Thursday, February 5, 2009

Politics and Presbytery

As a few members of the PC(USA) know, the past General Assembly (GA) passed some amendments to The Constitution of the PC(USA) and sent them to the Presbyteries for ratification. Most of these concerned the Book of Order (BoO), and were somewhat minor.

However there is a major amendment that addresses the usual Elephant in the Room. Now I fully expected for the usual groups, both pro and con, to put forward their advice and reasons for voting pro or con.

This is not unusual, and could be classified under providing information. However, I have heard that one group is not only providing information, but also requesting a pledge of support and vote at the Presbytery meeting.

You read right, a group is actively canvassing and requesting that the person being canvassed, pledge that they will vote in the direction the group is pointing.

IMHO, this totally violates the Book of Order:
G-4.0301d. Presbyters are not simply to reflect the will of the people, but rather to seek together to find and represent the will of Christ;

From the Annotated Book of Order, there's this bit of info under that paragraph:
Earlier Ref: (UPCUSA 1978, 93, Buchwalter v. Pittsburgh Pby): Questioning by pby of potential commissioners to GA is allowed, but voting pledges are not allowed.

Lobbying for a vote at Presbytery would (I would assume) under that same ruling. Unless a GA overturned the previous ruling without anyone's knowledge, which I doubt.

I don't care whether this group is pro or con, but this violation of polity should not go unpunished.

UPDATE - 02/08/09 - I was talking to the Pastor at Stodgy Presbyterian today, and he said that he was also contacted. What really offended him was the fact that the group was asking how he was going to vote and asking for his support, and that they were making calls like telemarketers, calling during the usual dinner time of between 5 and 7pm. Indeed, he was called from his dinner table to answer the phone and basically told the caller that the call was inappropriate, and he refused to talk with the person any further and hung up.


  1. You are absolutely correct: It is the understanding of our polity and, as you point out, reflected in the Book of Order (as well as Roberts Rules of Order) that each of our governing bodies is a deliberative body and seeks together to come to a decision. To come in with a pledged position violates that letter and spirit.

    Having said that two additional points:
    1) I suspect that a certain number of commissioners arrive with their mind already made up
    2) Our seeking the will of God does not start at the meeting with the vote but is a much longer process. It can involve sessions at preceding presbytery meetings or discussions of the elders at session meetings. (I have already led such sessions in both settings.) But commissioners are not to be "instructed" and there is a line between being confident in your opinion and pledged.

  2. Thanks for the validation and the additions!


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