14 New Overtures Arrive at General Assembly 
By Larry Hoop

Since byFaith’s April 11 article on overtures that have been presented to the 49th General Assembly (GA), 14 more have been sent up by the presbyteries.

Overture 18 from Pacific Northwest Presbytery (PNP) would amend the RAO to require the Stated Clerk to “forward all allegations, or suggestions of need for disciplinary attention, to the appropriate court, or shall instruct individuals how they may do so.” The proposal includes language that clarifies that this would be a purely administrative and not a judicial function. PNP, while noting that this new responsibility would not be limited to specific areas, focuses their rationale for the proposal on matters related to public speech, which reflects much of their concern. 

Overtures 19 through 22 were sent to the GA by Northwest Georgia Presbytery (NGP). Overture 19 would amend BCO 15-2 to make clear that a presbytery commission must be appointed from the presbytery’s members and would call for the presbytery to fix the commission’s quorum at the time if its appointment. NGP argues that this would bring the language of BCO 15-2 into full conformity with that of 15-3 and clear up possible misunderstandings that could arise from the current differences between the two. 

Overture 20, in common with Overture 12, calls for the addition of a new section to be added to BCO 16 (BCO 16-4).  The proposal would prohibit “those who identify or describe themselves according to their specific sins, or who teach  that it is acceptable for Christians to identify or describe in such a manner” from being “approved for service” by any court of the church. NGP argues that such a self-conception is inconsistent with Scripture.

Overture 21 would amend BCO 43-2 and 43-3 to require that a complaint be presented at least seven days before the meeting of the court that would take up the complaint. NGP argues that this would give members of the court time to deliberate on the complaint prior to considering it.

Overture 22 would amend RAO 3-2.h. by calling on the Office of the Stated Clerk to call for the minutes and statistical report to be made available in digital format. The overture recognizes that the Minutes of the General Assembly are already available in digital format; the purpose of this proposal is to make the PCA Yearbook available digitally. NGP argues that this would make denominational statistics more accessible and would save the cost of producing the Yearbook.

Overture 23 from Southeast Alabama Presbytery sets forth a proposal identical to that of Overture 20, except for one slight difference in wording.

Overtures 24 and 25 come from Houston Metro Presbytery (HMP). Overture 24 would change RAO 11-2 and 11-10 to clarify who many submit an overture to the GA. The change to RAO 11-2 merely adds the word “email” to the list of types of communications considered not to be proper communications by congregants and congregations.

The change to RAO 11-10 would make clear that when a proposed overture has not been approved by a presbytery, only ruling elder commissioners, teaching elders, and sessions could send the overture on to the GA, and specifies that  the overture would have to be accompanied by “a copy of the relevant extract from the minutes of the meeting at which presbytery rejected the overture or correspondence from presbytery’s stated clerk confirming presbytery’s rejection of the overture.”

The proposed change also makes clear that the overture sent to the GA would be required to be the same as was presented to and rejected by the presbytery. HMP argues that this change would eliminate confusing language that implies that an individual communicant member of a church may send an overture to the General Assembly. 

Overture 25 would change the provisions of BCO 15-1 and 15-3. It’s primary purpose is to eliminate the requirement that the judgment of a judicial commission be ratified by the presbytery as a whole. HMP argues that since all other commissions for any church court are empowered to complete the work assigned to them, a commission that must have its work approved is an anomaly. The change to BCO 15-1 also stipulates that the date for dismissal of a commission can’t be before the expiration of the deadline for filing a complaint or appeal of its decision, so that the commission can adjudicate such a complaint or appeal until the matter is settled by the highest court. 

Overtures 26 and 27 come from Potomac Presbytery. Overture 26  contains a statement on political violence and calls on the 49th GA to “remind our members and neighbors of our allegiance to the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, as “the sole Head of the Church and Law-giver in Zion”; to “condemn political violence and intimidation in unlawful expressions, especially that which is illicitly done in the name of Christ”; for the moderator to call on a commissioner to pray for peace in our nation and for God to use His church as an instrument for peace; for the GA to encourage PCA members to apply a number of Scriptural injunctions related to peace.

Overture 27 is identical to Overture 25 from HMP.

Overtures 28 through 31 come from Pittsburgh Presbytery. Overture 28 would require teaching elders who have been approved by their presbytery to serve as chaplains and who require ecclesiastical endorsement for their chaplaincy to seek that endorsement through the GA-approved endorsing agency. It also encourages those who serve in chaplaincies that do not require endorsement to seek the same endorsement. This overture is similar to an overture presented to the 48th GA with some edits and a significantly altered rationale, which cites a variety of practical reasons for the proposal. 

Overture 29, in common with Overtures 12, 20, and 23, would add a fourth section to BCO 16 (BCO 16-4), but makes a proposal different from any of those three. Like Overtures 20 and 23, it would identify certain men as not qualified for church office, but on a different basis from those overtures. Pittsburgh’s proposal focuses on the officer’s understanding of sanctification, proposing that those “who deny the sinfulness of fallen desires, or who deny the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or who fail to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions” be declared unqualified for church office. 

Overture 30 would amend BCO 6-5, 20-3, 25-1, and 24-3 to allow a congregation to set a minimum voting age for communicant members provided it is not above 18 years. The proposal would require a two-thirds majority vote of the congregation to institute such a policy, and would also allow it to determine specific matters on which this restriction would apply. Pittsburgh argues that there no Scriptural or confessional language that supports a requirement that all communicant members may vote on all matters before a congregation, and BCO 25-11 calls for local congregations to be allowed discretion in matters concerning congregational meetings. 

Overture 31 proposes that a paragraph e be added to BCO 21-4. Like the proposed 21-4.e sent down to the presbyteries by the 48th General Assembly, it calls for presbyteries to give “special attention” to “potential notorious concerns” in the character of candidates for the ministry. Unlike the proposal sent down last year, it does not give specific examples of areas that might be of concern; nor does it require that a candidate “not be known by reputation or self-profession according to his remaining sinfulness” as was the case in last year’s proposal. Instead, it requires that when church officers confess sins and sinful temptations publicly, they must “exercise great care to not normalize those sins in the eyes of the congregation, as though they were matters of little consequence, but rather should testify to the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus in changing our sin nature (1 Cor. 6:9-11).”

As was the case in last year’s proposal, Pittsburgh’s proposal would encourage presbyteries to empower a committee “to conduct detailed examinations of these matters and to give prayerful support to candidates.” Pittsburgh argues that its revision addresses legitimate concerns that prompted last year’s proposal.

For a comprehensive article on the overtures received by the Assembly, click here.  For information about how these overtures originate and are brought to the GA floor, click here.  

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