The Mid Councils Committee spent the bulk of its final day of business at the 225th General Assembly reconsidering and ultimately approving an overture it had disapproved by a vote of 17-14 the previous day.
The overture from Beaver-Butler Presbytery in Pennsylvania, MC-03, sought to establish the authority of presbyteries to set severance plans for installed ministers. The rationale was that a lack of severance standards can leave installed pastors, as well as temporary ministers, vulnerable. It did not call for a national policy but sought to establish the presbytery’s position in times of transition.
The Advisory Committee on the Constitution recommended disapproving the overture, saying the term severance was problematic because called pastors are not employees. Rather, they are in a covenant with the presbytery and the congregation, and presbyteries could adopt these policies without a constitutional amendment, according to the ACC. The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy recommended approval, citing a need for equity in severance.
The committee’s initial vote took place mid-morning Tuesday after brief discussion. Late in Tuesday’s meeting, some committee members expressed second thoughts about the overture, a few allowing that they were confused by the initial vote in which yes meant no to the overture and said it had not received adequate discussion. Some speaking in favor of reconsidering the overture said they could not ignore the 26 presbyteries that had concurred with Beaver-Butler.
Resurrecting and reconsidering the overture took the committee down a knotty procedural path in which it stopped several times to consider the ways forward, guided by parliamentarian the Rev. Brian Ellison. Much of the work centered on addressing some of the issues brought up by the ACC.
When a final vote was called, the committee unanimously supported the overture with amendments, replacing the term “severance” with “dissolution terms” and adding the phrase “and for those serving in temporary pastoral service.”
“The overture that we decided to reconsider becoming unanimously approved made me so happy and proud of our committee,” committee member the Rev. Alex Evangelista said on Twitter.
MC-03 was the committee’s only major item of business on Wednesday. In other items, the committee
Recommended that the General Assembly refer MC-11, a commissioner resolution saying “each presbytery shall compile a list of non-ordained persons who died during the previous year after giving years of faithful service to the church” so that their names could be entered into the GA minutes during a memorial moment to the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly with a request they work with the writer of the resolution. While most committee members said they respected the spirit of the overture, some expressed concerns as to whether GA was the appropriate place for such an observance and if gathering the names would be burdensome for presbyteries. These were questions most agreed, by a 21-10 vote, could best be handled by the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly.
Made its final vote a unanimous approval of MC-12, which instructs the Synod of Alaska-Northwest to conduct a full financial review, as required by the constitution. The 224th General Assembly in 2020 noted the synod had failed to submit a financial review, and it is now required to submit one to the Stated Clerk’s office by Dec. 31 or face a special administrative review by COGA.
In its three days of work, the Mid Councils Committee considered 12 items, approved 10, disapproved one overture at the request of its sponsor, and referred one item. The committee ended its time together early Wednesday afternoon with worship and Holy Communion.