The Church Orders and Ministry Committee of the 219th General Assembly heard many personal stories surrounding ordination standards Monday, both from overture advocates and during the open hearings.
To no one’s surprise, the statements covered a wide variety of convictions and experiences.
During the open hearings, commissioners heard from many in favor of and opposed to upholding the PC(USA)’s current ordination standards as outlined in the Book of Order (G-6.0106b) – officers in the church must either be faithful in marriage between a man and a woman or be chaste in singleness.
Among those in favor of upholding this standard had been counseled by organizations like One by One and Outpost Ministries in turning away from same-sex attractions and gay lifestyles.
Commissioners also heard from those who pushed for broader ordination standards. Many youth from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta spoke in favor of inclusivity, as did several Presbyterians who have faced barriers because of the standards.
Some overture advocates opted to pool their presentation time to deliver more cohesive arguments. Several advocates called for authoritative interpretations. The Rev. Jerry Andrews, co-moderator of the Presbyterian Coalition, spoke for several presbyteries in favor of maintaining ordination standards and said that Jesus is the one authority of the church and his will is set forward in Scripture.
On the other side of the debate, 21 overture advocates collaborated to call for the deletion or amendment of G-6.0106b, saying the standards create two classes of members.
Commissioners broke into small groups to discuss overtures in these three categories. Many reported that while the issue of ordination standards is tiring and divisive, a moratorium would feel like shirking responsibilities and would not bring peace.
In other business, the committee approved an overture affirming the role of Certified Christian Educators (CCE). The overture directs presbyteries to give CCEs and Certified Associate Christian Educators voice only, and CCEs who are also ordained elders voice and vote, while they serve under the jurisdiction of the presbytery.
The committee also approved an overture calling for an evaluation of the PC(USA)’s call system that would make recommendations to the 220th General Assembly (2012). The goal is to find ways to shorten the amount of time that churches seeking a pastor are without one.