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February 20, 2008: Reconsidering the GA PJC's Authoritative Interpretation

Not more than a week after the GA PJC (General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission) provided clarity regarding ordination standards, John Knox Presbytery has overtured the General Assembly to reinstate ambiguity.

Ahh, if ever there was a "case-in-point" for yesterday's post.

John Knox Presbytery does not exactly come to the table with clean hands; they have already demonstrated that they intend to use ambiguity to avoid application of the denomination-wide, historic, ordination standards. They do not intend to abide by G-6.0106b, and they have already not applied it. Remember, this is the presbytery where Scott Anderson was approved and enrolled as an Inquirer -- though a member of the Theological Task Force that adamantly declared that no change had been made regarding ordination standards, he then sought to benefit by the change that was (not) made.

"Trust the presbytery!" is the cry of the John Knox overture. "Trust us even though you have evidence of how we will not honor your trust!" Do you give the keys to the car to your teenage son with a beer in his hand?

Oh, well. John Knox Presbytery is within the rules to ask for this reconsideration of the GA PJC's ruling. The General Assembly does have power to issue an Authoritative Interpretation; even one that contradicts or overrules the GA PJC.

The General Assembly is not required to do it just because John Knox Presbytery asks, but the problem is that General Assemblies do not like to simply vote "no" or doing nothing. Most times, commissioners seem to act as if they need to explain themselves, so they end up writing something new -- that itself ends up causing problems.

In fairness to John Knox Presbytery, they probably did the General Assembly a favor by bringing this overture in this way now -- at least the issue is clear: the effort will be to overturn the GA PJC decisions. Without an overture like this, it is more likely that the attempt would have surfaced at the Assembly using some of the other overtures as a foundation for the discussion. For example, the GA may have answered Overture 5, seeking to rescind the Authoritative Interpretation from the PUP Task Force Recommendation 5 by re-writing it as proposed by John Knox Presbytery. At least it is on the table now: able to be discussed, evaluated, and considered outside of the pressure of the Assembly. Reconsidering the GA PJC decisions is a bad idea, but now there is time to flesh out why it is a bad idea.

(Not only that, but the ambiguity that John Knox Presbytery seeks also illustrates why the nFoG is such a bad option -- ambiguity results in increased regulatory behavior, not decreased. Clarity is better for trust, for missional activity, and for proclaiming activity.)

Would that we had the same perseverance in sharing the good news with non-believer as we do for arguing about sex and ordination standards.

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