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Church Orders

July 3, 2012

Pittsburgh

The 220th General Assembly Church Orders and Ministry Committee jumped ahead in its agenda Monday evening and entertained a motion to approve an amended version of an overture from Sacramento Presbytery.

The committee will recommend that the full Assembly approve the following statement:

“Because:

  • Jesus taught that our highest ethical obligation is to ‘… love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself’ (Lk. 10:27); and this is how ‘everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn. 13:35);
  • having experienced Christ’s gracious love for us while we are yet sinners, we are called to ‘welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Rom. 15:7);
  • we affirm the solemn commitments expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination, installation, and commissioning, including that we intend to fulfill our ministries ‘in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and … continually guided by our confessions’; that that we will be friends among our colleagues in ministry; that we ‘seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love [our] neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world’ (Book of Order, W-4.4003);
  • we hold that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man’s salvation’ (The Book of Confessions, Second Helvetic Confession, 5.010);
  • the larger Catechism lifts up the duty of holding ‘… a charitable esteem of our neighbors,’ and forbids the sin of ‘… misconstruing intentions, words, and actions’ (The Book of Confessions, 7.254–.255).”

The 220th General Assembly (2012) acknowledges that faithful Presbyterians earnestly seeking to follow Jesus Christ hold different views about what the Scriptures teach concerning the morality of committed, same-gender relationships.

Therefore, while holding persons in ordered ministry to high standards of covenant fidelity in the exercise of their sexuality, as in all aspects of life, we acknowledge that the PC(USA) does not have one interpretation of scripture on this matter. We commit ourselves to continue respectful dialogue with those who hold differing convictions, to welcome one another for God’s glory, and not to vilify those whose convictions we believe to be in error. We call on all Presbyterians to join us in this commitment.

The amendment struck language from the Sacramento overture that said, “we decline to take an action that would have the effect of imposing on the whole Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) one interpretation of Scripture in this matter” and substituted the other wording because they thought they could not ask the Assembly not to take an action.

The committee also approved a comment that said they would request that this statement be brought before each presbytery.

The action became the answer to two other similar overtures, 07-18 from the Presbytery of Chicago and 07-24 from the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area.

The final vote to approve recommendation of the amended overture was 39 yes, 14 no, and 1 abstention.

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