The idea for the changes proposed in Overture 5 began several years ago when Tom Minnery was in elder training at Village Seven Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs. Minnery found himself “tripping over” the BCO 8-1 description of an elder being “grave.” “Where once it may have conveyed a stately weightiness,” he says, “today it seems severe, almost ominous.” Minnery cites examples in everyday speech: “gravely ill,” “grave implications,” “grave concerns.”

He believes the word suggests a person who is unapproachable. By contrast, he notes, in both I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, Paul suggests an elder should be “hospitable,” a quality absent from BCO 8. Additionally, Minnery found the phrase “private Christian” in BCO 8-3 confusing, and found the confusion compounded by the pronoun “them” in the same sentence, as its antecedent (“elders” or “private Christians”?) is unclear.

Minnery has suggested that a few substitutions can clarify the language of BCO 8 and provide a more complete picture of the elder than is currently the case. For “grave” in BCO 8-1, he would substitute the phrase “spiritually fruitful,” which he believes to be a “well-rounded description of Christian demeanor.” For those concerned that the serious-mindedness of the elder might be lost in the change, he points out that BCO 8-2 stills refers to “competency,” “sobriety,” and “holiness.”

In BCO 8-3, he would eliminate the word “private” as it is no longer used today to describe the laity – the remaining word “Christians” suffices  – and would replace the pronoun “them” with its proper antecedent, “elders.” A final change to BCO 8-3 would be to revise the sentence that declares that an elder should serve as an example to the flock by their zeal in evangelism and discipling. Minnery hopes to add that they should also be exemplary in “their hospitality to those inside and outside the church.”

When asked how these few changes might improve the denomination, Minnery points to the widespread alienation from Christ experienced by so many today. He says, “We who are elders should always be burnishing our ability to be friendly and outgoing, to reach beyond our friendships, and to draw disconnected people to us, and through us, to Christ.“ Therefore he believes that displaying the fruit of the Spirit and hospitality should be significant traits for elders, and included in BCO 8. Rocky Mountain Presbytery agrees and has sent BCO 5 to the General Assembly.

The Committee on Constitutional Business, which reviews proposed changes to the Constitution to make certain the proposal would not create conflicts with other parts of the Constitution, has advised the Overtures Committee that the proposal in Overture 5 would not create any conflicts.