The 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted by a more than 2-to-1 margin Wednesday to send the proposed Foundations of Presbyterian Polity and revised Form of Government to the presbyteries for ratification.
The Assembly voted 468 to 204 with 6 abstentions.
Elder Cindy Bolbach, newly elected moderator of the 219th General Assembly, had served as co-moderator of the Form of Government Task Force. She passed the gavel to the Rev. Landon Whitsitt, vice moderator of the 219th General Assembly, to moderate the discussion on the proposed revision to the first part of the PC(USA) Constitution.
After the vote, Bolbach called the Assembly’s action a “monumental day for the church.” She said the revised Form of Government is a “step forward for the church to not just survive, but thrive.”
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, said the revised Form of Government will “reboot the Constitution,” adding that it will enable all bodies of the church to be “more responsive to their context.”
The vote on the revised Form of Government followed the defeat of a substitute motion that would have made the document available again for review by the presbyteries, which would be able to submit suggestions for revision.
Speaking against the substitute motion, the Rev. Eric Nielsen, commissioner from Northern Waters Presbytery, said the document had already been “sent out to every church in the denomination. … We’ve had four years.”
The substitute motion failed by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
Following the defeat of the substitute motion, the Rev. Jin Kim of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area spoke in favor of the new document. He said the new Constitution is a call to halt the “erosion of trust” in the denomination and provide an opportunity to eliminate the “excessive legalism” in the existing Form of Government.
The Rev. Dan Williams, who co-moderated the task force for the past two years after moderating the 2008 Assembly committee that considered the document in San Jose, Calif., said he felt “gratified and affirmed” after the vote. “This provides possibilities for the church going forward.”