Regarding Item 1: No one is doubting the integrity of a man’s self-description. We believe he rightly owns that description. We believe he is a man of integrity. The major point is whether such a man is eligible to serve as an officer in the PCA. Regarding Item 7: It’s already difficult to get 2 presbyteries to request the Assembly to assume original jurisdiction, and raising it to 10% would make it nearly impossible.
As of this writing, twelve presbyteries (out of 88) in the PCA have already voted on the proposed amendments to the Book of Church Order (BCO). It’s becoming late in the game, but I want to make two final pleas hoping to have some influence on the votes of the remaining presbyteries and possibly at the General Assembly next year (to read the wording of each of the proposed amendments, go here). I’ll be short and hopefully sweet.
Plea Number 1
One argument against Item #1 (from Overture #15 seeking to add BCO 7-4) regarding self- described homosexuals being qualified to be ordained as officers in the PCA has come to my attention. The concern is over the word “claim” as it appears in the proposed amendment (see in italics below).
“Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”
This is how the opposing argument goes against adopting the wording in Item #1. The word claim implies that there is a possibility that the man describing himself as a homosexual is not telling us the truth, and therefore this is an unfair judgment upon the man. The word claim is a poor or bad word, so the proposed amendment, taken as a whole, should be rejected. Thus, elders are urged to vote against the proposed change based on the use of this one word.
However, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists two main definitions of the word claim. It can mean 1) to assent on the face of possible contradiction, or 2) to take as rightful owner.
It is the second definition of the word claim that is the intent in this proposed change to the BCO. No one is doubting the integrity of a man’s self-description. We believe he rightly owns that description. We believe he is a man of integrity. The major point is whether such a man is eligible to serve as an officer in the PCA. To choose one dictionary definition over another equally legitimate definition of the same word in order to negate the major issue of the proposed amendment is, in my opinion, just not fair.
This is my first plea: Vote for Item #1.
Plea Number 2
Item #7 (Overture #8) seeks to amend BCO 33-1 and 34-1 regarding the number of sessions (BCO 33) or presbyteries (BCO 34) are required for a presbytery to assume jurisdiction over a session, or for the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction over a presbytery in cases of pubic scandal where the original court fails to act (or indict under the new language). The proposal would change the number of courts required from the present 2 courts (sessions or presbyteries) to 10%. The effect of this change would increase the number of sessions needed for a presbytery to act, and in the case of the General Assembly, it would raise the number to assume original jurisdiction to 9 presbyteries. As more presbyteries are added, the number would grow since it is based on a percentage of presbyteries.
A similar attempt was made 20 years ago at the 2002 General Assembly to change the number of presbyteries needed to make the request from two to 10% (an alternative of 5% was considered but was rejected). The 10% proposal was passed by the General Assembly but failed to be approved by two-thirds of the presbyteries.
The reason I object to this change is that the numbers 2 and 3 are used in the Bible in the matter of judicial procedures. “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim. 5:19). This was also the basis of judicial procedure in the Old Testament (Deut. 19:15), and it is used numerous times in other places in the New Testament. Paul even used it when referring to the necessity of his third visit to the Corinthian Church (2 Cor. 13:1).
It’s already difficult to get 2 presbyteries to request the Assembly to assume original jurisdiction, and raising it to 10% would make it nearly impossible. Besides, it is above the minimum requirement specified in the Bible.
This is my second plea: Vote against Item #7.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.