The first significant matter this morning is the report of the Permanent Judicial Commission. In particular, the General Assembly is being asked to affirm a PJC ruling on a proposed overture.
The overture asked that Mid-America Presbytery be allowed to divide into two “affinity” presbyteries.” One would ordain women to the office of teaching elder, the other would not. The two presbyteries, known as “Mid-America A” and “Mid-America B,” would both cover the same geographical area (Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and parts of Kansas and Oklahoma), and would have porous boundaries–in other words, pastors and congregations could move between the two simply by asking. The two would meet together and and handle all business that didn’t have to do with the ordination of teaching elders. It’s an interesting idea for dealing with the issue of women’s ordination to the teaching eldership–I’m not sure whether I support it or not, but I applaud the fact that it is an attempt to deal with a potentially divisive issue that would allow us to be able to keep working together in love, even while accommodating the differing views in question.
The PJC has ruled that the proposal is unconstitutional, and would need to be offered as an amendment to the Constitution. It did not rule on the wisdom of the proposal, but commended the spirit in which it was offered.
As debate opened, it turns out that Mid-America has decided not to contest the PJC ruling. Paul Heidebrecht from Mid-America is indicating that there has been a respectful discussion that recognized significant differences between complementarians (who oppose women’s ordination) and egalitarians (who support it), while affirming that all wanted to maintain the unity of the presbytery. The presbytery is willing to wait on the Lord to see what direction He may take going forward.
The assembly voted to sustain the ruling. The PJC then offered a recommendation to form an interim committee “to explore ways to include those pastors and churches with conflicting positions on women Teaching Elders in the presbyteries of the EPC,” to report to next year’s GA. This has been done in the past with controversial questions with great success, from what I’m hearing. The assembly voted to send this to the Standing Committee on Overtures and Resolutions, and after they’ve looked at it, we’ll vote on it later in the GA.