The Overtures Committee has submitted the following grounds for its recommendations to the General Assembly.

Grounds for answering Overture 3, Amend BCO 32-19 to Allow Counsel by Any Communing Member in All Levels of Courts, in the affirmative as amended.:  

In judicial process before a Session, this BCO change would allow the accused to recruit a representative from any church in his Presbytery.  And in process before a Presbytery or the SJC, this would allow the accused to recruit a representative from any PCA church or PCA presbytery. It’s fair to allow an accused minister to recruit from a broader pool, partly because his compensation and career would likely be in jeopardy, whereas that’s rarely the circumstance in process before a Session.  Unlike what was originally proposed in Overture 3, this revision would preclude a defense representative in Alaska from serving as the defense representative for someone in judicial process before a Session in Florida.  But it would allow someone from Alaska to serve in that capacity for a minister in judicial process before a distant Presbytery.  While anyone can offer advice or counsel to a defendant, this paragraph applies specifically to someone who can represent the accused (who is not required to take the stand, per BCO 35-1).  For example, this representative could cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

Grounds for answering Overture 4, Amend RAO 9-4 to Require Three REs on Each Ad Interim Committee, in the negative:

The Overtures Committee subscribes wholeheartedly to the principle of the parity of elders, and desires to check and reverse the decline in RE participation at the GA level. Nonetheless, given the often specialized nature of Ad Interim study committees and their frequent need for special expertise, the Committee thinks it unwise to prescribe a specific number of RE’s for such committees.

Grounds for Answering Overture 10, Amend BCO 25-11 to Require Thirty-Days’ Notice to Withdraw from PCA, in the affirmative and answering Overtures 12 and 17 with reference to the committee’s action on Overture 10:

1.  Disaffiliation is a significant decision and members should get more than seven days’ notice for such a meeting.  

2. A congregation can still withdraw from the PCA by simple majority vote, for any reason it deems sufficient.

3. 30-days’ notice has nothing to do with property.  The promise of BCO 25-10 remains unchanged, “the Church as a whole promises never to attempt to secure possession of the property of any congregation against its will.”  The congregation loses no power or property rights if greater notice is required for a disaffiliation meeting.  

4. 30-day notice is similar to that required in BCO 24-1: “If there are [elder and deacon] candidates eligible for the election, the Session shall report to the congregation those eligible, giving at least thirty (30) days prior notice of the time and place of a congregational meeting for elections.”

5. Last year, Presbyteries voted 44-30 in favor of a proposed change to increase the quorum to 50% for any such disaffiliation meeting.  Granted, the vote was 14 short of the 58 required to pass, but it still showed that a 59% majority of those who voted were in favor of the change.  Thus, there seems to be considerable support for ensuring a congregation is well informed of any disaffiliation meeting.  (Last year, the Overtures Committee recommended the quorum change by a 91-5 vote, and the Greensboro GA adopted it by a 79% majority (706-183) and sent to the 86 presbyteries with its recommendation.)

6. The proposed 30-day notice requirement does not abridge any congregational right – it protects one.  It ensures, for example, a Session can’t hurry a church out of the PCA without the clear consent of a well-prepared congregation.  

7. Some presbyters could relay stories, for example, of how a minister, upon being investigated or facing indictment, has persuaded his Session to promptly call a meeting to “take the church” out of the PCA.

8. While the BCO only requires one week notice for a meeting to call a pastor, that situation is different.  With a Call, the congregation has already elected a search committee.  And often, a congregational vote must occur prior to a Presbytery meeting where the candidate or minister will receive an ordination or transfer exam (and he cannot “move on to the field” without Presbytery approval).  

Similar timeliness is usually involved when purchasing or selling property.  And if the congregation is also a corporation, their state law probably requires between 10 and 60 days’ notice for a special meeting of the non-profit corporation, for such a property decision (per BCO 25-7, final sentence).  And state laws on non-profit corporations usually stipulate notice must be individually delivered to every voting member of the corporation, and not just announced on a Sunday at the church.  Likewise, a special corporation meeting would be needed if disaffiliation involved changing the church’s basis for their 501(c)3 status, which would happen if it had been under the PCA’s IRS “umbrella.”  

9. When many generations of PCA-loving members have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars of the Lord’s money to a particular PCA church, one would think it’s only fair, reasonable, and honorable to make sure the church is not quickly ushered out of the denomination by a meeting called on very short notice.  The goal, and our covenant with our brothers and sisters in the PCA today and in the past, should be to ensure any disaffiliation is the decision of the broader congregation, and not just the Session and a small part of the congregation.  And 30-days’ notice will help achieve that goal.  

10. The CCB reported: “In the opinion of the CCB, Overture 10 is not in conflict with other parts of the Constitution.”   (Commissioners Handbook, p. 283):  The CCB vote was 4-2.  A dissenting opinion contends: “The creation of a more stringent requirement that applies only to churches wishing to withdraw is in conflict with the congregational competency and civil sufficiency clauses of BCO 25-11.”  In response to that contention, we note that if the BCO 25-2 requirement for seven-days’ notice for congregational meetings does not conflict with other parts of BCO 25-11, then it’s unclear how a requirement for increased notice in this particular instance could conflict.  That is, unless the CCB minority is asserting that NO notice is required for such a congregational meeting.

Grounds for recommending that Overture 13 be answered in the negative: 

A previous general assembly has answered a similar overture on the following grounds, “for women to participate on General Assembly committees and agencies would allow them to exercise ruling authority in the Church, in violation of I Tim. 2:11ff. (M17GA, p. 176).”

Such reasoning is still sound.  Unordained men and women can presently be appointed to the sub-committees of the Permanent Committees and Boards of Agencies of General Assembly without placing them in a position of parity with the ordained officers who serve as voting members of those permanent committees.   The Committees and Boards of Agencies of the General Assembly of the PCA exercise ruling authority in the Church as they implement (BCO 14-1, 3) and execute (BCO 14-1, 7) the one work of the Church at the General Assembly level. Such power ought to remain in the hands of ordained officers of the Church. 

Grounds for recommending that Overture 20 be answered in the affirmative regarding modification of BCO 30-3:

This would more clearly separate suspension from sacraments and suspension from office, and the court would render distinct decisions on each. A confessed or convicted minister might be demonstrating initial signs of repentance, but not yet be ready to be restored to office.  This amendment would give Presbyteries more control of the matter, and more clarity.

Grounds for recommending that Overture 24, Grant BCO 59 ‘Solemnization of Marriage’ Full Constitutional Status, be answered in the negative and that Overtures 1, 2, and 5 be answered with reference to its actions on 24: 

1. The committee is unified in its commitment to the historic orthodox view of marriage, yet we did not agree that Overtures 1, 2, 5, or 24 were the best path forward. 

2.WCF 24.1 already clearly states that our official position is that marriage is only between one man and one woman. If the civil courts won’t accept our current standards then it seems unlikely that change to the status of Chapter 59 will grant further protections.

3.“Traditional” marriage between one man and one women is already constitutional and mandatory via our standards.

4.Making all of Chapter 59 fully constitutional, including sections without clear Biblical warrant, opens up the possibility of objections that WCF 24 also lacks Biblical warrant. We believe that many weak arguments are not necessarily better than a short but powerful statement. 

5.While WCF 24.1 clearly speaks to marriage only with reference to “one man and one woman,” further overtures could elaborate or clarify 24.1, if the Assembly so chooses.

6.The proposed revisions in said overtures introduced new objections, including requiring ministers to record their actions as if they were a court of the church, while having no process for review of said records. 

7.To make Chapter 59 fully constitutional opens the door for bringing charges against ministers that fail to practice strict recording practices, without any Biblical warrant for such charges.

8.We believe that the current legal issues are more complicated, and constitutional change without a significant investigation of the legal protection from a local, state, federal, and Canadian perspective would be rash.  

9.Finally there is a real possibility that if an overture to “strengthen” our language fails to reach the needed majority of presbytery support it might be later used against us in court.

Grounds for recommending that Overture 26, Amend BCO 14-1.1 and the Corporate Bylaws of the PCA VI.2 so that a Minority of Seats on the Board of Trustees of Covenant College May Be Open to Non-ordained Members, be answered in the negative:

Consistent with our recommendation on overture 13, we believe that there are significant problems with this overture.  The bylaw amendments in overture 13 were ruled out of order, and we anticipate that if the question came up, the proposed bylaw amendments contained in overture 26 would produce the same result. Overture 26 is in conflict with BCO 26-2. The Corporate Bylaws are subject to the Book of Church Order (PCA Corporate Bylaws Article VIII), therefore the BCO must be amended prior to the related provisions of the Corporate Bylaws.

A previous general assembly has answered a similar overture on the following grounds, “for women to participate on General Assembly committees and agencies would allow them to exercise ruling authority in the Church, in violation of I Tim. 2:11ff. (M17GA, p. 176).”

Such reasoning is still sound.  Unordained men and women can presently be appointed to the sub-committees of the Permanent Committees and Boards of Agencies of General Assembly without placing them in a position of parity with the ordained officers who serve as voting members of those permanent committees.   The Committees and Boards of Agencies of the General Assembly of the PCA exercise ruling authority in the Church as they implement (BCO 14-1, 3) and execute (BCO 14-1, 7) the one work of the Church at the General Assembly level. Such power ought to remain in the hands of ordained officers of the Church.

Grounds for recommending Overture 27,Amend BCO 8-1; 8-3 regarding Qualifications of Elders, be answered in the affirmative as amended: 

This overture amends BCO chapter 8 to make certain changes to the definition of elder.  The first change is to remove the word “grave” from BCO 8-1 and replace it with the words “spiritually fruitful, dignified.”  This change is intended to make this portion of the BCO more clear and readily accessible to church members.  The word “grave” in modern English has different connotations than it did in the seventeenth century, and it does not appear in modern translations of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  The words “spiritually fruitful, dignified” better capture the meaning of the Greek texts.  Even in the KJV, the only use of the word “grave” in the qualification for elders found in these passages is in 1 Timothy 3:4, and the ESV translation substitutes the word dignity:

 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 1 Tim 3:4 (KJV).

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive 1 Tim 3:4 (ESV).

The committee agrees that the revised text of BCO 8-1 better captures in modern English the meaning of the Greek texts.

The other change included in this overture is the addition of the words “and demonstrate hospitality” to BCO 8-3.  The overture as received from the Rocky Mountain Presbytery also added the words “to those inside and outside the church,” but the overtures committee removed that additional language.  The consensus was that the addition of “hospitality” as a qualification for elders is uncontroversial in light of 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8. Both texts use the Greek word φιλόξενος (transliterated philóxenos) which can be translated as “hospitable”, “or generous to guests.”   The precise implications of that term, and whether it extends to those outside the church as well as inside, are less settled theologically, and in the interest of unity and garnering greater support for the overture, both from the General Assembly and from the presbyteries, the Overtures Committee thought it prudent to omit the additional words, leaving it to the courts of the Church to interpret the term in light of the full counsel of scripture.  The resulting amended version of Overture 27 should be uncontroversial, and the committee recommends its adoption.

Grounds for recommending that Overture 29, Form Study Committee to Study RPCNA Report on Sexual Orientation, be answered in the negative:

The overture as originally presented seemed to anticipate commendation of the RPCNA Report and, as amended in committee, would have commended that Report to the Church.  It is unlikely that commissioners have read the RPCNA Report, thus it would be peculiar to recommend it or for this body to become an agent for distribution of the report regardless of its merits.

It seems inappropriate to erect a study committee and then confine the attention of the committee to the RPCNA Report.

The clear purpose of the overture is to call attention to the report. That has been accomplished by the submission of the overture.