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Presbyterian Church (USA) committee proposes dropping standards

Web Extra | Changes would drop requirements for heterosexual marriage and fidelity among church officers

At its biennial General Assembly in San Jose, Calif., where a controversial state supreme court decision last month made gay unions legal, the Presbyterian Church (USA) took a preliminary step toward dropping requirements for heterosexual marriage and fidelity among church officers.
In an indication of liberal voting strength at the gathering, a legislative committee Tuesday, June 24, voted 41-11 to send the following bill proposed by the presbytery of Boston to a full Assembly vote:

RECOMMENDATION

1. Direct the Stated Clerk to send the following proposed amendment to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes:
a. Strike the current text of G-6.0106b and insert new text to read as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

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b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate's sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.
b. Amend G-14.0240 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]
Preparation and Examination for Office
"When persons have been elected to the office of elder or deacon, the session shall confer with them as to their willingness to undertake the office. The session shall provide for a period of study and preparation, after which the session shall examine the officers-elect as to their personal faith; knowledge of the doctrine, government, and discipline contained in the Constitution of the church; and the duties of the office; and readiness to assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. If the examination is approved, the session shall appoint a day for the service of ordination and installation (see W-4.4000). If the examination is not approved for one or more elected officers, the session shall report its action to the congregation's nominating committee, which shall bring nomination(s) to a meeting of the congregation for any office(s) not filled."
c. Amend G-14.0450 by inserting a new paragraph "b." and by re-lettering current paragraphs "b." through "d." as "c." through "f." The text shall read as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]
Final Assessment of Readiness to Begin Ordained Ministry
"In the final year of theological education or when a candidate has satisfied all of the requirements of this section, and before the candidate has received a call, the committee on preparation for ministry of the candidate's presbytery shall conduct a final assessment of the candidate's readiness to begin ordained ministry. A summary of this assessment shall be reported to the presbytery and shall be transmitted to a calling presbytery when requested. The committee on preparation for ministry shall report to the presbytery when it has certified a candidate ready for examination for ordination, pending a call. This consultation shall focus on the outcomes of inquiry and candidacy and shall include each of the following requirements of certification:
"a. demonstration of readiness to begin ministry of the Word and Sacrament as required to fulfill the candidacy phase of preparation;
"b. demonstration of readiness to assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation;
"b. c. presentation of a transcript showing satisfactory grades at a regionally accredited college or university, together with a diploma;
"c. d. presentation of a transcript from a theological institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools acceptable to the presbytery, the transcript showing satisfactory grades, and presentation of a plan to complete the theological degree including Hebrew and Greek and exegesis of the Old and New Testaments using Hebrew and Greek texts;
"d. e. presentation of satisfactory grades together with the examination papers in the five areas covered by the Presbyteries' Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates."
2. Provide the following authoritative interpretation:
Interpretive statements concerning ordained service of homosexual church members by the 190th General Assembly (1978) of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and the 119th General Assembly (1979) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and all subsequent affirmations thereof, have no further force or effect.

RATIONALE

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