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[PCUSANEWS] Assessing the amendments to the Constitution
PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
9 Jan 2003 16:01:56 -0500
Note #7556 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
Assessing the amendments to the Constitution
Assessing the amendments to the Constitution
Presbyteries are voting on 13 proposed changes
By Bill Lancaster
Reprinted from The Presbyterian Outlook
GREENVILLE, SC - The 214th General Assembly (2002) of the Presbyterian Church
(USA) approved 13 amendments to The Book of Order and recommended them to the
173 presbyteries for ratification.
A majority of the presbyteries must vote in the affirmative for an
amendment to pass. The votes will be reported to the 215th General Assembly
in Denver and all those ratified will take effect at that time.
Brief pro and con arguments are given for each amendment:
Amendment 02-A includes five subsections. They may be voted on as a group,
but each subsection stands as a separate amendment and a vote count must be
reported on each. These five would establish the ordination of Christian
educators as ministers of the Word and Sacrament with a specialization in
educational ministry. The fourth section is a grandparent clause that would
allow ordination as ministers for certain current Christian educators without
their having to meet the requirements for ministers. All of the
recommendations originated with the Task Force on Educational Design for the
Ordination of Christian Educators established by the 212th General Assembly
(2000). The task force did not consider creation of a fourth ordained office
for Christian educators.
Overall Pro: Educators who have master's degrees in Christian
education and/or have become certified are highly trained specialists who
have a key role in a denomination that emphasizes education. But the church
has not given educators the status, standards, compensation or support they
deserve. They are called by sessions and can be dismissed by sessions,
sometimes without adequate hearings, and are therefore vulnerable. Their
salaries tend to be low although they put in long, hard hours. Since
presbytery is not involved in their call, the role of presbytery in their
support and oversight is unclear. They have no vote at presbytery though they
may know more about the church and its beliefs than many elders (and some
ministers). Educators work through stiff requirements for certification,
while commissioned lay pastors, who have much less training, are allowed to
do almost anything a fully trained minister can do. Educators with little
formal training have little incentive, o!
ther than the love of doing a good job, to persevere through the long road to
certification, though doing so would strengthen the church's educational
ministry. Qualified educators need to be ordained.
Overall Con: Ordination is to a certain function in the church, not
to status or power. The function of the minister of the Word and Sacrament is
to properly preach the Word and administer the sacraments. The Book of Order
(G-6.0203) already provides for the designation of ministers of the Word and
Sacrament as "educators, chaplains, pastoral counselors, campus ministers,
missionaries, partners in mission, evangelists, administrators, social
workers, consultants or other specific tasks appropriate to the ministry of
the church" Many ministers serve in educational roles as associate pastors
for education, on presbytery staffs, in colleges or seminaries as professors.
These most often have extra formal training beyond the basic master of
divinity degree. Presbyteries may already ordain persons under the
extraordinary provisions. Why, then, these amendments? If it is simply to
give permission to people to pursue these routes, let the church do that
without amending the Constitu!
tion. The amendments are simply not necessary.
Amendment 02-A.1 would add the word "teacher" to the list of names describing
the duties of ministers of Word and Sacrament. The Advisory Committee on the
Constitution (ACC) advised the General Assembly to disapprove the addition.
The ACC said the change would "violate" the reason the section was restored
last year, which was to recapture "the historic definition of a minister as
pastor" traceable to the original Form of Government of 1789. The Assembly
Committee on Church Orders and Ministry recommended the change by a vote of
37/10/2 (for/against/abstain) and the Assembly approved the committee's
recommendation by a show of hands.
Pro: Teaching is a natural function of ministers, who have been referred to
as teaching elders in the past and who may be designated as "educators"
according to The Book of Order, G-6.0203.
Con: Ministers may already be designated as "educators," according to
G-6.0203. Therefore, there is no need to violate the historic definition,
which might lead to additions such as "chaplain," "pastoral counselor,"
"campus minister," etc. as found in G-6.0203.
Amendment 02-A.2 would establish standards and requirements for candidates
for the ministry of Word and Sacraments seeking specialization in educational
ministry. The ACC recommended disapproval of the proposed amendment saying
current language provides latitude for measuring the necessary qualifications
for ministers. The Assembly committee recommended approval by a vote of
42/9/0 and the Assembly approved the committee's recommendation by a voice
Pro: Those preparing for ministry with a specialization in education need to
be adequately prepared for their work, and these standards provide the
Con: Standards for specialized ministries such as educators, pastoral
counselors and others named in Book of Order G-6.0203 should be in a separate
manual and not in the Constitution, which already has the character of a
manual of operations. The Book of Order language already has adequate
Amendment 02-A.3 would permit a lesson planned and taught to be substituted
for a sermon in presbytery examinations for ministers of Word and Sacrament.
The ACC advised disapproval of the proposed amendment, saying that it is not
needed because presbyteries can already prescribe an additional demonstration
of ability for a specialized ministry, and because the addition would
"profoundly" change the requirements and theological bedrock for the office
of ministry. The Assembly committee recommended approval of the proposed
amendment by a vote of 29/22/0, and the Assembly approved the committee's
recommendation by a vote of 341/154/3.
Pro: The addition legitimizes the role of the minister of Word and Sacrament
as teacher and allows a candidate for ministry with specialization in
education to demonstrate, and the presbytery to evaluate, his or her ability
Con: Those who are to be ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, even
with a specialization in educational ministry, need to demonstrate an ability
to preach, because they may be expected to preach in the churches where they
are called, or to supply other pulpits, or to do interims. Qualifications for
the specialization should be in addition to, not in place of, qualifications
in preaching and in administration of the sacraments.
Amendment 02-A.4 is a grandparent clause that would allow certain educators
to be ordained as ministers of the Word and Sacrament without meeting the
educational requirements for ministers by a three-fourths vote of presbytery.
The presbytery may specify an alternative course of study (G-14.0313a). This
applies to a small number of highly trained, veteran educators who could not
or would not seek master of divinity degrees. The ACC advised disapproval of
the proposed amendment because presbyteries may already ordain persons by
waiving the educational requirements by a three-fourths vote and by
prescribing an alternate means of examination (G-14.0313). The Assembly
committee recommended approval by a vote of 39/10/0 and the Assembly approved
the recommendation by a vote of 327/169/7.
Pro: Most educators have not been ministers and, because they are
church employees who often don't belong to the church where they work, are
not asked to serve as elders, either. Just before Presbyterian reunion in
1983, the Presbyterian Church in the United States (southern stream) approved
a fourth ordained office for educators, but because of reunion the plan was
never implemented. The many hundreds of trained directors of Christian
education in that denomination (most of them women) were deeply disappointed.
The current proposal, shaped by the concern that a fourth ordained office
would create confusion and ecumenical difficulties, instead proposes slight
variations in the requirements for ministry of Word and Sacrament to attract
those whose principal interest is education. It also offers guidelines for
the extraordinary ordination, during a brief period, of certified educators,
some of whom have been waiting since 1983 for the church to resolve the
question of educators!
Con: Ordination is to serve the church, not the individual.
Ordination is to a function, not to status or power. Those who are ordained
ministers of Word and Sacrament should primarily fill the function of
preaching and administering the sacraments. This amendment serves the needs
of certain highly deserving, highly-trained educators, but the needs of the
church for them to be ordained to this function seems to be a secondary
consideration. The amendment is right to say this ordination should be done
only when a "presbytery determines that a strategy for mission requires it."
The amendment would present some difficult decisions for presbyteries, which
may feel pressed to reward qualified veteran educators with ordination,
though the strategies of mission do not require it. The Book of Order already
allows presbyteries to ordain persons by extraordinary means (G-14.0313).
Amendment 02-A.5 would permit a certified Christian educator who is approved
for ordination as a minister of Word and Sacrament to be elected as an
associate pastor in the congregation currently being served. This amendment
is dependent upon the approval of the previous amendment (02-A.4, the
grandparent clause). The ACC recommended disapproval of this proposed
amendment because it goes against the premise that a full, open search be
conducted for any pastoral position. The Assembly committee recommended
approval by a vote of 27/19/0 and the Assembly approved the recommendation by
a vote of 327/169/7.
Pro: A certified Christian educator approved for ordination under
02-4.A shouldn't have to search for a new position in which to serve. The
session and congregation aren't seeking to create a new position, but to
ordain the current person and convert the position to that of associate
Con: Even when a congregation is completely satisfied with the person
and work of a certified Christian educator, a full, open search is needed for
this broadened position.
Amendment 02-B would provide for the election of members of the General
Assembly Nominating Committee by the General Assembly rather than by their
appointment by previous General Assembly moderators. They would be nominated
by the previous moderator and elected by the Assembly. The proposed amendment
originated with overture 02-16 from the Presbytery of Western Colorado and
was referred to the Assembly Committee on General Assembly Procedures. The
ACC recommended disapproval of the overture, as did the Committee on the
Office of the General Assembly (COGA) and the Advocacy Committee on Racial
Ethnic Concerns. The ACC recommended alternate language if the action was
approved. The Assembly committee recommended approval of the ACC's alternate
wording by a vote of 40/3/0 and the Assembly approved the committee's
recommendation by a vote of 361/137/7.
Pro: General Assembly moderators wield a great deal of power in
appointing Assembly committee moderators, vice-moderators and committee
assistants in consultation with COGA and the stated clerk. Selection of
nominating committee members, who nominate persons to fill a wide array of
boards, agencies and committees that serve throughout the years should belong
to the wider governing body than to an individual. The same distribution of
synods, ministers, laywomen and laymen would be required.
Con: The role of the moderator in selecting these persons would be
diminished. The present system assures appointments in accord with the
Assembly that elected the moderator.
Amendment 02-C includes five subsections. They may be voted on as a group but
each subsection stands as a separate amendment and a vote count must be
reported on each. Two of the five (02-C.3 and 02-C.4) are contingent on
passage of the first one. These five would add the position of Certified
Associate Christian Educator to The Book of Order (02-C.1), add worship and
sacraments to the list of subjects on which an educator must be examined to
become certified (02-C.2), add responsibilities of presbyteries in regard to
Certified Christian Educators (02-C.3), require compensation and benefits
guidelines for Certified Christian Educators (02-C.4), and require presbytery
Committees on Ministry to oversee Certified Christian Educators (and
Certified Associate Christian Educators). These amendments were referred to
the Assembly Committee on Church Orders and Ministry.
Amendment 02-C.1 would add the position of Certified Associate Christian
Educator to The Book of Order. The ACC advised the Assembly that this
proposed amendment moves The Book of Order away from being a constitutional
document and toward being a manual of operations. The Assembly committee
recommended approval by a vote of 46/4/0 and the Assembly approved the
recommendation with no objections.
Pro: This allows educators without master's degrees to gain extra
training and be certified.
Amendment 02-C.2 would add worship and sacraments to the list of subjects on
which an educator must be examined in order to be certified. The ACC advised
the Assembly that this proposed amendment moves The Book of Order away from
being a constitutional document and toward being a manual of operations. The
Assembly committee recommended approval by a vote of 46/4/0 and the Assembly
approved the committee's recommendation with no objections.
Pro: This is a major part of the church's life about which educators
teach, and should be required.
Amendment 02-C.3 would require presbyteries to keep and report records
regarding both categories of certified educators. The ACC advised that these
would be helpful additions. The Assembly committee recommended approval by a
vote of 46/4/0 and the Assembly approved the recommendation with no
Pro: This is a non-controversial housekeeping matter.
Amendment 02-C.4 would require compensation and benefits guidelines for
Certified Associate Christian Educators. The ACC advised the Assembly that
this proposed amendment moves The Book of Order away from being a
constitutional document and toward being a manual of operations. The Assembly
committee recommended approval by a vote of 46/4/0 and the Assembly approved
the recommendation with no objections.
Pro: This is already provided for Certified Christian Educators and
should also be provided for Certified Associate Christian Educators if 02-C.1
Amendment 02-C.5 would require presbytery Committees on Ministry to oversee
Certified Christian Educators (and Certified Associate Christian Educators).
The ACC advised disapproval, saying this makes oversight mandatory, while
current language gives Certified Christian Educators full access without
being mandated. The Assembly committee recommended approval by a vote of
31/10/0 and the Assembly approved the recommendation without objections.
Pro: This would afford support and oversight for educators who are
often left alone at the mercy of the sessions that employ them.
Con: It would add to an already full load carried by Committees on
Ministry, and certified educators already have access to that support and
Amendment 02-D would clarify the meaning of the term "conference" when used
with investigating committees. The ACC suggested alternative language to the
originating presbytery's overture. The Assembly Committee on Church Polity
recommended approval of the ACC wording by a vote of 49/0/0 and the Assembly
approved the recommendation with no objections.
Pro: This is a useful clarification.
Amendment 02-E would do away with the extension on time limits (statute of
limitations) when an alternative form of resolution (D-10.0202g, 1-4) is
initiated in investigative proceedings. This originated with a 2000 overture
for 13 changes in The Book of Order from the Presbytery of Tropical Florida.
It was referred to the Office of the General Assembly, which reduced it to
five, and the Assembly reduced it to one. The ACC recommended approval. The
Assembly Committee on Church Polity recommended approval by a vote of 44/5/0
and the Assembly approved the committee's recommendation by a vote of
Pro: Removing the extension on the statute of limitations would
prevent the introduction of an open-ended mediation period.
Con: If the extension is removed, the statute of limitations might
expire while the investigating committee is pursuing an alternate resolution,
meaning that charges could not subsequently be filed should the alternative
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