Just after 9:30PM on Thursday evening, the Committee of Commissioners (CoC) on Administration took the floor to present a lengthy report (with 26 recommendations).
The chairman began by seeking to move 25 of the motions (other than budgets) as an omnibus motion, which means lump them together for one vote to approve. Since only 5 of the 25 had been unanimously approved, very quickly the request was made from the floor to take each item one at a time to discuss and approve.
The first motion to draw debate was a recommendation from the CoC to find an exception in the minute of the Board of Directors. At the April meeting, the AC – who also serve as the Board of Directors of the denomination – took the action to give authorization that the PCA be listed as a Friend of the Court in an amicus curia brief in the support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. The CoC felt this was ecclesiastical business rather than civil business, and the Board of Directors should not have acted without the approval of the General Assembly. After some debate on that issue, the vote was taken and overwhelmingly approved the recommendation of the CoC that this was, indeed, an exception (a matter that should not have taken place).
For the first time in memory of many observers, there was a speech in opposition to the standard motion to re-elect the Coordinator of the AC, who also serves as the Stated Clerk. When the vote was taken (by raising voting cards) observers noted a number of no votes being cast. After the election, the Moderator made a personal statement of support for the Stated Clerk, Dr. Roy Taylor and he received a lengthy applause from the gathered commissioners in appreciation of his work.
The next item that brought debate was a motion making up part of the Strategic Plan that was introduced to the GA two years ago. This year a series of motions on the theme of ‘Practical Presbyterianism’ were brought for consideration. Several of them were hotly debated.
The first of these read as follows: “Ensure that all PCA sponsored church plants include denominational funding as a fundamental element of the church budget. Encourage the same in Presbyteries”
A motion was made to recommit the matter to the AC CoC. The debate focused on the verb ‘ensure’ and whether this was the proper way to deal with the issue. When the vote was taken the motion to recommit failed and the recommendation was approved.
Next a recommendation stemming from the ‘Practical Presbyterianism’ series was made as follows:
“After revision by an ad interim committee representing a variety of views, appointed by the Moderator, showing the connection between PCA Biblical theology and worship, adopt as constitutional The Directory for the Worship of God.”
The CoC was deeply split on this one, with a vote of 20 yes, 17 no, 2 abstain and this division was clearly shown during the debate on the issue. The question was raised if was even proper for a motion seeking to change the constitution could come from a Permanent Committee without first coming by way of overture. The Moderator ruled that there was no specific language in the BCO or RAO prohibiting this method.
During the debate a speaker asked the Moderator to rule the motion out of order since it included a pre-determined outcome – that the Directory of Worship with constitutional authority would be adopted and that the General Assembly had not stated its desire for that outcome. The moderator ruled that the motion was indeed out of order. He was challenged by a reference to Roberts Rules of Order that requires that such a point of order must take place prior to any debate, and if debate has begun, no matter how out of order the motion might be, such a ruling cannot be made. Debate continued.
Ultimately, a motion was made to recommit the matter back to the Administrative Committee for report next year because so many believed it was out of order. The debate continued until time ran out on the topic (each topic is limited to only 20 minutes) and the vote was taken. The motion to recommit vote was close enough that a counted vote was required. The vote was 280 yes and 252 no and the motion was recommitted. Two other related motions were also recommitted with it.
At last year’s assembly the AC report was truly in the spotlight as they brought forward from the Strategic Planning Committee recommendations to revise the PCA Book of Church Order in order to set up a required fee from each church and each Teaching Elder in order to fund the work of the AC.
As our readers are aware, those proposed changes were overwhelming defeating during the vote of Presbyteries, with a majority of Presbyteries voting against these changes.
This year the matter of the funding of the AC brought out 6 different overtures and 4 communications on this topic. Each of these was bundled into one motion to refer to the Committee on Ministry Coordination Subcommittee on AC funding for consideration and report to the CMC subsequently to the AC and then to the 40th General Assembly in 2012. This motion passed without debate and the Assembly recessed for the night at 11:25PM
Friday morning the Assembly will meet and deal with the report of the Overtures Committee and the Mission to the World committee will come back with a recommendation to set up a study committee for the Insider Movement issue on translations into languages used primarily by Muslims. The Aquila Report will seek to publish both those stories on Saturday morning.