Northwest Georgia Presbytery has sent Overture 4 to the General Assembly. The overture seeks to add an 11th paragraph to Chapter 24 of the Book of Church Order (BCO), specifying that that men only may be ordained as elders or deacons.

Currently, paragraphs 1-10 of BCO Chapter 24 describes the “Election, Ordination, and Installation of Ruling Elders and Deacons.” Northwest Georgia’s proposed addition reads: “We are deeply convinced of the clarity of Scripture on this topic and as such we consider the doctrine of ordination for elders and deacons as limited only to males as an essential component to our ecclesiology.”

According to Teaching Elder Ted Lester, the overture was birthed over concern about what he sees as “escalating efforts of those who have come to believe we must be open to admission of women to offices of the PCA.” In Lester’s view, the Cooperative Ministries Committee, with the formation of a study committee on women in ministry “with proviso for verbiage to change the BCO,” is the latest instance of such efforts.

Consequently, the overture itself states that it is being offered now as “one way to address potential proposals to amend the BCO regarding women’s ordination.”

Overture 4 was referred to the Overtures Committee (OC), and to the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) for its advice concerning its consistency with the Constitution. The CCB has advised the OC that this proposal is in conflict with the Constitution. Specifically, the CCB argues that the phrase “an essential component to our ecclesiology” should not be added as a component that is “fundamental to our system of doctrine”, the language used in  BCO 21-4.e and 21-4.f., which define the procedure for processing differences a candidate for ordination may have with the PCA’s doctrinal Standards. In its opinion, the CCB states, “The BCO is not the document where our doctrinal standards are defined.”

3 Responses to Overture 4: Only Males Can be Ordained

  1. Allen Baldwin says:

    Is it to be assumed that eliminating that phrase would render the overture admissible? It would seem a bit more elaboration would be helpful.

  2. Larry Hoop says:

    The phrase is the heart of what the overture proposes. BCO 24-1 already makes it clear that the offices are to be limited to men; this provision declares that to be an essential of our ecclesiology. The CCB noted that the PCA has chosen not to declare portions of our theology to be essential, but rather calls for candidates for ordination and ministers to make known any differences they have with our system of doctrine; the presbytery then determines if their differences are contrary to any fundamental of our system (such determinations are subject to review and control and possible complaint). To declare something as a theological essential runs counter to that constitutional provision.

  3. Larry Hoop says:

    In addition, the CCB noted that ecclesiology is a theological concept; but the BCO as a document is concerned with polity, not theology. Our system of doctrine is found in the Westminster Standards.