Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Church Works Better When We Trust Our Committees

This week I am blogging from the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly

It is true of any organization, really.  I note it now because I have been to General Assemblies in the past in which a recommendation from an official church body was taken as a good reason to vote against the proposal by a significant minority.

So far in our Polity Committee, we have considered the advice of our official advisors to be sound.  When we consider an overture, we have the written response of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution before us, as well as a representative of the committee in the room to reply to the official 'overture advocates'.  On some matters, other advisory bodies also weigh in.

Yesterday we considered a proposal to let presbyteries, rather than congregations, ordain elders.  This was a well-intentioned overture to help newly forming immigrant communities have officially recognized leaders before they had organized as full congregations.  However, this idea strikes at a basic norm of Presbyterian polity that the elders arise from the congregation and are chosen by it. 

A change so basic brought out advisory opinions from a broad range of denominational muckety-mucks - in addition to the Advisory Committee on the Constitution, we heard from the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns, the Committee on Theological Education, the Office of the General Assembly, and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (the main action arm of the denomination) - all advising against.

The Polity Committee heard from representatives of most of these bodies, as well as reading their recommendations.  We appreciated the conflict of goods that this overture represented.  In the end, though, we respected our disparate new Establishment.  We trusted our committees.

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