If you read my previous post about the election of a new moderator of the PCUSA’s General Assembly, you know that his running mate had recently violated the the denomination’s Book of Order, yet was still running for the post of vice-moderator. (A more appropriate title is hard to imagine in this case.) On Sunday, she was elected, but as James Berkley reports for the Layman Online, it wasn’t easy:
Commissioners had serious questions for nominee Tara Spuhler McCabe, who had quietly performed a same-sex marriage ceremony recently in Washington, D.C. She did so knowing full well that she was violating the Book of Order, as clearly stated by the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission. Also, she did so after being named vice-moderator candidate by Neil Presa. The same-sex wedding caught Presa by surprise. Some commissioners had been voicing great reluctance to electing to high office in the General Assembly a person unwilling to be governed by the constitution of the church.
Hay ruled that the Standing Rules stipulate an immediate vote on the vice-moderator, so to pose questions, the assembly would need to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote. Commissioners voted by a 55 percent margin to suspend the rules, falling short of the required 67 percent for suspension of the rules. Thus commissioners were given no opportunity to ask McCabe about her act of defiance.
Next commissioners voted on the confirmation itself, and McCabe received 60 percent of the votes. Thus, in a vote that is nearly always unanimous under normal circumstances, McCabe was elected without the support of two-fifths of the commissioners, hardly a mandate! A commissioner was overheard reasoning afterwards, “No pastor would accept a call with that much opposition.” McCabe, however, was duly commissioned—without ever having to respond in the affirmative to a question about actually obeying the constitution of the denomination she now serves.
As slim as the majority was for vice-moderator McCabe, it should be remembered that Moderator Neil Presca, was elected the evening before with an even slimmer 52 percent majority, and that slight margin after three previous inconclusive ballots. Ironically, Presa and McCabe ran with the theme of seeking unity, and yet their very election demonstrated a major divide in the church.
It was a slim margin of victory for McCabe, yes, but think about what that says about the denomination. It says that in the PCUSA, the Book of Order, the constitution of the church, the rules by which order is brought to a large organization, are of no consequence. You can ignore them at will, and still be rewarded with election ot high office.
Gee, sounds like the Episcopal Church….