The individuals who will serve on the Special Committee to Consider Amending the Confessional Documents of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to Include the Belhar Confession in The Book of Confessions have been announced.

The 218th General Assembly (2008) of the PC(USA) took action to initiate the process to consider including the Belhar Confession in the church’s confessional documents by appointing a committee to study the possible addition.

The PC(USA)’s Book of Order (G-18.0201b) provides the details of how such amendments to  the church’s confessional documents are to be considered, including a description of the formation of the committee itself.

The provision states, “Amendments to the confessional documents of this church may be made only in the following manner: (1) the approval of the proposed amendment by the General Assembly and its recommendation to the presbyteries; (2) the approval in writing of two thirds of the presbyteries; and (3) the approval and enactment by the next ensuing General Assembly.

G-18.0201b further states that, prior to any such amendment being sent to presbyteries, the assembly “shall appoint a committee of elders and ministers, numbering not less than fifteen, to consider the proposal, of whom not more than two shall be from one synod. The committee shall consult with the committee or governing body … in which the amendment originated, and report its recommendations to the next ensuring General Assembly.”

The next assembly will convene in Minneapolis in June 2010.

In its action, the 218th General Assembly (2008) noted that this special committee would be “separate from any committee assigned to the Heidelberg Catechism,” already in The Book of Confessions. That catechism is being studied by another committee of 15, which is focusing on correcting translations problems within the confessional document.

The assembly's action also directed "the Moderators of the 216th, 217th, and 218th General Assemblies to name the committee to consider including the Belhar Confession, in consultation with the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, and the Office of Theology and Worship.”

Named to the special committee are the Reverends J. C. Austin (New York City Presbytery), Jennifer Ayres (Chicago Presbytery), Katie G. Cannon (Philadelphia Presbytery), Aurelio A. Garcia (Presbiterio de San Juan), Jin. S. Kim (Twin Cities Presbytery), Mark Lomax (Greater Atlanta Presbytery), David P. Moessner (John Knox Presbytery), Paul Parsons (Heartland Presbytery), George W. Stroup, III (Cherokee Presbytery), Jerry Tankersley (Los Ranchos Presbytery), Eugene G. Turner (Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery); and elders Jane Dempsey Douglass (San Gabriel Presbytery), Leslie McClure (Middle Tennessee Presbytery), Judith Pingel (Sierra Blanca Presbytery), and Y. Dianna Wright (Salem Presbytery).

Pingel will serve as chairperson of the group.

Staffing the committee will be the Reverend Joseph D. Small, director of Theology, Worship and Education (General Assembly Council), and the Reverend Fairfax F. Fair, pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Ky., on behalf of the Office of the General Assembly.

The Reverend Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008), also named a replacement to another special committee at work in response to an action by last summer’s assembly. The Reverend Earl B. Arnold (Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery) will fill the vacancy left by the Reverend Steve Hancock (Arkansas Presbytery) on the General Assembly Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage.