Though the PCA Directory for Worship is part of the Book of Church Order (BCO), only three of its chapters have been granted the constitutional authority the rest of the BCO enjoys. Overture 2 from Calvary Presbytery would change that by adding to that list BCO 59, “The Solemnization of Marriage.”

The rationale for Overture 2 bases the need for this action on the national legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States and Canada and in many nations where PCA missionaries serve. The overture notes that at present there is “no statement in the BCO with constitutional authority prohibiting same-sex marriage,” and that BCO 59 contains such a clear statement. According to the overture, identifying BCO 59 as part of the Constitution would protect PCA chaplains and churches should they face legal or disciplinary action for refusing to participate in same-sex marriages.

Calvary Presbytery Stated Clerk Melton Duncan argues that while the PCA stance on marriage is unambiguous, Calvary Presbytery members believe that “we must take every step to clarify and promote our constitutional position in the face of ever mounting social pressure,” especially since the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Acknowledging that the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), another part of the PCA Constitution, defines marriage as between one man and one woman (WCF 21:4), Duncan points out that at least one other Presbyterian denomination that formally recognizes the WCF authorizes same-sex marriages. “For the sake of our ministers and chaplains serving on the frontlines in our cultural struggle over marriage,” he says, “we urge the PCA to grant full constitutional authority to BCO 59.”

Besides being referred to the Overtures Committee (OC) for its recommendation to the General Assembly, Overture 2 has been referred to the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) to provide advice to the OC concerning any effect its adoption might have on the Constitution. The CCB has advised that Overture 2 is in conflict with the Constitution in that, as it is written, it calls for the Assembly to grant Constitutional status to BCO 59 without following the process for amending the Constitution (outlined in BCO 26-2) to do so.

2 Responses to Overture 2 Advocates Full Constitutional Authority for BCO Chapter on Marriage

  1. Andrew J Barnes says:

    Why would an overture need to state itself the procedure for changing the BCO when the procedure itself is stated in the BCO. All other overtures that propose changes to the BCO never state that the procedure would need to be voted for a majority by the GA, then sent and approved by 2/3 of the Presbyteries, and then again a majority of the GA? The BCO rule is clear, no other overtures ever do this yet the GA and the Stated Clerk on such proposed changes follow that procedure. This is no different, and so it makes no sense to me why the CCB saw it as in conflict with our Constitution when the Constitution itself is clear requiring what it does.

  2. Larry Hoop, CCB Chair says:

    The CCB did not object to the absence of an outline of the amendment procedure. Rather, in contrast to other overtures, it does not call for the amendment of the constitution to grant BCO 59 full constitutional status, but merely asks the Assembly itself to grant it that status. One Assembly, acting on its own, does not have the authority to do that.