On calling, gifts, preparation and suitability

The 219th General Assembly took action, once again, that composes and proposes new language for ordination standards. The proposed language is taken from an earlier church document – the Adopting Act of 1729.  The next paragraph is taken from the Advisory Committee on the Constitution’s comments:

“This overture seeks to restore the ordination practice and principles affirmed in the Adopting Act of 1729, the paradigm through which the tension between the differing points of view and the unity of the church have been maintained through much of our denomination’s history. Examining bodies are required not only to examine “… each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office,”but are also required to judge the candidate’s “… ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003)”. These questions require that the candidate affirm the authority of scripture, adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as contained in our confessions, and submit to the polity and discipline of the church. Moreover, the overture specifically states, consistent with the Adopting Act, that the examining bodies “… shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates…”

What a novel concept?  Examining a candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability as they relate to the constitutional questions used for ordination and installation rather than sexual ethics as the current provision in G 6.0106b seems to focus.  It seems, to me that for far too long we’ve singled out one aspect – “sex” – as the most critical for determining who is to be an officer in the church.

The proposed change, focusing on an individual’s calling, gifts, preparation and suitability for office as guided by Scripture and the Confessions seems a better way to go.

Does this mean I am taking a side in the debate on sexual ethics?  No. I am not taking either side.  That seems to be the problem.  G 6.0106b has garnered the reputation for polarizing our church.  It has led too many to the understanding that you must be on one side or the other.

I am saying that the wording in this proposal is better for the church, for presbyteries and for individuals who seek to discern their journey in faith and leadership in the church.  The language of calling, gifts, preparation and suitability allows us to talk more fully about what leadership looks like without focus on a single issue.

What will be the future of this proposal?  We will know by July 2011 what the response to this proposal will be.  Until then, it is our obligation to study Scripture and the Confessions in light of this proposal, pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and dialogue with one another so that together we may discern the will of God and the mind of Christ.

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