One major part of any General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is the review of overtures written by synods and presbyteries around the PCUSA. When the 222nd General Assembly meets from June 18-25 in Portland, any one of 14 assembly committees will discuss these biennial overtures, of which there are 77 this year. (A complete list of the overtures can be found by clicking here.)
New for 2016 is a policy that makes it mandatory to have at least one presbytery or synod be a concurrence for each overture. With that being the case, 11 of the overtures up for discussion have either been written by presbyteries within the Synod of the Trinity or have been concurred by a presbytery within the Synod.
What follows is a quick look at those overtures that have been written (sponsored) or concurred by a presbytery within the Synod of the Trinity:
Overture 14 – Amending G-3.0203 to allow for virtual attendance in session meetings when appropriate technology is available. (Sponsored by Presbytery of Lake Erie; concurrences by Huntingdon and Pittsburgh Presbyteries)
- David Oyler, the General Presbyter at Lake Erie, explained that one of his larger churches approached the presbytery about this change, saying that many times people are unable to attend their meetings because they are out of town on vacation or business. This change would permit sessions to vote to allow for virtual attendance and voting rights.
Overture 15 – Amending W-4.9000 by replacing with new text. This is in regards to the 2014 wording change that re-defined marriage from being between “a man and a woman” to “two people.” (Sponsored by Presbytery of Kiskiminetas)
- Marilyn Tully, the Stated Clerk at Kiskiminetas, explained the overture this way: “We are a denomination that bases our trust in Jesus Christ as a sole means of salvation, which is evident in our Book of Order and our Confessions and they in turn state that our constitution is grounded in scripture. When we fail to seek Christ’s direction, we are subject to the direction of the culture in which we reside and therefore can make errors in our judgment, failing to glorify Jesus Christ in whom we seek to serve first and foremost. When the PC(USA) passed amendment W-4.9000 there was no Biblical background given for its consideration and then its passing. The rationale offered for the most recent revision to the definition of marriage referred mainly to society’s views and civil legality, not what is in scripture and the Confessions.”
Overture 64 – On taking specific action to address the worsening plight of the African American male. (Sponsored by Pittsburgh Presbytery; concurrence by Lake Erie)
- In 1990, the Pittsburgh Presbytery had an overture approved that included a similar agenda to help improve the conditions for African American males in the United States. However, 26 years later, the results have not been satisfactory to the presbytery. Because of this, the presbytery has written another overture that calls for five cities to receive $1 million to carry out specific actions that are outlined in the overture. Those actions include: programs that help African American males develop hirable skills; programs of partnerships between congregations, presbyteries and synods with agencies such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Boy Scouts of America; and requesting synods, presbyteries and congregations to provide resources for the establishment of programs for prevention and rehabilitation of substance abuse, job placement and security.
- A full story on this overture can be found by clicking here.
Overture 1 – On amending Standing Rule E.2 concerning resources and oral presentation to assembly committees. (Concurrences by Carlisle and Huntingdon Presbyteries)
- This overture is asking that the limit of 1,000 words be taken from this Book of Order rule that focuses on resource material for background information on new business prepared by entities of the General Assembly. The overture would prefer the wording “succinct as possible” be used instead of a word count. It is felt that if a word count is used, then all parties will be able to have an equal opportunity to be heard, it will allow for sufficient background information and also several solutions to be outlined.
Overture 11 – On amending G-2.0607c to add training in evangelism. (Concurrences by Huntingdon and Kiskiminetas Presbyteries)
- It is asked that the “Final Assessment and Negotiation for Service” rule be modified to include a candidate for ministry’s practical training in evangelism. A rationale listed with the overture says “Indoctrinating all new teaching elders in evangelism fulfills biblical mandates and has the potential to set the church on a different course.”
Overture 21 – On authorizing the hiring of a consultant to assess the relationship of OGA and PMA and the need for their continued existence as two separate entities. (Concurrence by Huntingdon Presbytery)
- The recommendation says that there is a need to “hire a top-tier national consultant with expertise in organizational analysis to assess and make recommendations on the nature, function and relationship of the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency to each other and to the presbyteries and congregations of the PC(USA), including the need for their continued existence as two distinct entities.” It continues to say, “We believe that the time has come to step back and take a look at the big picture of the PC(USA)’s governance and structure for mission, which were created in an era that nearly everyone agrees is no longer our reality.”
Overture 31 – On restoring the boundaries of the Presbytery of the Pacific to its status prior to the 2012 revisions. (Concurrence by Huntingdon Presbytery)
- Explanation: “The boundaries of the Presbytery of the Pacific were changed to allow two churches to become members of neighboring presbyteries. Both churches subsequently left the denomination and are, therefore, no longer members of those neighboring presbyteries. There is no longer a reason to maintain the somewhat unusual boundary adjustments made to accommodate the desires of these two churches to become members of the neighboring presbyteries.”
Overture 32 – On an alternative to divestment from the fossil fuel industry. (Concurrence by Huntingdon Presbytery)
- This overture reacts to a 1981 ruling that asked for “transitioning away from a fossil fuel-based economy.” It continues that “This overture asks us not to sever our financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, but to unite all Presbyterians in directly engaging climate change with responsible, meaningful and lasting actions that will make a difference in the future of God’s creation.”
Overture 39 – On amending the annual statistical report to include a new category “Partners in Ministry.” (Concurrence by Huntingdon Presbytery)
- Because there are a growing number of worshipers who participate in the life of the church but never become members, it is suggested that a new attendance category be created to count these “partners in ministry.” It’s argued that a church’s true attendance could affect a pastoral call and that number’s fluctuation should be monitored along with that of membership.
Overture 40 – On amending W-2.4011 by adding language regarding who can access the Lord’s Supper. (Concurrence by Huntingdon Presbytery)
- This overture suggests that anyone who takes communion not be limited to those who have been baptized but instead be open to anyone who “seeks the presence of Jesus Christ.”
Overture 43 – On amending the Book of Order to clarify titles to ordered ministry. (Concurrence by Huntingdon Presbytery)
- This overture is designed to help clear up confusion regarding leadership tags. In explaining the overture, it says, “the nomenclature of the office of ‘teaching elder’ versus ‘ruling elder’ is somewhat confusing as many denominations ordain their clergy to a ministerial office, such as minister, pastor, priest, whereas the title ‘teaching elder’ often needs qualifiers or explanations.”