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29 May 2003 @ 11:31 pm
Presbyteria  
A couple of exciting news items from the 215th General Assembly, the annual meeting of the highest governing body of the Presbyterian Church (USA), of which I am a member and ordained elder.

* On Saturday, the Rev. Susan Andrews was elected moderator, or presiding officer, of the 215th General Assembly. She's the first woman pastor to be elected moderator, which I think is a big deal considering there are several Presbyterian denominations who don't ordain women at all. Also, she is, I believe, the first person to be elected Moderator from the National Capital Presbytery, of which I am also a member. (Also, I played a tiny, tiny part in her election: I was an elder commissioner to the March meeting of the National Capital Presbytery, and I voted in favor to the motion to endorse Andrews's candidacy.)

Being elected Moderator of the General Assembly is a bigger deal than it might sound from the title. In addition to moderating the meeting of the General Assembly, she will also serve as the public face of the church for the next year. The Moderator is sort of like a queen: she doesn't have any power to speak of -- doctrinal questions are voted on at the presbytery level, and the day-to-day operations of the Church are managed by the Stated Clerk -- but she's the public face of the church.

* On Tuesday, the Committee on Church Orders and Ministry approved an overture to repeal Section G6.0106b of the PC(USA) Constitution. G6.0106b is commonly known as the "fidelity and chastity" amendment, and it states that ordained ministers and elders in the Presbyterian Church (USA) must either live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

Since G6.0106b was added to the Book of Order in 1997, there have been two failed attempts to remove it, following the General Assemblies of 1997 and 2001. (I support the repeal and voted to repeal it when the issue came before Presbytery in 2001.) If the General Assembly accepts the recommendation of the Committee, the question will be referred to the Presbyteries. A simple majority of the 173 Presbyteries must approve any overture before it is ratified. But first the GA has to accept it; they rejected a similar overture last year. I've got my fingers crossed that it will be accepted by the GA and that it will be ratified this time around
 
 
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rukiruki77 on May 30th, 2003 06:54 am (UTC)
Love the icon... I was in Godspell in college and I sang that line in the show...
Kerrykls on May 30th, 2003 07:01 am (UTC)
I'm curious--will the rule be changed or eliminated? Is the issue about fidelity and chastity, or about "a man and a woman"?
Pearsonpersona on May 30th, 2003 08:25 am (UTC)
It'll almost certainly be eliminated. Granted, floor amendments can do wacky things if a sufficient number of delegates are organized enough. But the only compromise language that has seriously been discussed is moving from (paraphrasing) "fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness" to "fidelity and integrity in all relationships in life", and even that never got much support from the socially conservative arms of the PC(USA). So chances are this will go out for yet another up or down vote, and I'd be very surprised if it doesn't yet again get panned by the Presbyteries.

As to the second question, here's the full text of the paragraph in question (Book of Order 6.0106b); I think it answers you itself:

Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.

Oh, and since jheaton is a relatively new friend of mine, I'll come out as a YAD to the '98 GA in Charlotte, NC from the San José Presbytery.
Pearsonpersona on May 30th, 2003 03:03 pm (UTC)
Not going to Presbyteries
This just in from the live video feed: The overture was substituted for an action that basically takes no action, instead pointing to the Theological Task Force on Peace, Purity, and Unity of the Curch that is currently dealing with these ordination issues and should issue a report to the next GA (I think). So the Presbyteries will not even get to vote on the Hudson River overture to remove 6.0106b.
John Heaton: religionjheaton on May 30th, 2003 10:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Not going to Presbyteries
So I *still* have to be chaste in my singleness? Shoot.
Rusty: woz godrustydog on May 30th, 2003 08:18 pm (UTC)
Okay, I've read all the comments, but my unsubtle, ignorant mind is still wondering. Is the issue with that amendment that some people want to change it so that gay ministers can be ordained? (If they can't already, I don't know.) And others want the opposite? Or that they really are worried about the dangers of marital infidelity?

That's probably the completely wrong question, but it's what I wondered when I read your post. I also saw a headline about the Presbyterians today. I can't remember it though.

...okay, I looked up the article. This sounds like it might be the same thing you were talking about? I guess it was written for people like me.
John Heaton: religionjheaton on May 30th, 2003 10:26 pm (UTC)
Is the issue with that amendment that some people want to change it so that gay ministers can be ordained? (If they can't already, I don't know.) And others want the opposite? Or that they really are worried about the dangers of marital infidelity?

Yeah, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. It's entirely about preventing the ordination of homosexuals. To the best of my knowledge, none of the cases alleging violations of G6.0106b involve marital infidelity or heterosexual fornication.

Heh. Fornication.
Rustyrustydog on May 30th, 2003 10:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks. You just have to spell things out for me. :)

Hee. "Fornication" almost doesn't sound dirty, it just sounds more fun.