PCA’s Westminster Presbytery overtures 40th GA to change rules for the Cooperative Ministries Committee

At this meeting, Westminster Presbytery voted unanimously to overture the 40th General Assembly to require the Cooperative Ministries Committee to involve more committees (including the Overtures Committee) and agencies in the strategic planning process.

On Friday, January 13, Westminster Presbytery held its 200th Stated Meeting at Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church in Bristol, Tennessee. RE Kerry Belcher was Moderator at this meeting, and he is the son of RE Klynard Belcher, who was Moderator of the 1st Stated Meeting. Several original members of the Presbytery stood up at this meeting and made comments about their experiences in the Presbytery and the PCA in general.

At this meeting, Westminster Presbytery voted unanimously to overture the 40th General Assembly to require the Cooperative Ministries Committee to involve more committees (including the Overtures Committee) and agencies in the strategic planning process.

The overture would change the rules so that Cooperative Ministries Committee (CMC) initiatives would be sent to committees and agencies in the same manner as Presbytery overtures (for more on the Cooperative Ministries Committee, see this article).

This issue first came up at the 38th General Assembly when the CMC proposed all of its “Strategic Plan” initiatives through the Administrative Committee (AC). There was a written protest concerning this procedure. The protest stated in part:

Second, the Assembly violated its Rules of Assembly Operations (7-3.c), which require recommendations from the CMC to come to the Assembly through respective Committees and Agencies, whose works are involved in the recommendation: “Any matters requiring General Assembly actions shall be referred to the appropriate Committee or Agency for its consideration and recommendation.” (M38GA, p.343–344)

In spite of this protest, all CMC proposals were sent to the AC at the 39th General Assembly, even though the matters proposed related to Mission to the World and Christian Educations and Publications (among others).

In addition, at last year’s 39th General Assembly, TE David Sarafolean of Great Lakes Presbytery offered a personal resolution to change the rules to require the CMC and all other committees to send any rule changes or constitutional changes to the Overtures Committee instead of to the AC (see here at 4:45 p.m. for more details). This personal overture received just under the 2/3 vote necessary for it to be considered.

The CMC, like the Presbyteries, cannot send matters directly to either the Committees of Commissioners or to the General Assembly. Thus, if a Presbytery sends an overture to the General Assembly, Rules of Assembly Operation (RAO) 11-5 requires that the Stated Clerk send all such overtures to the appropriate permanent Committee or Agency for recommendation to its Committee of Commissioners (which then passes it on to GA with its own recommendation). The RAO also requires the Stated Clerk to send and rule changes or constitutional changes to the Overtures Committee.

Over the past two years, the AC Committee of Commissioners has had more and more work because of these CMC proposals while the Overtures Committee has had less and less. This amendment would change that situation and send all rule changes to the Overtures Committee and spread the CMC’s recommendations to other committees besides the AC.

Here is the overture:

Whereas, RAO 7-3.c. specifies that any matters from the Cooperative Ministry Committee (CMC) requiring General Assembly action “shall be referred to the appropriate Committee or Agency for its consideration and recommendation”; and

Whereas, the word “appropriate” in RAO 7-3.c. may be subjective and imprecise; and

Whereas, there has been confusion and division concerning the process specified in RAO 7-3.c. in the past; [1] and

Whereas, all matters from the CMC requiring General Assembly action in the past two (2) years have been referred to the Administrative Committee; and

Whereas, several such recommendations involved the nature or responsibilities of other permanent Committees or Agencies; and

Whereas, these permanent Committees and Agencies had no opportunity to formally consider and approve the recommendations having to do with their nature and responsibilities; and

Whereas, RAO 11-5 already requires that the Stated Clerk refer all overtures having to do with the nature or responsibilities of a permanent Committee or Agency to the appropriate permanent Committee or Agency; and

Whereas, RAO 11-5 also requires that the Stated Clerk refer all overtures requesting amendment to the BCO or RAO to the Committee on Constitutional Business for its advice to the Overtures Committee; and

Whereas, the Overtures Committee has been specifically designed to consider changes to the BCO and other constitutional amendments (RAO 15-1);

Therefore be it resolved, that Westminster Presbytery hereby overtures the 40th General Assembly, at the earliest possible place on the docket, to amend RAO 7-3.c. as follows (small font for deletions; bold for additions):

7-3.c. Facilitate integrated long-range planning that supports progress toward the overall mission and ministry of the PCA. Such planning shall be with respect to matters that fall within the ordinary scope of the respective responsibilities of the PCA’s Committees and Agencies, particularly with a view toward the mission of the PCA as a whole. Any matters requiring General Assembly action, other than proposed amendments to the constitution, having to do with the nature or responsibilities of a permanent Committee or Agency shall be referred by the Clerk to the appropriate permanent Committee or Agency for its consideration and recommendation. All other matters requiring General Assembly action shall be referred to the Overtures Committee.

So that RAO 7.3.c. would read:

7-3.c. Facilitate integrated long-range planning that supports progress toward the overall mission and ministry of the PCA. Such planning shall be with respect to matters that fall within the ordinary scope of the respective responsibilities of the PCA’s Committees and Agencies, particularly with a view toward the mission of the PCA as a whole. Any matters requiring General Assembly action, other than proposed amendments to the constitution, having to do with the nature or responsibilities of a permanent Committee or Agency shall be referred by the Clerk to the appropriate permanent Committee or Agency. All other matters requiring General Assembly action shall be referred to the Overtures Committee.
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[1] At the 38th General Assembly, following the voting down of the motion to recommit recommendations 16 and 17 of the Report of the Committee of Commissioners on Administrative Committee, a Protest was received and spread upon the Minutes. There were two reasons given for the Protest, the second reason given was the following: “Second, the Assembly violated its Rules of Assembly Operations (7-3.c), which require recommendations from the CMC to come to the Assembly through respective Committees and Agencies, whose works are involved in the recommendation: ‘Any matters requiring General Assembly actions shall be referred to the appropriate Committee or Agency for its consideration and recommendation.’” (M38GA, p.343–344).

Wes White is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. He is currently serving as the Pastor of New Covenant Spearfish Presbyterian Church, Spearfish, South Dakota. This article originally appeared on his

blog and is used with permission.

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