General Assembly Update

June 27, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

Here’s what happened yesterday.

The Assembly passed the modifications to the Heidelberg Catechism.  These are intended to render a more faithful translation of the original German to English, removing some changes made by the 1962 translators due to their personal biases.  All other Reformed denomination have already made this change.  The conservatives are as expected bleating loudly about what they call “revisionism” by removing “homosexual perversions” from the confession.

The process works this way.  This vote creates a study committee to recommend changes to the next General Assembly in 2010.  That GA must vote affirmatively, and then send the change to the presbyteries.  2/3 of the presbyteries must vote affirmatively, and then the following GA (2012) must vote again in favor of the change.  Then it takes effect.

The GA also approved the same process for adding the Belhar Confession to the Book of Confessions.  That was surprisingly on a voice vote with no discussion.  When a few commissioners asked if people knew what they were voting on, the assembly made it clear that they did.

The Assembly sent the Form of Government revision to a new task force made up of the original task force plus nominees by the GA Moderator.  That group is tasked with taking another look at the revision and bringing it back to the next GA.  Most people acknowledged that there were some serious flaws that would doom the revision at presbyteries.
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The Assembly also added a Presbyterian Men representative to the GA Mission Council.  I support this action – if we’re going to have a Presbyterian Women member we need equal representation.

The Assembly created a special account and increase in per capita of $0.92 per member, or $50,000 per presbytery or $2,000,000 in order to defend against lawsuits filed by congregations seeking to leave the denomination to join the New Wineskins presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  This was a commissioner resolution seeking $185,000 in reimbursement for Northern New England to cover HALF of its costs related to ONE church suing them as part of leaving.  I support this action, and decry the churches that refuse to follow our polity and graceful settle their affairs with their presbytery when they choose to leave.  I also decry presbyteries that do not act with grace when presented with congregations that want to leave.  Last, I have to wonder how the EPC views congregations that choose not to follow our polity on the way out – what will they do in the EPC?

The Assembly made it easier to change the Standing Rules of the General Assembly – requiring a majority vote of all present and voting rather than 2/3 of all enrolled members.  The Assembly did not make a similar change to Suspending the rules – suspending should be harder than amending.

That’s about it for the big stuff.  Today is gonna be a fun one.

And the schism begins ….

January 17, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

The New Wineskins Association has published a proposed Strategy Report (warning – large PDF – over 150 pages) calling for a schism from the PC(USA) denomination.

Well, OK.  It doesn’t actually SAY that this is a schism.  In fact the report goes out of the way to avoid calling it a schism.  But let’s face it – what they want is the wholesale departure of a large number of PC(USA) congregations to another denomination.  That’s a schism.

What this group is pushing is for all New Wineskins congregations to leave the PC(USA) and go to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  The New Wineskins group will ask the EPC General Assembly next June to allow for non-geographical presbyteries.  They will then ask to create a New Wineskins EPC presbytery to contain all New Wineskins PC(USA) congregations that want to leave.  That presbytery will be self-governing, and all officers and congregations will be required to the Essential Tenets of the New Wineskins Association AND their Ethical Imperatives.  It should be noted that “destructive speech, unforgiveness” are listed in their Ethical Imperatives, though they use PLENTY of such speech in their Strategy Paper.  At some point this presbytery can either be folded into the EPC or possibly create a new denomination – the EPC and this presbytery will hold discussions over time on which way to go.

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Those interested in the roots of this schism should read a document from Perspectives (published by the PC(USA) Office of the General Assembly) titled Presbyterians and Separatist Evangelicals: A Continuing Dilemma.   This is admittedly written by from a leftward leaning point of view, but it is a very scholarly document that shows the roots of our ongoing controversies and splits.

And for God’s sake – let’s get this over with and move on.