The normal way for proposals to come from the “grass roots” of the PCA to the General Assembly (GA) is through the overture process. A person or session will ask their presbytery to send the proposal to the GA in the form of an overture, which must be filed with the stated clerk by a posted deadline. This allows the Overtures Committee time to study the overture before their meeting prior to the opening of General Assembly, so that they are prepared to collaborate on a recommendation to the Assembly.
However, there is a provision in the Rules of Assembly Operation (RAO) that allows any commissioner to introduce new business as late as the afternoon of the second day of the Assembly. If two-thirds of the Assembly votes to receive it, the new business is referred by the clerk to the appropriate committee of commissioners. Most often, new business is referred to the Overtures Committee.
In its rationale for this overture, Pacific Northwest Presbytery noted that every commissioner can use the overture process to propose business. Even if his presbytery votes against forwarding his proposal, he can still send it himself, provided he states the fact that the presbytery rejected it. “It is neither prudent nor necessary,” Pacific Northwest argues, “to routinely allow men to propose, as new business at General Assembly, a matter they could have filed with their presbytery as an overture.”
Pacific Northwest’s proposal in Overture 14 would not prohibit a commissioner from proposing new business; however, if he has not first presented it to a presbytery as an overture, he would be required to explain why he did not. Ruling elder Howard Donahoe, stated clerk of Pacific Northwest, notes that under this proposal, nobody would lose any rights, and the work of the Overtures Committee would be expedited. “If the new business is not presented until Wednesday afternoon,” he says, “it almost ensures that OC members will be off the floor during other Assembly business, which is what the pre-Assembly meeting of the OC is intended to avoid.”
This Overture is a verbatim re-filing of an overture sent to the 44th General Assembly. That overture was approved by a unanimous vote of the Overtures Committee and a 97 percent favorable vote of the Assembly itself. However, changes to the RAO require 50 percent of registered commissioners to cast votes, and the vote on this proposal, which came on the last night of the 44th GA, fell 20 short.
The overture was referred to the Overtures Committee and to the Committee on Constitutional Business, which has advised the OC that it is not in conflict with the Constitution or any other part of the RAO.