On Thursday (July 5), the 220th General Assembly approved all of the Board of Pensions (BOP), Presbyterian Foundation and Presbyterian Publishing Corporation Assembly Committee’s recommendations.

With a close vote of 319-311-8, a commissioner’s resolution calling for the BOP to discuss a shared benefits plan with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians and other possible partners was the most contested item. The BOP will report its findings to the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly within one year for the purpose of possible actions by the 221st General Assembly (2014).

Commissioner John Hicks (Presbytery of Boise) spoke against the resolution, saying that many pastors are leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and taking their congregations with them.

“I really struggle with the concept of extending this fine pension plan to the women and men leaving this denomination,” he said.

Jim McCrea, a commissioner from Blackhawk Presbytery, spoke about the importance of grace toward pastors who leave the PC(USA).

“I would encourage us to do the graceful thing,” he said, speaking in favor of the resolution.

Other commissioners questioned how a conversation would proceed in light of theological and ideological differences between the PC(USA) and other denominations. Because it was formed in committee, the resolution involved no prior study, and the BOP would have to see how conversations go in the future, committee and BOP representatives said.

Commissioners approved the rest of the committee’s recommendations, including:

  • The commendation of a new denominational hymnal—“Glory to God”—which will be available in the fall of 2013
  • The disapproval of an overture calling the BOP to provide a medical plan that will not pay for abortions except to save the life of the woman
  • The disapproval of an overture proposing a relief-of-conscience option for installed teaching elders who disagree with the PC(USA)’s benefits plan, specifically provisions for the same-gender domestic partners of plan members.