Friday, June 27, 2008

Ordination Standards to Go to Presbyteries

Ordination Standard Change to Go to Presbyteries for Vote:

From the Presbyterian Outlook:

"Commissioners to the 218th General Assembly have voted to change the denomination’s constitution to approve the ordination of gay and lesbian persons, a change that will require ratification by a majority of the 173 regional presbyteries over the next year.

Two other actions adopted by the assembly will take effect immediately.

First, the commissioners approved by a vote of 375 to 324 a proposal from the Presbytery of John Knox that allows ordination “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.” This takes effect immediately.

Second, the commissioners voted to send to the presbyteries for ratification language to replace the present rules that requires those being ordained and/or installed into ordained office to live “in fidelity in a marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”
See the full story here.

I think this means that presbyteries now have local option on the issue of gay ordination and if the presbyteries then vote to delete the fidelity-chastity clause then the standard is removed and the issue of local option becomes moot. But I'm not sure, so if anyone can correct my interpretation, please let me know.


thechurchgeek said...

The most important part of this is that all previous AIs on homosexuality are without question now moot.

But I do think that your interpretation is indeed correct.

Teri said...

I agree with churchgeek that the most important part of this is the issue of previous AIs. That's huge, no matter where you stand on this "issue."

As one who serves on a CPM, though, I have to say that in practice what both PUP and this latest vote do is legitimize what has already been happening. It's the responsibility of each CPM to determine whether the candidate is eligible/called/ready for ordained service, and it always has been. And it's the responsibility of each calling Presbytery to determine whether the candidate before them is called to service there. So, from a practical standpoint, we've always had "local option" the way it's talked about most often. There's no other way to do it in our system--we would need something more like the Methodist system where the candidates are received at the same time at the annual conference in order to have truly "national" (and therefore impersonal) standards.

I do think national standards are important, though I suspect we disagree on this particular one. I often think, in many ways, that this particular issue has been so narrowly interpreted that we forget the impact it has on non-homosexual persons as well, and on our polity as a whole when we focus so specifically on one issue. I am hopeful that we can come to some kind of coherent polity after this, that will allow us both national standards and an understanding of conscience, both diversity and unity, both connectionalism and openness to the Spirit moving in and through each person. But we'll see...

sorry for the longest comment ever...

Stushie said...

Connectionalism is a myth. And the GA has made a gross mistake. Churches that were in the middle of the road will now begin to leave the PCUSA.

Just because something is legitimate and lawful in the Church does not make it right. We have become too narcissistic to know what is right or wrong anymore.

God help us all.

Red_Cleric said...

Here's a quote from someone in your neck of the woods on the instant blogging "scribble"

even if presbyteries do not pass g-6.0106b, it loses its effect because the removal of the ai which been in place since 1978 removes all statements about homosexuality

by John Shuck at 6/27/2008 7:02:06 PMFriday, June 27, 2008 12:02:06 PM

Christine said...

What it does is correct a bad piece of polity. Of all the possible sins that might keep one from being ordained, why were sexual ones singled out?

Quotidian Grace said...

Red Cleric,

Well if you consider Tennessee in the same neck of the woods as Texas! I think John Shuck's analysis is correct based on other things I have read.

6.0106b may remain in the BOO until the presbyteries have completed their voting, but the action of the GA in overturning the AI means it can't be enforced.

Michael Kruse said...

"6.0106b may remain in the BOO until the presbyteries have completed their voting, but the action of the GA in overturning the AI means it can't be enforced."

Bingo. Even if it remains in the Book of Order it is meaningless as a standard.

As to Christine's question, the reason sexual sins were singled out was because activists singled out these issues as ones they wanted to change. The Church answered their desire to change in the negative (repeatedly.) Then those who raised the issue in the first place pejoratively turned to criticizing those who rejected the change as having singled out these issues. :)

Christine said...

Rather like how those conservative activists who took their presbyteries to court are now pejoratively criticizing the PC(USA) for taking steps to defend itself in court, no?

Teri said...

michael, I think that might be a slightly unfair characterization of christine's question. when G-6.0106b was added, it singled out sexual sin from all the other sins in the confessions. In some ways that was the activist move and the response has been to try to make our polity more coherent by saying that adherence to the confessions is important, but adherence to just one small part of the confessional tradition does not constitute the entirety of faithfulness. At least, that's my take on the situation.

Whenever I talk about this with people, I point out that there are almost as many references to being able to discipline one's children being a requirement of character for ordained office. What if that were in the ordination standards instead (an effort to curb PK behavior would certainly be welcome sometimes!). Soon only single or non-parent people would be eligible for ordination and there would likely be uproar about trying to get it changed. But it's in the confessions, and singling it out doesn't help our faithfulness. Keeping it in mind with everything else does, I suspect (I don't know since I am a single, celibate, and childless).

I know it's "not the same thing" but it's an example of what can happen if we take a confessional statement out of its context and single it out as the most important standard.

off to a meeting....Thanks, QG, for providing all this info and a forum for discussion. You are a true gem! :-)

Anonymous said...

Glad to year your presbytery is fighting the good fight against sexual impurity on the part of it's minister-members. I'd hate to think you'd side with sinful behavior by, say, ignoring documented evidence of wrongdoing on the part of a heterosexual minister. That would be just wrong.

Keep up the good work.

Michael Kruse said...

Teri, I was at the 1996 GA when the section was added to the book of order. Several activists had been pursing cases that were being appealed the GAPJC in order to have avowedly homosexually active persons ordained. One case had made it to the GAPJC. The GAPJC ruled that since there was no express prohibition against such an ordination that is was acceptable. That is what sparked consideration of an amendment to the Book of Order.

As Roberta Hestenes led they committee, they agreed that it was inappropriate to single out just one sin for consideration. It needed context. Many people read the resulting passage too quickly. It doesn’t say “…any self-acknowledged practice which any confession calls sin…” It says, “…any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin. The emphasis was to look to the confessions collectively and interactively for ethical and theological guidance, not “sin mining” as it were. This was their attempt to address the explicit problem raised by the GAPJC decision in a way that placed it in a broader context. Of course, as soon as the church answered the question, then the gay ordination advocates began waging their fingers claiming traditionalists are obsessed with sex.

This has been the recurring pattern. Activists raise the issue. Traditionalists answer the issue. Activists accuse traditionalist of singular focus on one issue for answering the issue the activists raised. I don't know why you find my response unfair. I think I'm being quite factual.

Teri said...

as one who was not presbyterian (or churched at all) when the amendment was added, I didn't know the specifics behind the motivation. So, from a sort of outside perspective, it did seem unfair. I see your point, however--thanks for coming back to clarify. Though I suspect we still disagree on the "issue" I respect and admire the way we've been able to discourse. Thanks!

Kyle Walker said...

Everything references the Confessions and the only confession that deals explicitly with sexuality is Heidelberg as it stands now. With the correction...there will be no explicit mention of homosexuality in our confessions.

The national church is washing its hands of coming to clarity on homosexuality. Presbyteries will not be the ultimate authority on this matter.

RevDi said...

Just a point of clarification, several comments suggest that because the AI's were overturned by the recent GA, that G.60106b is now unable to be enforced. I don't recall that there are AI's "on-the-books" for everything else in the Constitution that needs enforcement. Why will it be different for this portion?

Kyle Walker said...

My last comment has a typo...I meant to say presbyteries now will be the ultimate authority on these matters. I see it as a "states rights" sort of deal.

Nothing changes unless the current G-6.0106b is replaced or the Heidelberg is corrected through the ratification of the presbyteries. In that sense, I believe you are correct that removing the AIs changes nothing assuming the presbyteries vote both of these changes down (somewhat likely).

Now the everythign shakes out different if G-6.0106b changes or the Heidelberg is corrected. To my understanding the AIs fuction much like a precedent in a judicial case. Without the AIs and the Heidelberg explicit language, the ability for the PJC to overrule a presbytery permitting a person with a sexuality scruple to move forward is more difficult. However, it is still possible...just makes for a higher threshhold for it to happen.

Frankly, I'm happy about all this. I believe it puts more power in the hands of presbyteries. It is time the presbyteries are trusted to make decisions on these matters concerning the individuals they know well.

Yes, it will make everyone pay more attention to the work of their COM/COE and COM/CPM but I think that is perhaps as it should be.