In my “Pastor’s Pen” I reflect on a vote coming up in Presbytery on ordination standards for elders, deacons and ministers. Here is the basic information:
At its March 22nd meeting, the Presbytery of Philadelphia will vote on whether to amend the Book of Order (the Presbyterian Constitution). The General Assembly – the national body of the Presbyterian Church (USA) – has recommended that the church replace the current statement, G-6.0106b, with “Amendment 10-A.” Two-thirds (87) of the Presbyteries need to vote yes for the amendment to take effect. As of this writing 57 have voted yes, 41 no, and 1 Presbytery tied.
This is G-6.0106b:
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, 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.
This is Amendment 10-A:
Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation 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. Governing bodies shall be guided by scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.
Many pages would be needed to analyze these statements and decode the Presbyterian jargon! Briefly: G-6.0106b calls for “fidelity in marriage” and “chastity in singleness” for all officers, regardless of sexual orientation. But it’s largely understood as a bar to ordination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, since even those in committed relationships – relationships analogous to marriage – are barred from ordination. Also, church court cases brought to enforce this amendment typically involve gay or lesbian candidates.
G-6.0106b was voted into the constitution 15 years ago. It’s been controversial, and a number of times the General Assembly has asked the Presbyteries to consider amending it. This is the first time the “yes” votes are leading. If you’d like to learn more, check out the Covenant Network website www.covnetpres.org (they support the amendment). For a website that opposes the amendment, see Presbyterians for Renewal, www.pfrenewal.org.
I support Amendment 10-A. I believe same-sex relationships can be just as sacred as marriage between a man and a woman, and that as a church we should support all covenants of loving faithfulness, rather than seeing some as a bar to ordination. But I ask for your prayers for myself and all the commissioners, that we may keep our hearts and minds open to the moving of the Spirit, and vote in a way that reflects the love and grace of Christ.