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Milwaukee Overture Defeated
PCUSA NEWS <email@example.com>
20 Jun 1998 22:11:00
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Milwaukee Overture Defeated;
No Sexuality Amendment this Year
by Jerry Van Marter
CHARLOTTE--By an overwhelming margin of 412-92, the 210th General Assembly
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has voted not to send another amendment
on sexual standards for ordination to the presbyteries this year.
After brief debate June 19, the Assembly voted to disapprove Overture
98-37 from Milwaukee Presbytery, which would have asked the presbyteries
whether they want to delete G-6.0106b -- the "fidelity and chastity"
requirement for church officers -- from "The Book of Order."
At the same time, the Assembly approved a new authoritative
interpretation of the constitution affirming the denomination's commitment
to "consider the lives and behaviors of candidates [for ordination] as
individuals...and not to exclude anyone categorically."
The authoritative interpretation of G-6.0106b and G-4.0403 was proposed
by the Advisory Committee on Women's Concerns in response to a 1997
overture from Chicago Presbytery. It passed 355-179 and reaffirms what has
been implied in "The Book of Order" -- that candidates for ordination are
judged individually and not on the basis of their age, race, class, gender
and sexual orientation.
The Rev. Carol McDonald of Wabash Valley Presbytery, chair of the
Assembly Committee on Church Orders and Ministry which brought the matter
to the Assembly, described the committee's process in considering the
overture as "a discernment process about what God is calling us to be and
Speaking to the authoritative interpretation, she said, "It is very
clear to us that people matter...that we consider not who a person is but
what a person does...and we trust our presbyteries and congregations to
determine the fitness of individuals based upon their behavior."
An accompanying comment to the disapproval of the Milwaukee overture
states: "It is our hope that dialogue can, will and must continue on this
topic [sexual standards for ordination]." McDonald said she trusts that
Presbyterians "will continue to speak our consciences and will continue the
To that end, the Assembly also directed that a national conference of
Presbyterians be convened within the next six months "to address the
theological and ethical issues in the current crisis." The conference,
approved in response to Overture 98-65 from National Capital Presbytery
will be called, "The Nature of the Unity We Seek in Our Diversity."
The conference, which was authorized on a voice vote by the Assembly,
"is to focus on an informed analysis of the modern history of
ecclesiastical conflicts within the Reformed tradition and their
resolution; the nature of and need for justice in church and society; the
meaning of the love and grace of Jesus Christ in Reformed theology; and the
values and contributions of our various diversities in light of the unity
already given to us."
The Assembly's decision not to send down an amendment on sexual
standards for ordination this year honored a request by a number of
denominational leaders for a "sabbatical" on the ordination debate.
Similar requests for no more amendments this year were issued prior to
the Assembly by stated clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, by the leaders of "The
Presbyterian Coalition" and the "Covenant Network of Presbyterians" -- the
major advocacy organizations on each side of the ordination standards
debate -- and all three candidates for moderator of this year's Assembly.
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