The Rules of Assembly Operation (RAO) outline a procedure for honoring a recently-deceased elder by the adoption of a memorial resolution. The current procedure was adopted two years ago in response to a recommendation by the Overtures Committee two years previous that a procedure for receiving such resolutions was needed.

This procedure requires that any such memorial resolution be approved by a presbytery, memorialize an elder who has played a significant role in the General Assembly (GA), be no longer than one thousand words, and be received 30 days before the Assembly. Resolutions which met these requirements would not be presented to the GA for adoption, but would be automatically included in the minutes of the GA. Ordinarily, such a resolution would not be read to the Assembly during one of its sessions.

Pacific Northwest Presbytery (PNWP) identified several problems they noted with this procedure when it was implemented for the first time last year:

  • There is no provision for the Assembly to consider approval or disapproval of a memorial, should it wish to do so.
  • There is no provision for amending any resolution in a memorial overture.
  • There is no restriction on the overture’s content, so it could allow memorial resolutions with differing views of the person and his contributions.
  • The text of any memorial overture would appear in an appendix of the Assembly minutes along with other overtures, which could create confusion as to whether and how the Assembly acted on it.

In Overture 6, PNWP requests that the RAO be amended in three places to rule out memorial resolutions altogether. In addition to the weaknesses in the current system they identify in support of this recommendation, they cite John Calvin’s statement about Moses’ burial in his commentary on Deuteronomy 34:6 – “It is good that famous men should be buried in unmarked graves,” a dictum he applied to himself when he left instructions concerning his own burial.

The overture has been referred to the CCB for review of its compatibility with the constitution and to the Overtures Committee for its recommendation.

All six memorial overtures presented last year were ruled out of order. The moderator of last year’s Assembly asked the stated clerk and assistant parliamentarians to recommend RAO changes to the paragraph on memorial resolutions that would correct some of the deficiencies noted when the resolutions were ruled out of order, and to report their recommendations through the Administrative Committee (AC). The recommendation they offered would amend the current rule by the addition of the following sentence at the end: “All such overtures must conform to Robert’s Rules of Order regarding Decorum in Debate.”

At its April meeting, the AC voted to refer this recommendation to the Overtures Committee so it could be considered when deliberating on a response to Overture 6.