Under the PCA’s Rules of Assembly Operation (RAO), the General Assembly may appoint up to two ad-interim or study committees in any given year (more if approved by a two-thirds vote of the Assembly). These committees handle business designated by the Assembly. Recently, such committees have investigated and reported on the role of women in ministry, racial reconciliation, insider movements, and the Federal Vision.
Currently, proposals for such committees may come to the Assembly through all the normal channels, primarily presbytery overtures and the recommendations of the PCA’s permanent committees and agencies. When proposals come via overtures, the stated clerks routes them to the proper committee as specified in RAO 11-5.
Overture 18 would re-route these proposals in two ways. First, the Overture specifies that these recommendations could only arise from presbytery overtures. Second, it would require that such overtures be referred to the Overtures Committee.
One of the overture’s proponents, ruling elder Rich Leino, says the overture was prompted by the way the Women in Ministry Study Committee arose at the last Assembly. While Leino doesn’t want the overture to be interpreted as opposition to the appointment of the committee, he is concerned about “the manner” in which it was formed. In Leino’s view, it “did not reflect the strength of our form of government.”
Leino points out that a recommendation from a permanent committee may not be amended or perfected on the floor of the Assembly. He believes that if a matter is important enough to warrant the appointment of an ad-interim committee, the terms of the committee ought to be crafted by a body more broadly representative of the Assembly; the Overtures Committee, he believes, is such a body. “This Overture,” he says, “is designed to bring recommendations for the appointment of ad interim committees through the courts by way of overture. [That way] it may benefit from collaboration and perfection at every level.”
The Overture has been referred to the Overtures Committee. The Committee on Constitutional Business has advised that the overture as written conflicts with RAO 9-4. That paragraph calls for all ad-interim and study committees to be considered during the Administrative Committee’s report so that thought may be given to their effect on budgets. Overture 18 calls for these recommendations to be “exclusively submitted to the Overtures Committee for recommendations to the General Assembly.”