With less than 60% of the 80 Presbyteries in the PCA represented at the annual Spring meeting of the Nominating Committee, held at an Atlanta Airport area hotel on Saturday, March 16, a major change in the membership of the denominations ‘Supreme Court’ has been recommended to the 41st General Assembly.
Each Presbytery in the Presbyterian Church in America appoints one member to serve on the Nominating Committee, alternating between a Ruling Elder to a Teaching Elder after each 3 year term, thus maintaining as much parity as possible. Members are encouraged to send in their ballots on all committee nominations ahead of time regardless of whether they can attend the actual meeting or not.
The first major assignment for the Nominating Committee members is to evaluate the preliminary votes through weighted balances, giving more weight to a first place, and down through all numbers. For instance, in one committee this year seven Teaching Elders were nominated for only two slots to be submitted to the GA. The weighted votes of those 7 were: 89, 86, 32, 31, 18, 15, and 12. The men with 89 and 86 were approved.
After the work is done to determine these weighted votes, the full committee gathers, and one committee/agency at a time hear the votes and, for the most part, agree to submit the highest numbers to the General Assembly as their nominees. However, in each case a member of the committee may make a motion to ‘replace’ a name among the top numbers with any other name on the list, no matter their weighted vote number. This occurred in several committees but for the most part the original group of highest numbers prevailed.
But when it came time for the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC), which coincidentally was the final committee considered, there were several significant procedural motions and ‘replacement’ motions which resulted in major changes to the makeup of the SJC.
Unlike the PCA’s primary ministry committees (Mission to the World, Reformed University Ministries, etc.) which require one year off the committee before being eligible for reelection, SJC members are eligible for re-nomination for another term of service – thus allowing continuity on the SJC, which serves as the final court to make decision on Appeals and Complaints from lower courts. Each ‘class’ of members is made up of three Teaching Elders and three Ruling Elders.
This year the 2013 Class of Teaching Elders whose term expire but were eligible to be reelected included TE Dominic Aquila (Rocky Mountain), TE Fred Greco (Houston Metro) and TE Danny Shuffield (South Texas). All three were re- nominated by their respective Presbyteries.
The first issue to confront the Nominating Committee was the fact that Rocky Mountain Presbytery submitted two nominees for the SJC, one Teaching Elder and one Ruling Elder. This is allowed by the rules of nomination, but is very unusual, since each Presbytery is limited to only one representative on the SJC, which is not true for any other committee or agency.
Making this even more difficult in deciding how to handle this situation was the fact that there were only three Ruling Elder nominees sent to the Nominating Committee from the Presbyteries for the three open slots, which included only one returning member. Under ordinary circumstances these three would be confirmed by a simple vote, but to do so would result in eliminating the Rocky Mountain TE from consideration.
Likewise, if the Nominating Committee acted to choose the three proposed Teaching Elders for nomination, and if that list included the Rocky Mountain TE nominee, it would result in eliminating the Ruling Elder from consideration. It has always been the common practice to vote on the Teaching Elder list first since the presentation of the documents listed the Teaching Elders on the left hand side of each page. Thus, since the three Teaching Elders gaining the highest weighted votes included the Rocky Mountain TE, if no one defeated him through the ‘replacement’ process he would be one of the nominees.
After being apprised of this situation by the PCA Stated Clerk, TE Roy Taylor, who serves as an advisor to the Nominating Committee, a procedural motion was made to proceed immediately to a vote by the Nominating Committee to choose between the two Rocky Mountain nominees before turning to the two lists before the committee. It was argued that this was the apparent desire of the Presbytery as they had sent two nominees, knowing only one could be elected.
Immediately after the procedural motion was made, a substitute motion was offered to move first to the vote on the Ruling Elder slate. This turned out to be one of the most highly debated issues of the day. When the vote was taken, the substitute was approved and the Rocky Mountain’s RE Candidate was approved as the committee’s nominees for the SJC. This vote automatically excluded the Rocky Mountain TE from consideration at this meeting.
The committee then turned to the list of Teaching Elders and it was determined that TE Fred Greco had the fourth highest weighted vote number and he was moved into third place and on the slate presented to the committee for consideration. A motion was made to replace TE Greco on the list with TE Ray Cannata of Southeast Louisiana Presbytery, who had been the 5th on the list of ten TE nominees. After considerable debate, that motion was approved. Afterwards, a motion was made to replace another name from the presented list, TE Greg Thompson (Blue Ridge Presbytery) with TE Fred Greco. After debate, this motion failed.
The net result of these actions was that none of three three Teaching Elders in the class of 2013 (Aquila, Greco, and Shuffield) were nominated. Those approved for presentation were TEs William Barker (Philadelphia Presbytery), Thompson and Cannata.
The rules of General Assembly operations allow for floor nominees to be presented to replace any of the names presented by the Nominating Committee for any board or committee, including the SCJ, thus leaving the potential for challenge candidates to be nominated at the 41st General Assembly that will be held June 18-21 in Greenville, S.C.
Dr. Don K. Clements is a Teaching Elder in the PCA and serves as an Affiliate Evangelist with PEF and is the Founder of Metokos Ministries. He represented Blue Ridge Presbytery at the Nominating Committee meeting.