I’ve been out all afternoon, and got home to find out that the PCUSA General Assembly has decided that the denomination’s future lies with the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ. It voted to pass overture 05-09, entitled “On Deleting G-6.0106b and Substituting a New Paragraph in Its Place; on Amending G-14.0240 and G-14.0450; and on Providing a New Authoritative Interpretation.” The heart of the matter is that this:
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.
Will be replaced with this:
Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate’s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.
This proposal now goes to the presbyteries, which will make the final decision. If they approve, ordination of sexually active gays will be the prevailing practice across the denomination (some individual presbyteries may continue to refuse to ordain such individuals, but I don’t know whether that would be constitutionally permissible or not). However, for those presbyteries that can’t wait for the Great Unwashed in conservative jurisdictions to weigh in, they have this handy item, which doesn’t require church-wide approval, and essentially opens the gates immediately:
That the 218th General Assembly (2008) to approve the following authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 of the Book of Order:
The 218th General Assembly (2008) affirms the authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 approved by the 217th General Assembly (2006). Further, the 218th General Assembly (2008), pursuant to G-13.0112, interprets the requirements of G-6.0108 apply equally to all ordination standards of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Section G-6.0108 requires examining bodies to give prayerful and careful consideration, on an individual, case-by-case basis, to any departure from an ordination standard in matters of belief or practice that a candidate may declare during examination. However, the examining body is not required to accept a departure from standards, and cannot excuse a candidate’s inability to perform the constitutional functions unique to his or her office (such as administration of the sacraments).”
Translation: presbyteries are now free to allow candidates to express “scruples” regarding G-6.0108b, and to ignore it if they choose to. So even if the repeal of that provision doesn’t pass the presbyteries, San Francisco, Hudson River, Twin Cities, and any other presbytery that wants to ordain sexually active gays to the office of teaching elder are now free to do so.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens in those congregations that have been considering disaffiliation or seeking dismissal in the next couple of months. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a significant increase in the number of churches doing so, even with the declaration of war against the New Wineskins and EPC at this GA.
UPDATE: Presbyterian Outlook reports this statement from the Presbyterian Renewal Network:
[T]he Presbyterian Renewal Network said the assembly’s vote places the PC(USA) “in spiritual jeopardy.”
It said in a statement: “Today the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lies gravely wounded, by the hand of its own General Assembly. This assembly has struck multiple blows, threatening to sever the sinews that hold us together as a Christian body and as a part of the larger body of Christ.”
The Outlook story also stated:
In its action – approving an overture from Boston presbytery – the assembly also issued a new authoritative interpretation that withdraws authoritative constitutional statements in force since the 1970s that had declared homosexual practice incompatible with ordained ministry.
Remember, an “authoritative interpretation” needs no ratification from anyone. The PCUSA is now on record that it believes homosexual behavior is compatible with the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Once again, whether the proposed repeal of G-6.0108b happens or not, the PCUSA is now officially in the camp of gay-approving denominations, along with the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ.