The End of Overtures 23 & 37

An unofficial early count has determined that both Overture 23 and Overture 37 of the 48th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) have failed to pass the denomination’s regional presbyteries, before which they were considered as Items 2 and 4.

At the 48th General Assembly, commissioners passed Overture 23 by a vote of 1438-417 (71% approval) and Overture 37 by a vote of 1209-617 (66% approval). The General Assembly’s approval of the Overtures led to their being considered by the denomination’s constituent regional presbyteries for a vote. Of the 88 presbyteries in the PCA, 59 were needed to answer these Book of Church Order (BCO) amendment proposals (Items 2 and 4, respectively) in the affirmative for the proposals to be presented to the 49th General Assembly for final ratification. Every BCO amendment must be affirmed by at least 2/3 of the presbyteries.

Conversely, 30 negative presbytery votes on any BCO amendment will cause it to fail at the level of the presbyteries. On January 29th, 2022, Overture 37 (Item 4) received its 30th negative vote, causing it to fail the presbyteries.  Overture 23 (Item 2) is expected to register its 30th negative vote soon in one of the presbyteries yet to vote. This means that both amendments fail to meet the 2/3 requirement needed to be considered at the 49th General Assembly scheduled to be held in Birmingham, Alabama in June of this year.

Overture 23 (Item 2)

Overture 23 (Item 2) sought to amend BCO 16-4 to prohibit the ordination of men who self-identify as “gay Christians,” “same sex attracted Christians,” “homosexual Christians,” “or like terms.” The amendment states:

BCO 16-4. Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, “gay Christian,” “same sex attracted Christian,” “homosexual  Christian,” or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the  sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same sex attraction), or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations,  and actions are not qualified for ordained office.

Supporters of this amendment argued that the proposal grants constitutional authority to many of the most significant aspects of the Ad Interim Report on Human Sexuality. Concerns regarding gay identity and the nature of progressive sanctification are at the heart of this proposed amendment to the BCO. Supporters believe that the PCA must now issue an authoritative – and even Constitution-amending – response to today’s controversy swirling around human sexuality.

Opponents of this amendment argued that the proposed change lacks mature consideration and was merely reactionary. Opponents characterized this amendment as redundant and unnecessary because the PCA’s doctrinal standards already speak to issues of sexuality. Moreover, opponents argued that the term “identity” is a modern creation that may become opaque and obsolete in the near future.

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