The 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rejected a return to the language of “fidelity and chastity” in its ordination standards and instead approved a statement saying the Assembly acknowledges that the PC(USA) “does not have one interpretation of Scripture on this matter.”
The Assembly approved the recommendation of its Church Orders and Ministry Committee, which included a comment with the recommendation that “this statement be brought before each presbytery at a stated meeting in which the report” from this Assembly is given.
The vote was 405-230-7.
A minority report had been offered that would have required of teaching elders, ruling elders and deacons a commitment “to live a chaste and disciplined life, whether in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or in single life.”
Commissioner Jeff Krehbiel, from National Capital Presbytery, argued against the minority report saying, “This would put us back into the same area as the one we just changed in 10-A” after the 219th Assembly (2010). Amendment 10-A removed “fidelity and chastity” language from the ordination standards.
Commissioner Bill Budrick, from John Calvin Presbytery, argued for the minority report, saying, “It would repair the biblical breach that has formed in our denomination.”
On the other hand, the Assembly approved inserting the terms “repentance of sin” and “means of grace” into the Book of Order paragraph G-2.0104a concerning “Gifts and Qualifications” for ordained persons.
The new paragraph G-2.0104a would then say, “To those called to exercise special functions in the church—deacons, ruling elders, and teaching elders—God gives suitable gifts for their various duties. In addition to possessing the necessary gifts and abilities, those who undertake particular ministries should be persons of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world. This includes repentance of sin and diligent use of the means of grace. They must have the approval of God’s people and the concurring judgment of a council of the church.” This amendment will be sent to the 173 presbyteries for ratification.
In other action, the Assembly approved keeping the terms “teaching elder” and “ruling elder” rather than changing back to “minister of Word and Sacrament” and elder. The Rev. Paul Hooker of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution told the Assembly that “minister of Word and Sacrament” and ‘elder” are used in several parts of the Book of Order and may be used along with the other terms.