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New language offered for ordination standards

Committee recommends basing candidacy on calling, gifts, preparation, suitability

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The 219th General Assembly’s Church Orders and Ministry Committee has approved sending an overture to the full Assembly calling for new language in the Book of Order’s ordination standards.

The overture amends G-6.0106b, which states that church officers must be faithful in marriage between a man and a woman or chaste in singleness.

The recommended wording would replace the existing text with language that gives ordaining or installing governing bodies the responsibility of determining if candidates meet the standards for office. Candidates would be examined based on calling, gifts, preparation and suitability. Governing bodies — guided by Scripture and the confessions — would also determine candidates’ ability and commitment to fulfilling requirements stated in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation.

There is no mention of sexual ethics in the proposed language.

Robert Powell (Presbytery of Plains and Peaks) proposed a substitute motion — a pastoral letter to all PC(USA) sessions to express repentance and find a middle ground on this divisive issue.

Many commissioners were in favor of responding pastorally, but many also expressed the concern that a letter would effectively end the discussion.

Young adult advisory delegate Lacy Morris (Arkansas Presbytery) asked commissioners what they feared more — dividing the church or not making the right decision. She encouraged them to make a change and pointed to the ordination of women as an important change that initially wasn’t supported by all.

“We’re talking about history, but we need to talk about the future,” she said.

Some commissioners expressed interest in submitting a minority report.