The 46th General Assembly proposed seven amendments to the Book of Church Order (BCO), the most put forward since 1996.
The changes are as follows:
1. A change to BCO 8-1 would replace the word “grave” with “spiritually fruitful, dignified.” Proponents argue that “grave” carries different connotations in modern English than it did in the 17th century. The new language, they argue, better communicates the sense of the original.
2. The second change would add “demonstrate hospitality” to the list of elders’ responsibilities in BCO 8-3. Supporters point to Paul’s mention of hospitality in
1 Timothy and Titus.
3. Amend BCO 25-11 to require 30 days’ notice before a congregational meeting called to vote on withdrawal from the PCA. Those in favor argue that a decision of such significance should require longer than the seven days’ notice required by the general provision for a congregational meeting.
4. Amend BCO 30 (at 30-1 and 30-3) to clarify the difference between suspension from sacraments and suspension from office. Though these amendments are related, they will be voted on separately. Supporters say the changes would give presbyteries more control over when a repentant minister may be restored to office and more clarity concerning the difference between the two kinds of suspension.
5. Amend BCO 32-19 to allow defendants in a church judicial case greater latitude in obtaining counsel. Currently, defendants may be represented only by a member of their church and, in a case before the presbytery, only by a member of the presbytery. The proposed amendment would allow any communing member in the presbytery to represent defendants before their session, and any member of the PCA to represent them before the presbytery.
6. Amend BCO 35-11 to close a loophole that could allow the disqualification of an entire court to judge a case it has instituted. Currently, the accused can call all members of the court as witnesses in the case, which would result in the disqualification.
7. Amend BCO 59-3, part of the Directory for Worship, and grant it full constitutional status. Currently, BCO 56, 57, and 58 are the only chapters with such status. The amended BCO 59-3 reads: “Marriage is only to be between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24, 25; Matthew 19:4-6, 1 Corinthians 7:2), in accordance with the Word of God. Therefore, ministers in the Presbyterian Church in America who solemnize marriages shall only solemnize marriages between one man and one woman.” Proponents argue that this would provide greater public clarity.
Amendments approved by two-thirds of the presbyteries will be presented to the 47th General Assembly for ratification.