Book of Order Change – Amendment 10-A

To: Chicago Presbytery Ministers, Clerks of Session, Commissioners and Other Leaders
From: Judith L. Watt, Moderator; Barbara A. Bundick, Stated Clerk; Robert C. Reynolds, Executive Presbyter
Subject: Book of Order Change-Ordination Standards (Amendment 10-A)
Date: May 11, 2011

Yesterday, a significant change in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) constitution was authorized.  Presbyteries voting approval of Book of Order Amendment 10-A regarding ordination standards reached the required number to pass the amendment.  Eighty-seven of 173 presbyteries, the required simple majority, have now decided in favor of the amendment, which means it will become effective July 10, 2011.

The text of the new paragraph follows:

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

This replaces the current text of G-6.0106b, which reads:

Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.

In overview, this means the following:

  • A person in a same-gender relationship may now be considered by governing bodies for ordination to the office of deacon, ruling elder, or teaching elder (minister of the Word and Sacrament).
  • All other churchwide standards for ordination remain unchanged.  (There was never a prohibition against a person being ordained based on sexual orientation, as long as that person was celibate).
  • Congregations retain the right to choose their own leaders. Congregations will continue to elect persons to serve as deacons and elders and sessions will continue to examine the officers-elect for their faith and suitability for office.
  • Presbyteries retain the responsibility and right to determine their own membership.  This includes the responsibility of examining candidates for ordination and ministers seeking membership for their faith and suitability for office.

A clear majority of Chicago Presbytery commissioners voted affirmatively for amendment 10-A at the February 15, 2011 assembly meeting.  Approximately a quarter of the commissioners opposed it.  Feelings on both sides are strongly held:  some will welcome this change and others will grieve.  Our presbytery, like those across our denomination, faces a new hurdle in our ongoing challenge to find common paths of faithfulness and witness in the midst of the differences among us.  We have a long tradition of doing so in Chicago Presbytery, which is a hopeful foundation on which to build our future of mission and ministry together.

Adoption of this change raises important questions that will be asked repeatedly in our congregations. We refer you to several resources in English, Spanish, and Korean that can be found on the Office of the General Assembly website, http://oga.pcusa.org.

These include:

  • A churchwide letter
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Liturgical resources
  • A new Advisory Opinion #24, “Actions of the 219th General Assembly (2010) related to G-6.0106b”
  • Video messages from the Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, Moderator Cindy Bolbach, Heahwan Rim, Interim Polity Manager for the OGA (in Korean), and Loyda Aja, Associate Stated Clerk (in Spanish).

Also, we have attached a document with additional questions and answers.  We invite you to contact any of us individually for further consultation about this change and its impact on our life together.

In closing, we extend an invitation from General Assembly leaders to join them in prayer.  We share their gratitude for God’s gifts and their plea for a spirit of peace in Jesus Christ.

Almighty God, we give thanks for a rich heritage of faithful witnesses to the gospel throughout the ages. We offer gratitude not only for those who have gone before us, but for General Assembly commissioners and presbyters across the church who have sought diligently to discern the mind of Christ for the church in every time and place, and especially in this present time.

May your Spirit of peace be present with us in difficult decisions, especially where relationships are strained and the future is unclear.  Open our ears and our hearts to listen to and hear those with whom we differ.  Most of all, we give thanks for Jesus Christ, our risen Savior and Lord, who called the Church into being and who continues to call us to follow his example of loving our neighbor and working for the reconciliation of the world.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Attachment (1):  Frequently Asked Questions About Changes to Ordination Standards

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