Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More on the Ordination Standards Challenge in the PC(U.S.A.)

A good explanation is PFR's "Pastoral Conversation on the Passage of Amendment 10-A for Leaders of Congregations within the PC(USA)."

From this document:

"Even for those who have been following the voting, the reality of this change is a source of unspeakably deep grief."

Also from this document:

Q: What is Amendment 10-A? What does it say? What does it not say? What does it change?
A: Amendment 10-A is a change in the language of the Book of Order proposed by the 2010 General Assembly.

It calls for the removal of paragraph G-6.0106b:

"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 re-pent 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."


and replaces it with:

"Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates."


Proponents of the changed wording will argue that the passage of Amendment 10-A, in and of itself, changes nothing for those who remain committed to upholding historic orthodox teaching. Technically they are correct. Explicit language will be removed from the Book of Order that, for the vast majority of Jesus’ followers around the globe and for many who are still within the PC(USA), remains implicit. In other words, no vote by the Assembly and presbyteries can change the truth of God’s Word, and Scripture clearly teaches that God intends the gift of sexual intimacy to be expressed only within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. If we in the PC(USA) agreed on the clear teaching of Scripture, we would never have needed G-6.0106b. But we don’t agree, and so we defaulted to polity to find a way to live together.

Passage of this amendment does not mandate the ordination of practicing gay and lesbian deacons, elders, and ministers, although some people within the PC(USA) and the majority of people outside the denomination will read it as though it does. With the current standard eliminated, PC(USA) congregations will be free to ordain people in a variety of sexual relationships not currently affirmed for those seeking to be ordained (i.e. those living together outside wedlock as well as self-affirming, practicing gay, lesbian, bi and transsexual persons). With this change, there will be no stated sexual behavior standard for persons in church leadership. Passage of this amendment does make further attempts to redefine Christian marriage a certainty in the near future.

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