Recap of actions of the 215th General Assembly PDF Print E-mail

02 -- GA Procedures

Item 02-06 (ov 03-15 National Capital) on setting aside the action on biennial assemblies and returning to the denomination's historic practice of holding annual meetings

      • Committee recommended: Disapprove; Vote: 31/23/
  • GA disapproved overture by a vote of 285-230 (55%-44%)

Item 02-05 (ov 03-13 Baltimore) amending G-13.0104 to change the number of requesters required for calling a special meeting of the GA to 25% of commissioners.

      • Committee recommended: approve 50/5/
  • GA approved overture 436-67 ( 87%-13%)

 Item 02-01 amendments to the BOO related to biennial assemblies (changes in terms of office, establishing classes on GAC, formula for determining number of commissioners to GA, budget cycle) and amendments to Standing Rules, new Board terms, amdts to bylaws of Board of Pensions, adjustments of terms

  • GA approved on voice vote

Item 02-07 future assemblies:

  • Approved 2008 San Jose and 2010 Twin Cities Area


 Item 02-10 (CR 03-1) on directing that the number of staff from GAC and OGA at GA be restricted

      • Committee recommended: Disapprove 53/2/
  • GA disapproved CR on voice vote 

Item 02-13 (CR 03-7) on clarifying procedures for calling a special meeting of the GA

      • Committee recommended: approve 54/1/
  • GA approved on consent agenda

Item 02-14 (CR 03-8) on increasing and enhancing the info commissioners have on nominees to GA entities prior to voting

      • Committee recommended: disapprov
  • GA disapproved 405-96 (80%-19%) 

Item 02-15 (CR 03-21) on amending standing rule B5e on CRs [this would have allowed CRs only on business that came up after the deadline for submitting overtures, virtually eliminating CRs]

      • Committee recommended: approve 26/24/2
        GA motion to concur with committee's recommendation failed 80-422 (18%-82%
  • The GA took no action on this item. 

Item: New Business VI-A amend standing rules regarding YADs

      • Committee recommended: Amend Standing Rule A2c so it reads "Each presbytery shall appoint an active member of the PCUSA who shall be at least 17 years of age and not greater than 23 years and 364 days of age on the date the GA convenes, to be a youth advisory delegate. When the GA meets biennially, presbyteries with membership of more than 32,000 members shall appoint one additional youth advisory delegate." 41/12/1
        Amdt moved from floor: Change "32,000" to "20,000" passed 250-232 (51%-48%).
        Amdt moved from floor: Add "Further, the YADs shall be given voice but not vote in the committees." Failed 103-402 x-79%
  • GA action on motion as amended: Failed 262-245 51%-48% (had majority, but 2/3 is needed to amend standing rules)



Item New Business VI B "The 215th GA (2003) requests the OGA to publish at each Assembly a definition of 'affinity groups' and a complete list of qualifying groups. A communication shall be sent each year to every qualifying group, requesting info from them regarding their mission, goals, and funding. Each group's response, or failure to respond, shall be reported to the next Assembly.

Affinity groups who fail to respond to the communication shall then be required, prior to being assigned exhibit hall space at an Assembly, to report to the OGA how that group supports the purpose of the GA and advances its goals."

      • Committee recommended: approve 48/5/
  • GA approved on voice vote 

03 Church Polity

During speakout after dinner at least two spoke of hurt of GLBT persons and one commented that 6th Presbyterian, the church attended by Fred Rogers (for whom a memorial presentation had been given late that afternoon) was a More Light church.

At the beginning of the session, the GA moderator commented about discussions during dinner break with two people who were so hurt & excluded by the GA's decision.

The committee gave a presentation emphasizing that higher governing bodies use administrative review rather than remedial cases and that the "GA cannot intervene in the life of a congregation or presbytery."

Item 03-04, request 03-04 regarding interp of possible conflict between GA standing rule G2g and the rules of discipline assuring compliance with judicial commission orders (from COGA). This is the Standing Rule that permits the GA to issue further orders if it is dissatisfied with the compliance of the constitution reported to it by the Stated Clerk. The Office of the General Assembly and Advisory Committee on the Constitution have argued that the rule is archaic and unconstitutional.

      • Committee recommendation: That recommendation be approved [remove standing rule that indicates GA can review actions taken to achieve compliance with PJC decisions Cmte vote 46/10/
  • GA approved on hand vote 

Item 03-13 (ov 03-08 Redstone) on supporting synods in their responsibility of oversight of pbys (G-12.0102m, n) and urging the adoption of guidelines to address such issues

    • Committee recommendation: In response to this rec, that the 215th GA (2003) approve the following resolution:

"Direct the Stated Clerk to send the following pastoral letter to the clerk of each congregation, presbytery, and synod:

The 215th GA (2003) thanks the presbytery of Redstone for their expression of concern about actions of some ministers and governing bodies that may be unconstitutional, and about the rapid and frequent filing of disciplinary allegations and remedial complaints in response to perceived wrongdoing. Though the assembly itself is not in a position to make substantive judgments about these concerns, many of which are or have been the focus of judicial cases or administrative proceedings, the assembly is eager to do all it can to create a climate of trust, order and fair treatment of all parties in a conflicted time in the life of this denomination, particularly when the presenting issue concerns the wholeness of Christ's body, the church.

"The assembly affirms the administrative review process outlined in our Constitution. To this end, the assembly reminds synods and presbyteries that they have at their disposal a full range of constitutional provisions for administrative review as well as judicial action (including G-1.0400, G-9.0103, G-9.0402, G-9.0407, G-9.0410, G-11.0103, G-12.0102, and G-12.0304). The assembly urges synods and presbyteries to establish procedures to review the work under their charge (G-9.0408) and also to intervene in a pastoral spirit that reflects the trust and love on which the community is based.

"The assembly further urges the OGA to continue to provide resources, training, advisory opinions on the Constitution, and other assistance for synods and presbyteries as they carry out their responsibilities for administrative and judicial oversight and correction.

"At the same time that we call to the church's attention the full range of resources available for correction and oversight, we want also to note with gratitude self-restraint and mutual forbearance displayed by the vast majority of governing bodies and officers, even when they find themselves in situations of sharp disagreement and conflict. We urge all Presbyterians to join in this spirit, which we believe to be Christ's own and to be our greatest resource for life together in His service.

"We also express our appreciation and encouragement to the many clergy and elders on sessions, permanent judicial commissions, and administrative commissions across the denomination for their service to the church in these difficult times.

"We share these words in the same Spirit that led our forebears, also living in difficult and contentious times, to write:

"We are willing to hope that both ministers and private Christians will feel the force of the Saviour's character and example, who was meek and unassuming, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, and who invites us to learn of him the same temper. We conjure you [brothers and sisters], to consider the nature and genius of our holy and peaceful religion, and to act under its influence. Pray for the spirit of grace to be poured forth upon the Church in plentiful effusion, as the best enlightener of the mind and healer of divisions. Pastoral letter from the General Assembly, PCUS, 1797"

In debate they said the ACC had told the committee that the BOO was sufficient, but COGA and the Stated Clerk wanted more extensive guidelines for admin review.

A minority report was moved which listed more specific steps toward achieving compliance through administrative review.

The motion to substitute the minority report for the main motion failed 184-316 36%-63%.

There was a motion that both majority & minority reports be combined into one. That substitute failed 156-337 (32%-68%).

  • The GA's final vote on the committee recommendation passed 366-124 (74%-25%.)


 Item 03-B governing bodies statements of compliance with PJC decisions.

    • Committee recommendation: Approve report with comment "The 215th GA (2003) advises the COGA to clarify the process of administrative review on the GA level, and suggest changes to the standing rules necessary to make the process more clear."

There was a motion to add the further comment "That the 215th GA calls to the attention of the Synod of the Northeast the controversy surrounding the compliance report of the Presbytery of Northern New England in regard to the Londonderry decision of the GAPJC with the request that the Synod of the Northeast review that report and submit its findings in regard to compliance to the 216th GA (2004).
A motion to close debate on all pending questions was approved. The amendment failed 152-335 (30%-67%).

  • GA approved the committee's report. 

04 Church Orders & Ministry

Item 04-06 (ov 03-07 Des Moines) amending G-6.0106a, deleting G-6.0106b, and issuing an authoritative interp

    • Committee recommendation: approval
      During debate, the following substitute motion was moved and approved:

"That the 215th GA answer 04-06 ov 03-07 with the following:

Since the issues raised in this overture are already before the Theological Task Force on Peace, Purity and Unity, the 215th GA calls for the entire church to pray for the Theological Task Force during this time of discernment."

Shall substitute become main motion passed 353-168 (68%-32%).

Then before that motion was approved, a new substitute motion was moved to "refer section 1 of overture 03-7 to the Theological Task Force on Peace, Purity and Unity and to approve section 2 of overture 03-7 as an Authoritative Interpretation." 

The motion to substitute this new motion for the main motion failed 160-354 (31%-69%)

  • The final vote approving the motion to pray for the Task Force was approved 431-92 (82%-18%)

The moderator, in a moment of personal privilege, commented about the "great sadness and pain in my heart for many in this room who continue to feel left out."

Item 04-07 (ov 03-12 Donegal) on providing an authoritative interp of G-6.0106b

      • Committee recommendation: In response to this recommendation, that the 215th GA (2003) approve the following statement: … [ 7 paragraphs] cmte 53/4/3
        During debate, there was a motion to preserve the first 4 paragraphs, but strike the last 3 paragraphs. The amendment passed 232-228 (49%-48%
  • The final vote approving the amended motion passed 363-104 (78%-22%)

 The 4 paragraphs that were approved:

"Ov 3-12 requests an authoritative interp of issues of application arising out of a perceived lack of clarity related to certain words that appear in G-6.0106b. No authoritative interp is needed because the current constitutional documents and related judgments and interpretations are not silent on the issues raised. As stated in the rationale of the overture, words are "clearly defined in the Book of Confessions.

"Self-acknowledged" is not a word appearing in the Book of Confessions. However the GAPJC decisions in Weir v Second PC, Ft. Lauderdale, remedial case 214-5 (minutes, 2002, part I, p 339) and pby of the Redwoods, remedial case 215-8 (minutes, 2003, part I, item 03-info) do clearly define it.

"Current references in our constitutional documents describe and define in numerous places the Christian character expected of those who follow Christ. Such character is to be especially reflected in the lives of those who hold office. Among the citations relevant to the concerns of ov 03-12 are: Second Helvetic 5.093-.094 (repentance); Heidelberg 4.108-.109; and Westminster 6.081-.086; 7.247-.249 (chastity). A search of the electronic version of the Book of Confessions easily reveals a vast number of relevant reflections on these terms from our tradition. Specific application of these standards to explicit conduct is best accomplished through the particularized fact-finding available through the judicial process.

"The process of authoritative interp should be used sparingly, and for the purpose of defining potentially ambiguous words or phrases in the BOO, rather than for setting forth detailed procedures or advice as to how the provisions of our Constitution should be administered."

 Item 04-04, request 03-9 request for Authoritative Interp of G-6.0106b from pastor, Palos Park Pres Community Church of Palos Park, Illinois

    • Committee recommendation: answered by action on item 04-07 comm: 62/0/1
      There was an amendment to add the 3 paragraphs removed from the committee's proposed response for item 04-07 as the response to this. The amendment passed 286-191. The 3 paragraphs are:

"The ACC response points out that Request 03-9, suggests what appears to be a simple solution to the perceived lack of clarity in some portions of G-6.0106b, by having the 215th GA (2003) approve, as an authoritative interp, Advisory Opinion #8, which was crafted by the OGA.

"Advisory Opinion #8 contains no new material. While it does collate in summary several aspects of the effect of G-6.0106b on our polity and practice, it contains only material already in the Constitution, clearly established as authoritative interp or embedded in judicial decisions. While it was compiled as guidance to presbyteries and sessions as they consider how the Constitution directs them, to restate it as authoritative interps is redundant.

"The GA, through constitutional amendment, GAPJC decision, and authoritative interp has made clear what actions or activities do not satisfy the requirements of G-6.0106b. No further authoritative interp is necessary on this point."

    • The response as amended passed 376-113 (74%-22%)

06 Mission Coord & Budgets

Item 06-06 (ov 03-23 Greater Atlanta) on appointing a pastoral group whose primary concern would be gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered members and their families in our local churches.

    • Committee recommendation (shown below) 38/16/2
      [ ] = words in committee recommendation, but deleted by GA
      CAPS = words not in comm. rec, but added by GA

In response to this overture, that the 215th GA (2003) approve the following recommendations:

1. Encourage presbyteries to equip pastors and sessions to provide pastoral care and nurture to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered members and their families.

2. Encourage presbyteries, sessions, and pastors to seek out pastoral care resources presently available in their own communities for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered members and their families.

3. [Instruct the Moderator to appoint a task force of seven persons for the period of one year to:] REQUEST THE CMD TO:

a. Identify and post on the appropriate pages of the CMD web site existing resources and models consistent with current GA policies to assist presbyteries, pastors, and sessions in their pastoral ministries to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered members and their families; and

b. Recommend to the next GA the production of additional resources [if the task force determines] IF THE CMD DETERMINES a need for such resources. 

Amdt moved from floor to make both changes passed 350-153 (69%-30%

  • GA approved recommendations as amended by voice vote

 07 National Issues

Item 07-02 Living Faithfully with Families in Transition
The paper and proposed policy that was sent to GA did not uphold the biblical view.

    • The majority of the committee approved a set of their own biblical recommendations 32/22/1
    • A minority of the committee recommended the original set of recommendations plus a "theological preface" they drafted.

The committee (majority) report was considered perfected.
There was one amdt added to the minority report: "Add a new section after C6 and make subsequent adjustment in numbering:

"The 215th GA encourages churches to offer parenting and marriage preparation classes and skills and values programs for adults directed at the major life transitions and crises they confront." During the debate on whether or not to substitute the minority report for the majority report, this motion to refer was made and was approved by the GA:

"Refer both the majority and minority reports back to ACSWP for further work to strengthen the policy and that this be done in consultation with the GA office of Theology and Worship and report back to the 216th GA in 2004."

 (There were motions to refer to two alternate places--Task Force on Peace Purity and Unity and to split parts between T&W and ACSWP--but those were defeated. Referral to Task force failed 67-435 (13%-89%); split failed 202-295 (41%-59%)

  • Final vote making the referral described above was 279-232 (54%-45%). 

That afternoon there was a motion to reconsider (with stated purpose of requesting report in its entirety be sent to commissioners next year since that was not done this year), but that motion failed on a hand vote.

08 Health Issues

Item 08-01 (ov 03-04 Flint River) on ceasing Board of Pensions coverage for procedures of grave moral concern.

      • Committee Recommendation: disapproval 55/15/
  • GA approved recommendation on split voice vote (electronic keypads not working) 

Item 08-02 (ov 03-18 Huntingdon; concurrences from Lackawanna, San Gabriel, Sacramento) on offering moral counsel to protect mothers and their babies late in pregnancy.

In response, there was a committee report and a minority report. Both were modifications of the 2002 GA statement on late-term abortions. The minority report was a stronger pro-life statement.

Perfection of committee (majority) report:

Amdt to add "we affirm the statement…" phrase at the beginning passed on a hand vote.

Amdt to strike "When it is deemed necessary to end a pregnancy to protect the mother's life or health in the later months of pregnancy when the baby may be able to live outside the womb, a procedure should be considered which gives both the mother and the child the opportunity to live." And insert "When it is deemed necessary to end a viable pregnancy to protect the woman's life or health, a procedure should be considered which gives both the opportunity to live." Amdt failed 175-321 (x% -63%)
No further amendments were attempted.

Perfection of minority report--No amendments were attempted.

Motion to substitute minority report for majority report failed 205-315 (39%-60%)

    • The majority report as amended passed 405-108 (77%-21%)
      The approved wording is:

We affirm the statement of the 214th GA on post-viability and late-term abortions with the following revisions:

The church has a responsibility to provide public witness and to offer guidance, counsel, and support to those who make or interpret laws and public policies about abortion and problem pregnancies. Pastors have a duty to counsel with and pray for those who face decisions about problem pregnancies. Congregations have a duty to pray for and support those who face these choices, to offer support for women and families to help make unwanted pregnancies less likely to occur, and to provide practical support for those facing the birth of a child with medical anomalies, birth after rape or incest, or those who face health, economic, or other stresses.

The church also affirms the value of children and the importance of nurturing, protecting, and advocating their well-being. The church, therefore, appreciates the challenge each woman and family face when issues of personal well-being arise in the later stages of a pregnancy.

In life and death, we belong to God. Life is a gift from God. We may not know exactly when human life begins, and have but an imperfect understanding of God as the giver of life and of our own human existence, yet we recognize that life is precious to God, and we should preserve and protect it. We derive our understanding of human life from Scripture and the Reformed Tradition in light of science, human experience, and reason guided by the Holy Spirit. Because we are made in the image of God, human beings are moral agents, endowed by the Creator with the capacity to make choices. Our Reformed Tradition recognizes that people do not always make moral choices, and forgiveness is central to our faith. In the Reformed Tradition, we affirm that God is the only Lord of conscience--not the state or the church. As a community, the church challenges the faithful to exercise their moral agency responsibly.

When an individual woman faces the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy, the issue is intensely personal, and may manifest itself in ways that do not reflect public rhetoric, or do not fit neatly into medical, legal, or policy guidelines. Humans are empowered by the spirit prayerfully to make significant moral choices, including the choice to continue or end a pregnancy. Human choices should not be made in a moral vacuum, but must be based on Scripture, faith, and Christian ethics. For any choice, we are accountable to God; however, even when we err, God offers to forgive us. While the ending of a pregnancy after the point of fetal viability is a matter of grave moral concern to us all, it may be undertaken only in the rarest of circumstances and after prayer and/or pastoral care and counsel, when necessary to save the life of the woman, to preserve the woman's health in circumstances of a serious risk to the woman's health, to avoid fetal suffering as a result of untreatable life threatening medical anomalies, or in cases of incest or rape. When it is deemed necessary to end a pregnancy to protect the mother's life or health in the later months of pregnancy when the baby may be able to live outside the womb, a procedure should be considered which gives both the mother and the child the opportunity to live.

 NOTE--the changes from last year are:
These sentences were added:

The church also affirms the value of children and the importance of nurturing, protecting, and advocating their well-being. The church, therefore, appreciates the challenge each woman and family face when issues of personal well-being arise in the later stages of a pregnancy.

When it is deemed necessary to end a pregnancy to protect the mother’s life or health in the later months of pregnancy when the baby may be able to live outside the womb, a procedure should be considered which gives both the mother and the child the opportunity to live.

These changes were made in existing sentences:

Pastors have a duty to counsel with and pray for those who face decisions about [abortions] PROBLEM PREGNANCIES. Congregations have a duty to pray for and support those who face these choices,

When an individual woman faces the decision whether to [abort] TERMINATE a pregnancy, the issue is intensely personal,

Item 08-03 (ov 03-21 Eastminster) on removing incest and rape from the circumstances allowed for late-term abortion

      • Committee recommendation: disapprove 41/27/
  • GA disapproved overture 353-150 (69% to 30%)

Item 08-04 final report of the PHEWA report

      • Committee recommendation: that report be approved with the following comment: "We encourage PHEWA, as resources are available, to find ways to publicize in the church resources and services available through PHEWA." 73/0/
  • GA approved committee recommendation with no objections

10 Theological Issues & Institutions

 Item 10-10 (ov 03-20 San Diego) on affirming that the church is called to present the claims of Jesus Christ.

    • Committee recommendation: In response to this overture, that the 215th GA (2003) approve the following resolution:
      That the 215th GA (2003) affirm "Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ" and directs the Stated Clerk to send this resolution to presbyteries and congregations as an urging and encouragement to study "Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ," leading to their proclamation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Item 10-11 (ov 03-26 San Gabriel) on amending the open meeting policy in the Manual of the General Assembly by adding a point 8 regarding the theological task force.

      • Committee recommendation: In response to this overture, that the 215th GA (2003) approve the following statement: The GA Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the PC(USA) shall be exempt from this open meeting policy in order to go into closed session solely for the purpose of exchanging views on sensitive theological issues in cases where it is determined by two-third's vote of the members of the task force present in a duly called and constituted meeting. 32/13/
  • GA approved 276-219 (56%-x%)


GAPJC elections

Lakes & Prairies

1. Ernest E Cutting (GANC)
2. John D. Mayne (floor)




1. June Lorenzo (GANC)
2. Marilyn Riddel (floor)




1. James Conklin Moore (GANC)
2. Fred L. Denson (floor)



GANC nominees from Lincoln Trails (Janet Wilson) and Alaska Northwest (Bruce Gore) were unchallenged and were elected.

Wilson, Gore, Cutting, Lorenzo, and Denson were elected.



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