When a presbytery sends an overture to the General Assembly (GA), the stated clerk is responsible for referring that overture to the appropriate committee for its consideration. Any overture relating to a particular permanent committee or agency, or to an ad-interim committee, is to be referred to that committee which then recommends how the GA should respond.

All overtures that call for changes to the PCA constitution (the BCO or Westminster Standards) are referred both to the Overtures Committee (OC), which recommends how the GA should respond, and to the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB), which advises the Overtures Committee whether or not the proposed change is consistent with the rest of the constitution.

But what if the rules call for an overture to be referred to more than one committee? For example, last year the overture from Tennessee Valley Presbytery to open the Covenant College board to non-ordained members was referred both to the OC (because it proposed a change in the Constitution) and to the Covenant College Committee of Commissioners (CoC) because it concerned the college board. The committees proposed conflicting recommendations. The OC report was first on the docket, so its proposal was considered first and was adopted.

Overtures 15 (from West Hudson Presbytery) and 18 (from Houston Metro Presbytery) propose to alleviate such conflicts. Under the provisions of these identical overtures, every overture would be referred only to one committee (an appropriate CoC, permanent committee or agency or ad-interim committee). Should the overture affect another committee, agency, or an ad-interim committee, it would be forwarded to that body for information purposes only. 

The overture is designed to address conflicts like the one cited above, where a constitutional change (which must be referred to the OC) affects a committee or agency (and therefore must be referred to that committee or agency as well).

“This amendment seeks to make clear that constitutional amendments will be acted on by the Overtures Committee only,” says Teaching Elder Fred Greco, author of the overture. Greco argues that by its nature, the OC is the appropriate choice.

“Overtures is the most representative and largest committee of commissioners and has the greatest experience in making recommendations on constitutional amendments.”

He notes that the overture still allows other affected committees to provide advice to the OC. While the overture does not directly address how to resolve conflicts that do not involve constitutional issues, Greco believes that the revised language of RAO 11-5 would call for such an overture to be referred to the OC.

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