casualties among all parties, civilian and military, and make a general inventory of destruction so that the human and material costs of the war may be assessed and the moral obligations of reconstruction and restitution be kept before the conscience of the nation.”

Also, like the Pittsburgh overture, this one calls for specific review of peace studies programs in our seminaries and colleges. And in a fairly daring step, it calls for “the Federal Government to make a public report on the Spoils of War asking to make transparent the contracts, figures, and contract duration involving American companies participating in the war efforts and its aftermath.”

The rationale closes with this summary of the whole thing: “It is not the province of a church to devise a template of government strategies; we are not a political party. But it is our responsibility to call the nation and the world to the way of peace and to resist the logic of war. That is at the heart of the biblical vision and the gospel of Christ. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25, NRSV)”

Greater Atlanta Presbytery passes overture opposing Afghanistan war     [2-22-10]

On Saturday, Feb. 20, the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta passed on overture calling for action to press for an end to the military action in Afghanistan.  It follows a similar overture submitted by Hudson River Presbytery, with a few minor amendments by the presbytery's Peacemaking Committee.

Divestment from Caterpillar

The Presbytery of Newark has sent Overture 039, “On Divestment from Caterpillar, Inc.,”  renewing a call considered at each Assembly since 2004, for the PC(USA) to divest its stock holdings in Caterpillar, Inc., as a witness against the company’s continuing “selling of equipment to Israel that is used to build illegal Israeli settlements, construct walls that illegally encroach upon Palestinian lands cutting Palestinians off from their own property and natural resources, destroy Palestinian life and property, and otherwise continue to support the occupation of Palestinian territories.”

The rationale for this move traces the process of study and deliberation, and efforts by the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee of the PC(USA) to engage the company in moving toward some change in its policy of support for the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. MRTI has at length concluded that the corporate engagement approach is not achieving the needed change, and has thus recommended that the General Assembly Council issue a “statement of denouncement” of Caterpillar’s actions, to be forwarded to the Assembly.

The writers of this overture thus call for “divestment from all assets held by the PC(USA) in CAT.” They acknowledge that such decisions are very difficult, and therefore say that “[w]e recommend such action with profound humility, confession of our brokenness as a human race, and with an ongoing desire for reconciliation even in the face of serious disagreement.”

In closing the rationale, they add: “We have no illusions that this recommended action will actually sway Caterpillar, Inc. to engage in better and more just business practices, although we always pray for this eventuality. What it will do, however, is keep us consistent with the following affirmation: We are the Church of Jesus Christ. When the powers of the world decide that they will conduct business as usual, and that business is contrary to the teachings of Christ and the will of God for humanity, then it is time for the church to end its complicity in this sinful behavior. If we do not, then we remain unrepentant.”


The Presbytery of Trinity has sent what has now been designated as Overture 008, “On Partnering for Peace in Sudan.”  It has received concurrent support from the Presbytery of Redstone.

The overture calls upon the Assembly “to show that working toward a just and lasting peace for all of Sudan is a high priority in keeping with the Great Ends of the Church (Book of Order, G-1.0200)” by approving a number of objectives in relation to the on-going conflict in Sudan, including “prayer and advocacy by the churches regarding (a) renewed international commitment to the full and timely implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 (CPA); (b) increased private investment for the economic development of Southern Sudan and other areas affected by conflict; (c) increased development assistance by the United States government, including assistance in restoring security for the citizens of Southern Sudan and other areas affected by violence and proliferation of arms; and (d) renewed efforts by all parties to end hostilities in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan ...”

Christians in the Muslim World

Eastern Virginia Presbytery has submitted Overture 025, “On Protecting Christians in the Muslim World,”  which would call on the PC(USA) to urge the UN to “exhort the religious and political leaders of Muslim Nations” to reduce the “extreme behavior” against Christians which has been reported through partner church leaders in Pakistan, specifically, as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq.



Two overtures have been submitted which are apparently intended to oppose abortion, not in terms of the “rights of the fetus,” but specifically as it is linked in some cases to violence against or intimidation of women who are pregnant.

Overture 040, from the Presbytery of Boise,  calls on the 219th Assembly to “condemn assaults, attempts, and actual acts of pressure, force, violence, and coercion upon a pregnant female, especially where the activity inflicts mental or physical injury or death on the pregnant female.” Women are depicted in the overture as weak, often victimized, and powerless to make choices of their own. They may be forced into having abortions by those who want to “destroy evidence of child molestation or incestuous activities; ... eliminate personal responsibilities or inconvenience to the perpetrator’s lifestyle; dislike for biracial unborn children; or desire to destroy pregnant females.”

The overture would call on the Stated Clerk to communicate to federal and state legislatures “urging them to adopt legislation that recognizes the special vulnerability of pregnant females and to protect them from assaults, attempts and acts of force, coercion, and violence, that inflict physical or mental injury, or death, on the pregnant female.”

In a similar vein, Overture 043, from Prospect Hill Presbytery,  calls on the Assembly “to declare that we stand with all women against the injustice of any forced or coerced abortions.” Arguing that “a high percentage (64%) of abortions are NOT the woman’s choice,” but are forced upon them by others, this overture also contends that women having abortions are often victims, who must be protected against these forms of “violence and injustice.”


Proposed new Form of Government

Two overtures have been submitted in response the the report and recommendation of the Form of Government Task Force.

Overture 044, from the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee, asks the Assembly to receive the report with thanks, and to refer it to the church “for an additional period of study and discernment.”

Overture 029, from the Presbytery of Western Reserve, would amend 3.0109 of the proposed Form of Government “to Allow Flexibility in the Composition of Committees,” specifically in balancing the ratio of minister members and others on various committees.

Evangelical pastor Bob Campbell comments on OVT 011 and the FOG report:

Doug –

I was browsing the overtures at Presbyterian Voices for Justice (nice name, can Evangelicals join?) and one of them raised a question for me: 011. If the GA “call(s) for a moratorium until the 220th General Assembly (2012) on motions and overtures that would change, alter, or remove the current standards of ordination for the offices of deacon, elder, and minister of Word and Sacrament” wouldn’t that mean that the nFOG would be put off until 2012? It does change things in Chapter 14 of the FoG!

[Your WebWeaver responded to this by mentioning my general sense that many people, from right, left, and center, may want to delay action on the Form of Government proposal, for a variety of reasons. Bob Campbell replied:]

My sense is that even if it passes the GA it will fail in the presbyteries. The major reason is trust. The nFOG Task Force comes right out and talks about trust and says we will have to trust to use the nFOG. But you can’t dictate trust. It has to be built up.

Robert Campbell, Pastor
Tully Memorial Presbyterian Church
Sharon Hill, PA

Another little note from your WebWeaver:

Campbell asks another very interesting question: “Can Evangelicals join Presbyterian Voices for Justice?” My personal response is certainly a very warm YES, of course! After all, many of us on the “liberal” side of the church would quite happily call ourselves Evangelicals too – if that refers to someone who believes, proclaims, and attempts to live out the Good News, the “evangel” that Jesus announced and enacted.

Doug King


Creating a new synod for conservatives

Overture 036, from the Presbytery of Santa Barbara, calls for the creation of a new, non-geographical synod, upon the decision of three presbyteries to join such a body, which would “maintain the standards for ordination and continuing ministry,” which mean, of course, such doctrinal affirmations as “the singular saving work of Jesus Christ, [and] the unique and authoritative witness of Scripture,” along with “the standard that its officers will live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” The synod would also provide to its presbyteries and congregations some statement such as the “Essential Tenets and Reformed Distinctives” statement which was adopted by the Presbytery of San Diego in 2003. And of course the synod “will celebrate marriages only between a man and woman.”

Click here to read a thoughtful analysis of this proposal, which has been prepared by the Rev. Margaret Thomas.

And click here for a report on an action of the Presbytery of the Pacific, which rejected a similar overture proposal.

And non-geographical presbyteries as well --

Along the same lines, Beaver-Butler Presbytery has submitted Overture 045,  which aims to “provide flexibility in presbytery membership,” by replacing the current definition of the presbytery as consisting of churches and ministers within a defined geographical area, so that it would instead include those “who have chosen to affiliate based on geographic, theological, missional or other considerations of importance to those congregations.”

The rationale for this proposal includes the basic affirmation that “Jesus Christ alone is head of the church. Jesus alone is the source of the church’s unity.” And there is also the familiar affirmation of G-1.0301(1)(a), that “God alone is Lord of the conscience ...” Further, the rational includes the affirmation in G-3.0401d that the church today is called “to a new openness to God’s continuing reformation of the Church ecumenical ...”

These are all affirmations which most of us on the “liberal” side of the church would certainly affirm heartily, so the debate on this may be interesting.


To leave Belhar Confession out of the Book of Confessions

Overture 014, from the Presbytery of Sacramento, would reverse the action of the 2008 Assembly by discontinuing the effort to include the Belhar Confession in the Book of Confessions. While written and adopted in the church of South Africa, and reflecting the particular challenges faced by the church in that formerly white-dominated African nation, its inclusion in the PC(USA) Book of Confessions has been seen as a way of affirming explicitly God’s call to shape church and society in ways that transcend racial divisions.

This overture would reject such inclusion not to justify racism, but because the Belhar Confession, it says, “is a complex and somewhat confusing document, which some parties—theologians as well as the ordained and laity—have attempted to use to press issues other than racial equality. This overly broad application of the Belhar Confession to champion liberation theology in general or same-sex causes in particular produces a conflicted response to its antiracism message.”

The call to reject the Belhar Confession is couched, then, in a pious affirmation to “uphold the oneness of all believers,” as long as LGBT believers are not included. A confessional rejection of racism is fine, apparently. But not a similar rejection of gender discrimination.

See a very helpful presentation on the Belhar Confession
by Allen Boesak, theologian from South Africa


On the right of Christian Educators to a role in presbyteries

Mission Presbytery’s Overture 026 proposes two amendments to the Book of Order (G-11.0407 and G-14.0730), to make clear that Certified Christian Educators are “entitled” to play an active role in their presbyteries. And those who are ordained elders have both voice and vote, whether or not they are currently serving in a ministry under the jurisdiction of the presbytery.


This is a work in process, and I would greatly appreciate comments, corrections, and suggestions, either to be posted with credit to the author, or simply to be considered in my own next revision. Please send a note, and tell me whether to post it, or just to think about it.

Doug King



GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly have now been acted upon by the presbyteries, confirming most of them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We provided resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest have been:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which  removes the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.  Approved!

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.  Disapproved, because as an amendment to the Book of Confessions it needed a 2/3 vote, and did not receive that.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which  adopts the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.   Approved.

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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