By Jacob Gerber | October 7, 2022
The list of Book of Church Order (BCO) amendments handed down to the Presbyteries from the 49th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is daunting. For a basic refresher on the amendments before us, including a breakdown of the votes that they received in Overtures and from the General Assembly, see TE Scott Edburg’s excellent article, Proposed Constitutional Amendments before the PCA in 2022.
The length of the list of amendments this year, however, may pose unique challenges to keep all of the goals, purposes, and reasoning for these amendments in mind. Most in the PCA probably understand the rationales behind the more public and controversial proposals, such as Items 1, 4, 5, and 7, even though some may disagree with those rationales. On the other hand, fewer will remember the technical reasoning behind some of the more procedurally focused proposed amendments, such as Items 2, 3, 6, 8, 9–12.
Often, the reasons for these amendments are listed in the Whereas clauses or the rationales written in the original overtures. That reasoning, however, gets stripped out after adoption by the General Assembly, and the Presbyteries receive only the amendment language itself. To help recall some of the original arguments in support of these amendments, here is a list of links to the original overtures as submitted by their respective Presbyteries:
- Item 1 (to amend BCO 7) was originally Overture 15 from Westminster Presbytery
- Item 2 (to amend BCO 8) was originally Overture 28 from Pittsburgh Presbytery
- Item 3 (to amend BCO 15-1 and 15-3) was originally Overture 25 from Houston Metro Presbytery
- Item 4 (to amend BCO 16 by adding 16-4) was originally Overture 29 from Pittsburgh Presbytery
- Item 5 (to amend BCO 21-4 and 24-1) was originally Overture 31 from Pittsburgh Presbytery
- Item 6 (to amend BCO 31-10 and 33-4) was originally Overture 20 to the 48th General Assembly (postponed to the 49th General Assembly) from Pacific Northwest Presbytery
- Item 7 (to amend BCO 33-1 and 34-1) was originally Overture 8 from Houston Metro Presbytery
- Item 8 (to amend BCO 35) was originally Overture 40 to the 48th General Assembly (postponed to the 49th General Assembly) from Tennessee Valley Presbytery
- Item 9 (to amend BCO 38-1) was originally Overture 35 to the 48th General Assembly (postponed to the 49th General Assembly) from Pacific Northwest Presbytery)
- Item 10 (to amend BCO 38-1 and 42-2) was originally Overture 19 to the 48th General Assembly (postponed to the 49th General Assembly) from Pacific Northwest Presbytery
- Item 11 (to amend BCO 42-6) was originally Overture 21 to the 48th General Assembly (postponed to the 49th General Assembly) from Pacific Northwest Presbytery
- Item 12 (to amend BCO 43-2 and 43-3) was originally Overture 21 from Northwest Georgia Presbytery
We submit this resource with two important caveats. First, many of these proposals from the Presbyteries were amended — and a few almost entirely rewritten — in the Overtures Committee. While the “whereas” statements in the initial forms may help presbyters to remember the original reasons for the amendments, they do not speak to the final form of the amendments, which is the only form that counts at this juncture.
Second, these overtures obviously do not provide the strongest arguments against any of the proposals. Be sure to do your due diligence to understand the full range of arguments in favor of and in opposition to these amendments.
May the Lord bless the PCA as we study, debate, and vote on these proposed amendments in our Presbyteries.