Friday, June 20, 2014

Special Report from GA

On an article about the GA actions on the Marriage & Civil Union committee, the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Detroit had this to say.

In both cases the Moderator asked for the opinion of the Stated Clerk, who referred the matter to the Advisory Committee on the Constitution. The ACC said that the General Assembly itself has the authority to determine what the Constitution says, and that therefore the point of order was not well taken. The Stated Clerk deferred to the opinion of ACC, and the Moderator declared the objection was overruled. On appeal, the Moderator’s decision was sustained by the Assembly.
This was a significant and momentous event. We have covenants that lay out how we shall govern ourselves. The Constitution gives authority of the General Assembly (by resolution or judicial decision) to interpret what our governing documents say. But that authority was predicated on the notion that an interpretation would be necessary because of an ambiguity. (A 2004 AI approved by the GA says: “The process of authoritative interpretation should be used sparingly, and for the purpose of defining potentially ambiguous words or phrases in the Book of Order, rather than for setting forth detailed procedures or advice as to how the provisions of our Constitution should be administered.) The ACC, Moderator, Stated Clerk, and the Assembly itself today declared that the General Assembly has the power to say that the plain words of our governing documents (Book of Order and Book of Confessions) can be “interpreted” to say things that they do not in fact say.
This action constitutes a significant shift away from the notion that we are a church governed according to the covenant we have adopted. In this covenant, the only rules that apply to the entire church are contained in the Book of Order. The GA has used its power to interpret to make a rule that is not in the Book of Order. And where trust in the authority structure of our denomination is a significant problem, this adds one more bit of evidence for those who claim the “GA” cannot be trusted to follow the rules.

You can read the entire comment here.

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