Polity Committee refuses to permit those who renounce jurisdiction to do church work

June 22, 2016

Polity and Ordered Ministry Committee.

Polity and Ordered Ministry Committee. —Michael Whitman

Portland

Teaching elders involved in disciplinary cases who have renounced the PC(USA)’s jurisdiction and remain outside it would continue to be barred from church work under an overture approved by the Church Polity and Ordered Ministry Committee Tuesday.

The action took place during the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), meeting June 18-25 in Portland.

Donna Wells, stated clerk of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, which submitted the overture, told the committee that she has seen only four cases in 16 years in which elders have renounced the church’s jurisdiction. “It’s a very serious step for someone to renounce, and it’s usually not done lightly,” she said.

That recommendation is one of more than a dozen the committee has forwarded to the full General Assembly meeting this week.

Also on Tuesday, the committee voted unanimously to turn down an overture that even its advocate couldn’t argue for. The overture, on the roles of permanent judicial commissions (PJCs) and the Advisory Committee on the Constitution (ACC), would have given PJCs a power they’ve never had before, said ACC member Alyson Janke – the right to overrule General Assembly decisions.

The committee approved, 43-11, with amendments, a commissioner’s resolution on disputes over church property.

David Green, of the Presbytery of New Covenant, said the church is being sued by numerous congregations seeking dismissal from the PC(USA) but wanting to keep their property. “We need your prayers,” he said, “because we are being clobbered.”

“And if you would encourage the conversation” among states whose laws conflict with church law, “we would be very grateful,” he said.

On Monday, the committee recommended disapproval of six items of business and assented to three.

Among those disapproved was an overture from the Synod of the Northeast that would have allowed for election of elders to individual commissions without requiring service on the session.

The committee unanimously declined an overture from the Presbytery of Lake Erie that would have allowed ruling elders to attend session meetings virtually – through electronic means – while, for example, they are away on business.

The panel approved, with amendments, an overture from the Presbytery of Great Rivers that would strike the phrase “commissioned lay pastor” from the Book of Order and replace it with “commissioned pastor,” also known as commissioned ruling elder.

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