Case Study 1 – A Procedurally Typical Protest
At the fifth (Thursday afternoon) session of the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Administrative Committee (AC) report included a recommendation from the Cooperative Ministries Committee “regarding the formation of a study committee on the issue of women serving in the ministry of the church” (Minutes, 51). After TE David Coffin raised a point of order which subsequently failed (Minutes, 51), TE Chuck Hickey raised and withdrew a second point of order (Minutes, 56), TE Wes Reynolds raised a third point of order which the Moderator ruled as not well taken (Minutes, 56), and the Committee of Commissioners’ substitute motion failed before the Assembly, the original recommendation passed the Assembly (767-375-12) and the Permanent Committee’s Recommendation was adopted, thus “approving the formation of a study committee on the issue of women serving in the ministry of the church” (Minutes, 56). It is notable that 173 commissioners registered their agreement with TE Coffin’s earlier point of order (and against the Moderator’s ruling) (see Minutes, 51-56).
At the sixth (Thursday evening) session of the Assembly, “TE Joseph Pipa presented the following protest regarding AC Recommendation 3, which on motion was found by the Assembly to be in temperate language, and therefore ordered spread upon the Minutes:
“We, the undersigned, humbly protest the establishment of a committee to study the issue of woman serving in the ministry of the church based on the following grounds:
- The committee having women as well as men, contrary to 1 Timothy 2:12-13.
- The committee is to reflect the diversity of opinion in the denomination with no apparent respect to Scriptural or Confessional parameters.
- It appears, with the suggestion of a pastoral letter, that there is a goal already in mind prior to the study committee being formed.
- Hebrews 6:1-2 states that the laying on of hands (ordination) has been established and further study hinders the progress of the gospel.” (Minutes, 69)
This protest was signed by 28 commissioners in addition to TE Pipa (Minutes, 69f). Later that evening, the Assembly adopted a statement answering TE Pipa’s protest by a vote of 452-148-28. The statement is as follows: “The 44th General Assembly recognizes the right of a member of a minority to bear testimony against what he deems an improper action on any issue before the court (BCO 45-5), and therefore receives the protest filed by TE Joseph Pipa regarding the action of the Assembly in establishing the study committee on the issue of women serving in the ministry of the church and records the protest in the minutes. However, the Assembly challenges his assertion in the protest that it showed “no apparent respect to scripture or confessional parameters” in its action to reflect the diversity of opinion in the denomination as being a grave mischaracterization” (Minutes, 91).
This recent occasion in the life of our church provides us with a useful case study of a procedurally typical protest at the General Assembly level. What makes this a procedurally typical protest is that it is clearly against an action of the Assembly; in this case, the action to establish a study committee.
Case Study 2 – A Procedurally Atypical Protest
At the 47th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), an overture was presented “with 12 articles affirming the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality” (Minutes, 78). TE Kevin Twit (Nashville Presbytery) filed “a formal protest against perceived intemperate language in a speech” (Minutes, 80) supporting an expanded version of said overture. Of the 203 signers to the protest, 181 (89%) were Teaching Elders and 22 (11%) were Ruling Elders (Minutes, 80-85)
This recent occasion in the life of our church provides us with a useful case study of a procedurally atypical protest at the General Assembly level. What makes this particular protest procedurally atypical is the fact that it is described in the Minutes not as being against a particular action of the Assembly per se, but rather “against perceived intemperate language in a speech.” The author of the protest itself (click here for details) does specify that he and his co-signatories were protesting the Assembly’s allowance of a speech to continue past a certain point when perceived intemperate language was employed. In order to understand the full context and developments around the protest itself, it is necessary to go over the original overture, the supporting speech of the expanded version of the original overture, and the protest itself.