Wednesday, June 18, 2014

General Assembly (2014) #15

Committee Work is finished. The whole General Assembly will convene again today, Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m. The respective committees have:

Approved, by a vote of 49 -18, an amendment to the constitution concerning marriage copied here. If approved by the General Assembly this will come to the presbyteries for vote.

   “If they meet the requirements of the civil jurisdiction in which they intend to marry, a couple may request that a service of Christian marriage be conducted by a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), who is authorized, though not required, to act as an agent of the civil jurisdiction in recording the marriage contract. A couple requesting a service of Christian marriage shall receive instruction from the teaching elder, who [shall] [may] agree to the couple’s request only if, in the judgment of the teaching elder, the couple demonstrate sufficient understanding of the nature of the marriage covenant and commitment to living their lives together according to its values. In making this decision, the teaching elder may seek the counsel of the session, which has authority to permit or deny the use of church property for a marriage service."

Approved, by a vote of 51 -18, a new Authoritative Interpretation concerning marriage copied here:

Exercising such discretion and freedom of conscience under the prayerful guidance of Scripture, teaching elders may conduct a marriage service for any such couple in the place where the community gathers for worship, [if]  [so long as it is] approved by the session; or in such other place as may be suitable for a service of Christian worship. In no case shall any teaching elder’s conscience be bound to conduct any marriage service for any couple except by his or her understanding of the Word, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. The authoritative interpretation of this section by the 203rd General Assembly (1991) (Minutes, 1991, Part I, p. 395, paragraphs 21.124–128), and the subsequent authoritative interpretations of the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission relying upon it, are withdrawn and replaced with this authoritative interpretation.'

Approved the Confession of Belhar to be included in our Book of Confessions. The committee vote was 46 to 0. This is a constitutional issue. If approved by the whole General Assembly this will come to the presbyteries for vote. 

Amended and approved the Mid Council Report, with a vote of 65 to 1, which will initiate the restructuring of our Synods. An important section of the recommendation is copied here: 

 Direct that a new configuration of synod boundaries be established [based on an emerging sense of purpose, partnership, context, and call through a collaborative process] between the synods and presbyteries [resulting in no more than 10-12 synods]. resulting in no more than eight [twelve] larger regional synods, each with an emerging sense of purpose, partnership, context, and call. The synods shall report to the 222nd General Assembly (2016).