By a vote of 60-39, the Overtures Committee recommended that a revised version of Overture 7 be answered in the affirmative. The overture called for a change to BCO 35-1 requiring accused ministers to testify before their session or presbytery regarding their doctrinal views. Currently, accused ministers are not required to do so.
The majority cited several grounds for the decision, including the following:
- Requiring officers to testify in cases involving doctrinal issues is consistent with our constitution.
- Church officers are required to explain and defend their doctrine in order to be ordained to office (e.g., BCO 21-4.c.).
- Church officers are required to explain and defend their doctrine when seeking admission to serve under the jurisdiction of another court (e.g., BCO 13-6.).
- Church officers are required by their ordination vows to come forward and make known any way in which their views might have become out of accord with any of the fundamentals of our system of doctrine (e.g. BCO 21-5.2.).
- Church officers are in the nature of the case continually obliged to voluntarily have their doctrine subject to legitimate scrutiny (1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Tim. 5:22; Acts 20:28-30).
- A rule relieving all accused persons from an obligation to testify as does BCO 35-1, undermines the responsibilities of our courts of original jurisdiction and our officers (cf. BCO 31-2).
- Requiring church officers to testify in cases concerning their doctrine is consistent with the Scripture and the Westminster Standards.
A minority report, however, will be presented. According to the minority, Overture 7, “… is in contravention of established civil, criminal, and ecclesiastical jurisprudence and may be in conflict with the constitution of the PCA.” The minority also contends that Overture 7, “… could be used against the accused party in any ancillary civil, criminal, or ecclesiastical proceedings to the detriment of the rights of the accused against self incrimination or breach of confidentiality.”
Both reports will be presented to the General Assembly.