An overture is ordinarily a request by a presbytery that the General Assembly of the PCA take action on a specific matter (under the provisions of Rules of Assembly Operation [RAO] 11-10, individual sessions, teaching elders, or communicant members may submit overtures rejected by a presbytery, provided the overture indicates that the presbytery has rejected it). Thirty-nine presbyteries and one individual teaching elder have submitted a total of  Fifty-two overtures to the General Assembly.

Eight of these overtures concern the adjustment of presbytery boundaries and have been referred to the Committee of Commissioners on Mission to North America. Overtures 1 and 4 concern the transfer of certain Missouri counties from Missouri Presbytery to Covenant Presbytery. While the overtures are identical in what they request, they offer slightly different and complementary rationales for the action. To read Overture 1 (from Covenant) click here; to read Overture 4 (from Missouri), click here. Overture 10 would also adjust the boundaries of Covenant Presbytery by transferring Carroll County, Mississippi,  from Covenant to Mississippi Valley Presbytery.  Overture 16, from Mississippi Valley, expresses their agreement to this adjustment. To read Overture 10, click here; for Overture 16, click here. Overtures 27 and 28 would transfer Coosa County, Alabama, from Southeast Alabama Presbytery to Evangel Presbytery. To read Overture 27, click here; to read Overture 28 (which elaborates the rationale for the change), click hereOverture 25 from Korean Southeastern asks the Assembly to extend their boundaries to include the states of Mississippi and Tennessee, as the presbytery already has three churches in the former and one in the latter. The presbytery already includes Korean language churches in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Overture 26  calls for the division of Korean Southwest Presbytery into two presbyteries (Korean Southwest and Korean Southwest Orange County). For an interview with Bill Sim, clerk of Korean Southeastern, in which he discusses the Korean language presbyteries, click here.

Overture 2 from Westminster Presbytery, in calling on the Assembly to address the topic of same-sex marriage, requests that the PCA to reaffirm its position on homosexuality adopted at the 5th General Assembly. For the text of the overture, click here. For a summary of the proposal with a statement by Presbytery Clerk Daniel Foreman explaining presbytery’s reasons for calling for this reaffirmation, see the article on the overture in byFaith by clicking here. Westminster has submitted a second overture on the same subject, Overture 5 (for its text, click here). This overture calls for precisely the same action as Overture 2. It differs from Overture 2 in that (1) it prints in full a number of passages that were listed only as references in the original overture, and adds the text Jude 1:5-7 near the end and (2) it adds an extensive preamble that provides an explanation for the need for  the PCA to reaffirm its position at this time and a theological and pastoral framework for it.  Both overtures have been referred to the Overtures Committee.

Overture 31 from Catawba Valley Presbytery also concerns the topic of same-sex marriage. According to its rationale, the overture was submitted in response to the “rapid acceptance of so-called same-sex marriage in our government and military . . .” It calls for proof-texts cited in the Westminster Confession of Faith 24.1 (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:5–6) to be added to the PCA Directory for Worship 59-3, which affirms that marriage “is to be between one man and one woman, in accordance with the Word of God.” This overture has been referred to the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) as well as the Overtures Committee because it calls for a change to the Constitution. The CCB will advise the Overtures Committee as to whether the proposed amendment is in accord with other parts of the BCO, as they do with all overtures referred to them.

Overture 43 from Savannah River Presbytery touches on the issue of same-sex marriage as well as the sanctity of human life. It asks the Assembly to adopt a resolution Savannah River had passed “expressing its gratitude to and prayers for corporations, public and private for-profit and non-profit entities, chaplains and others who have taken a stand for the sanctity of human life, and to the Christian men and women in private businesses facing fines, penalties, and ostracism for declining out of religious conviction to provide their services for same-sex marriage ceremonies.” It was referred to the Overtures Committee.

Eight overtures call for the Assembly to adjust procedures involving the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). Overture 3 from Grace Presbytery calls for the amendment of Book of Church Order (BCO) 15-5 a and b to require General Assembly approval of the judgments by the SJC. Overture 17, from Mississippi Valley Presbytery is identical, and Overture 20 from Nashville calls for the Assembly to answer it in the affirmative.  Overture 8 from Southwest Presbytery is nearly identical, except that it allows the SJC greater flexibility in certain circumstances, and sets a higher threshold for disapproval of their judgments. Overture 11 from Calvary Presbytery is also nearly identical to Overture 3, except for the addition of some clarifying language. Overture 15 from Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery also adds clarifying language to the proposal in Overture 3. Overture 13 from Southwest Florida Presbytery proposes the same procedure as Overtures 3, 6, 11, and 15, with some editorial changes and one major addition: Overture 13 would require that any Commissioner to the General Assembly who participates in judicial deliberations must certify that he has the same level of knowledge of the case as is required of a member of the SJC when reviewing the recommended decision of an SJC panel: “1) The SJC’s proposed decision; 2) All briefs timely filed by the parties; 3) Those portions of the Record of the Case such commissioner feels is necessary to understand the issues of the case.” Another overture from Southwest Presbytery, Overture 9, would allow the Committee on Constitutional Business greater latitude in reviewing the minutes of the SJC.  To read the byFaith article on Overture 3, including a statement by TE Sean Lucas who drafted it, click here. To read the byFaith article on Overture 8, click here.  To read the byFaith article on Overture 9, click here. The articles on Overtures 8 and 9 include comments by TE Mark Rowden who authored both. As these overtures call for amendment of the BCO, (except for Overture 9, which calls for the amendment of the RAO), they have been referred to the CCB as well as the Overtures Committee.

Overture 40, from TE Christian Keidel of Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery, also seeks to amend BCO 15, but in the opposite direction. All of the above proposals would amend SJC procedure to mirror the procedure BCO 15-1 and 15-3 set forth for presbytery judicial commissions; TE Keidel asks that those sections be amended so that the decisions of presbytery judicial commissions would be final as those of the SJC are under the current provisions of BCO 15-5.  This overture was filed under the provisions of RAO 11-10 (see above), and was referred to the CCB and Overtures Committee. To read the byFaith article on Overture 40, click here.

Overture 29, from Potomac Presbytery, asks the Assembly to “commit to a commission the task of forming a provisional Presbytery in Paraguay with the goal of establishing an indigenous Presbyterian and Reformed Church.” The request grows out of the ministry of a member of Potomac who has been serving “out of bounds” with a congregation in Asunción, Paraguay, that now “requesting the oversight and fellowship” of the PCA.” The ultimate goal would be to establish a National Presbyterian Church in Paraguay. The overture has been referred to the Committee of Commissioners on Mission to the World.

Twenty-four overtures address the issue of child sexual abuse. Nineteen of them endorse of Overture 6 from Georgia Foothills Presbytery, and one, Overture 34 from Metro New York Presbytery, is identical to it. To read the byFaith article that outlines the provisions of the overture with further explanation by author TE Mike Sloan, click here. To access the Reasoning Together conversation article in which TE Sloan addresses key questions about child sexual abuse, click hereOverture 7 from Metro Atlanta and Overture 19 from Nashville commend Overture 6 to the Assembly, and Overture 12 from Southwest Florida, Overture 18 from Ohio, Overture 21 from Eastern Canada, Overture 23 from Iowa,  Overture 24 from North Texas, Overture 30 from Providence,  Overture 33 from Philadelphia, Overture 35 from Chicago Metro,  Overture 36 from James River, Overture 38 from Western Canada, Overture 41 from Eastern Pennsylvania, Overture 44 from Savannah River, Overture 45 from Missouri, Overture 46 from Southern New England, Overture 47 from Tennessee Valley, Overture 48 from heritage, Overture 50 from Gulfstream, and Overture 51 from Blue Ridge ask that it be answered in the affirmative. Overture 39 from Westminster Presbytery also endorses Overture 6, attaching a copy of that overture and a statement by TE Sloane as “supporting documents.” In Overture 42, Rocky Mountain Presbytery also endorses Overture 6, with three recommended changes which may be found here. All of these overtures have been referred to the Overtures Committee.

Overture 14 from Eastern Pennsylvania relates to the report of the Ad-Interim Committee on Insider Movements. That Committee has submitted its report in two parts. The first part, “Like Father, Like Son: Divine Familial Language in Bible Translation”, was made available and recommended to presbyteries and sessions by the 40th General Assembly. At the 41st General Assembly, the Committee submitted the second part of its report, “Theology, Gospel Missions, and Insider Movements”, and recommended that it also be made available  and recommended to presbyteries, sessions, and missions committees. A Minority Report recommended that, in addition, a report drafted by the minority,  “Addressing Realities on the Ground”, also be made available  and recommended to the same bodies. By a narrow margin, the Assembly agreed to this addition to the majority recommendation. Following debate regarding the use of the Arabic term allah (God) by Arabic Christians, the Assembly recommitted the report to the Committee to return with a final report to the 42nd General Assembly. Overture 14 calls for the Assembly to receive the report endorsed by the majority of the Committee, excluding the Minority Report, and dismiss it with thanks. This overture has been referred to the Overtures Committee and to the Ad-Interim Committee whose report is its subject.

Overture 22 from Philadelphia Presbytery requests that the General Assembly establish a study committee regarding the third ordination vow found in BCO 21-5, That vow requires a candidate for ordination or transfer to “approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of biblical polity.” Specifically, the overture asks that the proposed committee clarify and define the phrase “general principles of biblical polity” in that vow, particularly as it relates to gender and the office of elder. The overture also asks that the proposed committee “evaluate whether or not the constitution should be amended and if necessary to recommend a constitutional process to that end.” As study committees affect the budget of the Assembly, this overture has been referred to the Committee of Commissioners on Administration as well as the Overtures Committee. This overture was referred to the Overtures Committee and to the Administrative Committee as are all overtures calling for study committees (because of possible impact on the budget).

Overture 32 concerns erroneous views of creation, in particular any that deny the historical existence of Adam and Eve. It calls on the Assembly to “warn the membership of the Presbyterian Church in America in general, and both teaching and ruling elders specifically, of the dangers of false teachers, particularly those that endorse or promote evolution, that undermine the historicity of Genesis 1-3, or that teach a position other than the special, immediate creation of Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve from the rib of Adam (WLC 17)” ; to “encourage the Sessions and Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America to intentionally include questions regarding the historical existence of Adam and Eve and the exegesis of Genesis 2:7 (in stating that Adam was made from the dust of the ground) in their ordination exams for both elder and deacon”; and to “admonish the elders of the Presbyterian Church in America to be thorough in guarding the children of the church by carefully instructing them in the truth of the Holy Scripture concerning the creation of all things out of nothing, the special creation of humanity in the image of God, and the direct creation of Adam from the dust so that they may be thoroughly equipped to live in the present evil age.” This overture was referred to the Overtures Committee.

Overture 37 from James River seeks to clarify possible confusion that can arise from some of the current language in BCO 43 concerning complaints. The changes the overture recommends are designed to clarify the fact that a complaint carried from a lower court to a higher court does not constitute the filing of a new complaint, but rather a review of the original complaint. The overture was referred to the CCB for constitutional review and to the Overtures Committee.

Overture 49 from Pittsburgh Presbytery proposes an amendment to BCO 18-7. Under the current provisions of that chapter, a candidate for the ministry may withdraw from the care of presbytery, or presbytery may remove him from its roll of candidates. When the presbytery removes a candidate, it must cite “sufficient reasons” for doing so  and report them to the candidate and his session. The proposal from Pittsburgh would allow the candidate’s session also to request that his name be withdrawn from Presbytery’s care. It would also require that when either a candidate or his session make such a request, they would be required to provide “sufficient reasons” for the request.  In all cases where a candidate’s name is withdrawn from care or presbytery removes him from the roll,  record of the “sufficient reasons” for the action would be recorded with the action itself. This overture was also referred to the CCB and Overtures Committee.

The rationale for Overture 52 from Southeast Alabama Presbytery recounted the various attempts that have been made over the years to adopt a logo for the PCA, none of which have come to fruition. Citing the advantages of such a logo, Presbytery proposed a design which is attached to the overture, as well as guidelines for its use. As previous General Assemblies have assigned the task for developing a logo to the Administrative Committee, the overture has been referred to them.

As noted above, overtures proposing changes to the Constitution must be submitted to the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB), and are due in the office of the Stated Clerk at least 60 days prior to the opening of the General Assembly. All other overtures must be submitted 31 days prior to the Assembly. Overtures must be submitted 90 days prior to the Assembly if they are to be included in the Commissioner’s Handbook. All of these deadlines have now passed.

Reasoning Together will continue to provide a comprehensive list of overtures and a link to their texts as they are submitted. We will also provide links to any byFaith articles about them.