Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G‐1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G‐ 14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W‐4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.
The meeting lasted from 10am-3pm with no scheduled breaks; we ate boxed lunches that we brought when we wanted. The meeting began with singing and a scripture reflection then got down to business. The first presentation was on conflict resolution. We learned how to talk to one another and how to ensure peaceful discussions. We then moved into presentations on four different ways to react to 10-A. We were sent eleven different options to read over, but the Presbytery chose to present on only four. Each option was presented in fifteen-minute presentations with 15 minutes of small group discussion following. Here are the four options as we were presented:
- Option 1 was to do nothing.
- Option 2 was for churches to declare their wishes on ordination through their CIF (church information form, used when calling a pastor) and for the Presbytery's Committee on Ministry to commit to respect each individual church's wishes.
- Option 3 was to create an overlay Presbytery for churches that feel that the PC(USA) has strayed too far away from its reformed tenants. (The current Book of Order doesn't allow for Overlay Presbyteries, so this option would mean sending an Overture to General Assembly, amending the BoO to allow this.)
- Option 4 was a process by which a church can leave the denomination.
I guess I should be 100% upfront. I went into this meeting wondering why we were meeting. I am of the camp that has been wanting more inclusive ordination standards and was overjoyed a the passage of 10-A. I was honestly annoyed that we would have an extra Presbytery meeting solely to hear options from churches that were upset that they didn't get their way. I know, ridiculously childish of me, but sometimes I just can't help it!
When I got to the meeting, I started out upset that the facilitators/mediators of the meeting were from a church that opposes 10-A. I felt an immediate bias. However, the discussion was set up in such a way that the bias wasn't felt. Some table groups had people on completely different sides of the issue and other table groups, like mine, had people that were all in agreement. We were able to discuss each option frankly and submit questions to be answered by each presenter at the end of the day. I don't think anyone changed their minds, but I think many people appreciated the time to talk about how they feel.
I don't think the meeting will result in less discussion at the October Presbytery meeting, where an overture asking to create an overlay Presbytery is expected to be presented. I do think, though, that delegates to the October meeting will feel better informed on the situation and feel better able to vote. I think some churches will still leave, so matter what we decide. I think people will be upset whether we approve the overture for Overlay Presbyteries or not. And I know some people will be upset if we choose option 1 or 2 and essentially do nothing.
Fifty years ago when the denomination voted to ordain women as Ministers, people were upset. Those people and churches left and created a new denomination. This may happen again. It is a time of change in our denomination. We are part of history. As a More Light church, we can say that we fought for and won the inclusion of ALL people to be eligible for ordination in the PC(USA). I will be sorry to see some churches go, but think the denomination made the right decision.