From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Spirit of Conciliation marks procedures committee report

Date 21 Jun 2002 08:12:00 -0400

Note #7312 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


Spirit of Conciliation marks procedures committee report

by Jane Hines

COLUMBUS, OH - The Assembly Committee on General Assembly Procedures responded to Overture 02-15 on setting aside an authoritative interpretation that requires presbyteries to pay the per capita not paid by a session with a statement that committee member John Crawford, of Cimarron Presbytery, termed a mode of "persuasion, not coercion."  

The recommendation adopted by a vote of 483 to 86 reads:   

"Whereas, giving to the church must be based upon a joyful response to God's providence and grace; and

"Whereas, our polity is based upon connectional, covenantal relationship of governing bodies to one another and to higher governing bodies, the 214th General Assembly (2002) expresses its concern that, for many reasons, churches do not pay their share of per capita; 

"Therefore be it resolved, that presbyteries are urged (1) to partner with those churches who struggle financially to pay per capita and (2) to work pastorally with those sessions who choose to withhold their per capita.  Individual sessions are reminded that to withhold per capita puts at jeopardy the connectional and covenantal nature of our church that is affirmed by our ordination vows.

"We call on the General Assembly agencies and presbyteries to work to alleviate the problems that lead to withholding so that the church may proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world.  We believe that at such a time as this, it is not wise or prudent to change the current understanding of the way per capita is collected and transmitted.  Nevertheless, presbyteries are encouraged to raise per capita payments from churches through voluntary payments in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 9:7: 'Each of you much give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (NRSV)'"

An amendment that would have "those churches not paying their per capita to be reported to the 215th General Assembly with reasons given for not paying," was defeated.

The Assembly agreed with the committee recommendation to disapprove Overture 02-49, which would direct the Office of the General Assembly to prepare a study of costs and consequences of litigation related to G-6.0106b, the section of the Book of Order requiring church officers to practice "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness."  

This comment from the Assembly Committee was adopted:  "The 214th General Assembly is deeply concerned with the pain and financial hardship this has caused because of the increasing litigation currently taking place in our church.  We therefore call all parties in disagreement to be mindful of the principles of church discipline and to strive unceasingly to be reconciled to each other.  Specifically, we strongly encourage all parties to carefully and prayerfully consider D-1.0103."

Commissioners voted 316-137 in favor of having General Assemblies elect members of the General Assembly Nominating Committee. The General Assembly moderator currently appoints nominating committee members.

The Assembly voted to amend its standing rules by directing that when a commissioners' resolution "affects a substantial change in an existing social witness policy, the Stated Clerk should recommend to the Assembly Committee on Bills and Overtures that it be referred to the next General Assembly."

The General Assembly approved a commissioners' resolution requiring nonprofit organizations to submit certain financial data, disapproved a resolution to increase the number of at-large members of the Committee on Ecumenical Relations, and disapproved a resolution on the definition of chastity found in the constitution. To the latter was added this comment:  

"The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) is charged in the Standing Rules with supervision of the Office of the Stated Clerk and annually reviews his work.  Our review indicates a real working knowledge on the Stated Clerk's part of the complexity of the issues surrounding G-6.0106b, its language, and is firmly grounded in the confessions of our church.  Commissioner Resolution 01-18 may be an attempt to assert that the Stated Clerk has failed to meet the author's expectation related to teachings in The Book of Confessions.  The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly notes, with interest, that all but one of the citations in the commissioners' resolution come from the index to the confessions, prepared by the Stated Clerk, to make available to the whole church the teachings of the confessions on important concerns in the life of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  The committee notes that the Stated Clerk has consistently advised the church that those e!
ngaging in sexual relations outside of marriage should not be ordained.  Further, COGA knows of no permanent judicial commission decision or authoritative interpretations that define "chastity" and that would serve as the basis for an advisory opinion by the Stated Clerk."
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