E. Quinn Fox addresses Committee 06 - Church Polity and Ordered Ministry - at the 223rd General Assembly.

E. Quinn Fox addresses Committee 06 — Church Polity and Ordered Ministry — at the 223rd General Assembly. —Photo by: Michael Whitman

After taking an overnight break, the Assembly Committee on Church Polity and Ordered Ministry continued grappling with how to move the ideals of paid family leave forward in the face of policy and financial constraints.

While acknowledging that the Board of Pensions cannot be directed to add paid family leave benefits, the committee is still recommending to the assembly that the BOP be urged to add a benefits package of eight weeks of paid family leave and four weeks of unpaid family leave for parents of new children and in cases of critical family need.

The previous recommendations that the Assembly establish a task force on family leave policy and benefits, and a recommendation that all PC(USA) agencies be required and all mid councils and congregations be urged to develop quality family leave policies, are still also going to the Assembly.

The committee was also charged with continuing to grapple with issues of restorative justice, which is when a person who previously renounced the jurisdiction of the PC(USA) during a disciplinary proceeding seeks to be readmitted to a leadership position. Describing the pathway for restoration continues to be a linguistic challenge to make sure the process and wording are accurately represented in the Book of Order. Just like several other overtures that would amend the Rules of Discipline, the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution was to refer the overtures to the Rules of Discipline Task Force, which is currently revising the Rules of Discipline and will report with suggested changes to the 224th General Assembly (2020).

“I’m grateful for that trust in us,” said the Rev. Paige McRight, a member of the Rules of Discipline Task Force and an advocate for the overtures. “But it seems that the church deserves clarity in this matter earlier than the three years it will take before the Rules of Discipline changes take effect.”

The committee agreed with most of the recommendations in the overtures and is presenting a blended recommendation on procedures to be followed in such cases until the new rules are in force.

In other business, the committee is bringing to the Assembly their recommendations to:

  • Decline to add accommodations for some state laws to the property trust clause of the PC(USA)

  • Refine language in the Book of Order to make consistent references to ministers of the Word and sacrament, previously referred to as teaching elders

  • Decline to grant standing to the Administrative Personnel Association in the Form of Government

  • Clarify oversight for ministers of the Word and sacrament laboring outside the bounds of their presbytery of membership

  • Permit a member of the session to moderate a session meeting in emergency situations

  • Clear up confusing language about the composition of nominating committees

  • Receive reports on authoritative interpretations, and the self-studies of several advisory committees

  • Clarify that the definition of “offense” includes sexual abuse

  • Prohibit public endorsement of individuals running for public office

  • Permit a member of the session to moderate a session meeting in the case of the emergency absence of the pastor.