Thursday, January 19, 2012

Amend Rules of Assembly Operation 8-3

On Saturday January 14, 2012 the Great Lakes Presbytery convened for its stated winter meeting. One of the items on the agenda was an overture to amend Rules of Assembly Operation 8-3 concerning the Theological Examining Committee.

In recent years our denomination has required all presbyteries to carefully record in their minutes any exceptions to our confessional standards or Book of Church Order that a minister or candidate for ministry may take. Last year the General Assembly voted to strengthen those requirements by specifying that any exceptions to our standards should be recorded using the very words of the person being examined.

At last year's General Assembly the Theological Examining Committee gave its report (see p. 1101 line 34) the word "scruple" was used to refer to a man's difference with the Westminster Confession of Faith. The word 'scruple' is an antiquated terms that was once used to describe minor differences with the confessions of our church, however, it is not used in our Book of Church Order or Rules of Assembly Operation. Thus, this overture comes in the spirit that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander:

Whereas the Presbyterian Church in America has adopted the position of "good faith subscription" to the Westminster Confession of Faith and The Book of Church Order, and

Whereas in the recent past the Rules of Assembly Operation 16-3.e.5 were amended to include specific language to help presbyteries determine whether a candidate's views were "a) he had no differences; or b) the court judged the stated difference(s) to be merely semantic; or c) the court judged the stated difference(s) to be more than semantic, but "not out of accord with any fundamental of our system of doctrine" (BCO 21-4); or d) the court judged the stated difference(s) to be "out of accord," that is, "hostile to the system" or "strik[ing] at the vitals of religion" (BCO 21-4)" and, 

Whereas confusion has arisen in our denomination as presbyteries attempt to classify such statements according to RAO 16-3.e.5 and is compounded when presbyteries record only summaries of a man's views, and

Whereas the 39th General Assembly amended RAO 16-3.e.5 requiring "Presbytery minutes shall record ministers' and ministerial candidates' stated differences with our Standards in their own words" and,

Whereas according to BCO 14-1.14 The Theological Examining Committee has a similar role in examining "all first and second level administrative officers of committees, boards and agencies, and those acting temporarily in these positions who are being recommended for first time employment" 
Therefore, let it be resolved that the Great Lakes Presbytery petitions the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to adopt this overture to amend section 8-3 of The Rules of Assembly Operation with the following language (new language underlined):

8-3. Theological Examining Committee

In accordance with BCO 14-1.14 there shall be a Theological Examining Committee composed of three teaching elders and three ruling elders of three classes of two men each. There shall also be one teaching elder and one ruling elder as alternates to fill any vacancy that may occur during the year.

This committee shall conducts its work as specified in BCO 14-1.14. Furthermore this committee shall record all exceptions to our denominational standards as set forth in RAO 16-3.e.5. Those exceptions shall be included in this committee's annual report which is submitted to the General Assembly for approval. 

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