Six members named to Special Committee on Existing Authoritative Interpretations
Group slated to begin its work early next year
October 20, 2010
Acting upon a recommendation approved by the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), elder Cynthia Bolbach, assembly Moderator, has appointed members to the Special Committee on Existing Authoritative Interpretations of the Book of Order.
The special committee was recommended in light of this summer’s General Assembly adoption of a revised Form of Government. The revision requires approval by a majority of the PC(USA)’s 173 presbyteries between now and the end of spring next year to become an official part of the Book of Order within the denomination’s Constitution.
This year’s assembly has asked the special committee to “make recommendations to the 220th General Assembly (2012) concerning the status of specific existing authoritative interpretations of the Constitution based on the Status of Authoritative Interpretations [by the ACC] as shown below:
While the status and applicability of any authoritative interpretation is subject to the judgment of the assembly, it is the considered judgment of the ACC that if this proposal to amend the Form of Government were to be approved, generally speaking the status of authoritative interpretations would vary according to the relationship of newly approved language to previous language.
- If language approved in the Constitution explicitly restates the content of existing authoritative interpretations, it is no longer an authoritative interpretation but is incorporated into the Constitution.
- If language is approved that is identical to, or essentially the same as the language of constitutional provisions that have already been interpreted, current authoritative interpretations would continue in force. The ACC believes this would apply, for example, to authoritative interpretations regarding current [Form of Government’s] G-6.0106b, G-6.0108, G-8.0201, and G-9.0404d.
- If language is approved that is substantively different from currently interpreted constitutional language, clarification from the General Assembly would be required as to the status and applicability of existing authoritative interpretations through the provisions of G-13.0103r.
- If language is approved that contradicts the substance of an existing authoritative interpretation, the current interpretation would have no effect.
- If language is approved that totally removes a constitutional provision that has been authoritatively interpreted, the authoritative interpretations attached to that provision would be removed as well.
An authoritative interpretation is an interpretation of the PC(USA)’s Constitution that carries the authority of the General Assembly and is binding on the governing bodies of the church. According to G-13.0103r in the Book of Order, these interpretations are made by the action of a General Assembly upon the advice of the ACC or through a decision of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly in deciding a remedial or disciplinary case. The most recent interpretation of a provision of the Book of Order shall be binding.
The special committee’s work is conditional based on the approval of the new Form of Government by a majority of presbyteries.
The assembly action specified that the six individuals named to the special committee come from recommendations by the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC), the Advisory Committee on the Constitution (ACC), and the Office of the General Assembly (OGA).
Appointed to the special committee, which will begin its work after the first of the year, are former GAPJC members the Reverend Fane Downs (Palo Duro Presbytery) and elder Steve Tabor (San Francisco Presbytery); former ACC members elder Alyson Janke (John Knox Presbytery) and the Reverend Neal Lloyd (Twin Cities Presbytery); and elders Laurie Griffith and Doska Ross, both of whom are OGA staff members.
The Reverend Mark Tammen, Office of the General Assembly, will provide staffing for the committee.