Members of the World Reformed Fellowship:
WRF Board member Dr. Ron Scates has authorized the posting of the material below on the WRF website. The recent official action of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is described at the bottom in a press release from that denomination's office in Louisville, Kentucky. Above that and immediately below this brief introduction is a copy of a letter sent by the Pastoral Staff and the Session of Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas to the members of that church.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ of Highland Park Presbyterian Church,
As the elders and pastors of HPPC, we are writing to inform you of a recent event in our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Specifically, a significant change has been made to the PC(USA)’s standards for church officers (pastors, elders and deacons).
While this change is deeply troubling, it does not change HPPC. We have the freedom and the responsibility to continue upholding biblical standards for church officers.
For many years, the PC(USA) has been embroiled in debate regarding what standards ought to be required of deacons, elders and pastors. In particular, the debate has focused on whether our denomination should maintain “the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness” (PC(USA) Book of Order, G-6.0106b).
An amendment to the PC(USA)’s constitution was recently approved, and this biblical standard for church officers will soon be removed from the Book of Order.
The Session of HPPC stands with the many congregations and individuals with whom we have worked and prayed to prevent this change, which we regard as a significant break in the covenant relationship of the PC(USA). This revision is a departure from the beliefs and practice of the historic and global Church.
Of course, media reports of this event may interpret it as progress toward tolerance and openness.
What will change in the Presbyterian Church (USA)?
? De-centralization: The removal of the denomination-wide standard gives congregations and presbyteries (regional governing bodies) permission to make their own decisions about appropriate conduct for church officers. Some have stated that they plan to ordain leaders who do not abide by the “fidelity/chastity” standard that is being removed.
How will this impact Highland Park Presbyterian Church?
? HPPC’s beliefs and practices are unchanged. We will continue to uphold biblical standards for church officers. The freedom we embrace is the freedom of the Gospel, which calls us all to live humbly in the righteousness of Christ (Romans 6:18).
? The Session is studying and evaluating these events in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), together with a new task force established specifically for this purpose. We invite you to communicate any questions or concerns you may have, by writing to the Clerk of Session, Ben Brown (at the HPPC address, or email email@example.com).
Prayerfully Yours in Christ,
The Session (Elders and Pastors) of HPPC
Ben Brown, Clerk of Session Ron Scates, Senior Pastor firstname.lastname@example.org
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Office of the General Assembly
100 Witherspoon StreetLouisville, Kentucky 40201
Contact: Sharon K. Youngs, Communications Coordinatoroga.email@example.com
May 10, 2011
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approves change in ordination standard
‘Submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ’ replaces ‘fidelity and chastity’
LOUISVILLE—While the Office of the General Assembly awaits official tallies, it appears that a majority of the 173 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have approved a change in PC(USA) ordination standards.
At its meeting on Tuesday, May 10, 2011, the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area became the 87th presbytery to approve an amendment that will remove the constitutional requirement that all ministers, elders, and deacons live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” (G-6.0106b in the church’s Book of Order).
The new language reads, “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 new provision reaffirms the long-held right and responsibility of ordaining bodies (local church sessions for deacons and elders or presbyteries for ministers) to determine the suitability of each candidate for ordination. The effect of the new language also opens up the possibility that persons in same-gender relationships can be considered for ordination.
The 219th General Assembly (2010) of the PC(USA) approved Amendment 10-A last summer, but required a majority of presbyteries to ratify the provision for it to become part of the church’s Constitution.
The change will take effect July 10, 2011, one year after the adjournment of last summer’s assembly.
In response to the vote, denominational leaders issued a letter to all congregations of the PC(USA), calling the debate about ordination standards “a Presbyterian family struggle.” The letter goes on to say that Presbyterians have “sought to find that place where every congregation and every member, deacon, elder, and minister of the Word and Sacrament can share their gifts in ministry while, at the same time, the integrity of every congregation, member, deacon, elder, and minister is respected.”
Additional resources are online at http://oga.pcusa.org, which include a “frequently asked questions” document, liturgical resources, a video podcast by Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, and Advisory Opinion #24 about the change to G-6.0106b.