Nine presbyteries – Pacific Northwest, Northern New England, Southern New England, Nashville, Tennessee Valley, Eastern Pennsylvania, Georgia Foothills, Metro Atlanta, and Missouri – have made overtures to the 47th General Assembly (Overtures 7, 10, 13, 20, 26, 31, 38, 43, and 47 respectively) to form an ad-interim committee to study domestic abuse and sexual assault.
The overtures, though similar, differ slightly in their details. They all call for the committee to call attention to pastoral resources that explore the nature of these offenses and offer help for victims of them, to propose best practices and policy guidelines to protect against these sins and respond to them, and to consider proposing changes to the Rules of Discipline that might more appropriately protect victims within a biblical process.
Three of the overtures also ask that attention be called to pastoral resources on the perpetrators of these sins. Seven of the overtures call for the PCA to consider a need to express repentance related to these matters. Pacific Northwest, Northern New England, Southern New England, Georgia Foothills and Metro Atlanta all pledged specific amounts to help fund the committee; Missouri also promised to provide funds but did not specify the amount.
According to Harvard RUF campus minister Jeremy Mullen, who led the team that wrote the overture, domestic abuse and sexual assault are long standing pastoral issues that the PCA has never adequately addressed.
“Many PCA elders can share stories about dismay and confusion in responding to them,” he says. While acknowledging the expense and time a study committee will require, he believes church leaders need practical advice in shepherding those who have been victims of abuse. “Churches and agencies need aid in formulating policies to help prevent these sins and respond when they tragically arise.”
All nine overtures have been referred to Overtures Committee, which receives all overtures related to study committees, and the Administrative Committee, which reviews the budget requirements.