To avoid such a dilemma, proposed amendments to the BCO are referred to the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) to advise on whether or not new proposals conflict with other parts of the constitution. They send this advice to the Overtures Committee (OC), which is charged with making recommendations to the General Assembly concerning how the overtures should be answered. The CCB also examines proposed amendments to the Rules of Assembly Operation (RAO) to determine if they would conflict with the constitution (to which they are subordinate) or with other RAO provisions.
The Book of Church Order (BCO) is one of the documents, along with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, that make up the Constitution of the PCA. Every year, presbyteries in the PCA propose BCO amendments that they believe will perfect that document. However, in a document as complex as the BCO, presbyteries sometimes propose amendments that would put two provisions of the BCO in conflict with each other.
This year the CCB reviewed 21 such overtures. It found 11 of these not in conflict with the constitution or the RAO (Overtures 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 12, 16, 29, 33, 34, and 36).
The conflicts noted in the remaining 10 overtures are as follows:
- The CCB found that Overture 2, which calls for release of Covenant Seminary from General Assembly oversight, in that it does not propose contingent amendments for portions of the RAO and PCA corporate by-laws that reference the seminary.
- The Committee found that Overture 7, which calls for the establishment of an ad-interim committee to address matters related to domestic abuse, domestic oppression, and sexual assault to violate the provisions of RAO 9-3, in that the overture calls for the funds for the ad-Interim committee to be provided within the Administrative Committee budget, while the RAO specifies they must be provided outside the budget.
- The committee found that the nearly-identical Overtures 8, 14, 19, 21, and 32, which would amend the BCO to allow for non-ordained persons to serve on permanent committees, are in conflict with RAO 5-2, in that they add an additional requirement for the chairman of the Administrative Committee. The committee also noted several portions of the RAO would need to be changed editorially.
- The committee noted that Overtures 15 and 18, which specify that RAO 11-5 be amended so that all overtures be directed to no more than one committee of commissioners, would create and internal conflict within that chapter because it does not specify how to refer overtures that require consideration by more than one committee or agency.
- Finally, the committee found Overture 17, which would amend BCO 32-8 to allow video testimony in certain circumstances by witnesses in a disciplinary trial, is in conflict with BCO 32-13, which requires that witnesses “be examined in the presence of the accused.”
The CCB report is presented to the OC as advice from and the opinion of the CCB, and therefore not binding. Conflicts noted by the CCB may often be remedied by an OC amendment to the proposal.