Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Presbyterian Outlook: Top court prohibits scrupling on fidelity-chastity

Presbyterian Outlook: Top court prohibits scrupling on fidelity-chastity:
"LOUISVILLE – The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) has ruled that candidates for ordination must comply with the sexual behavior standards of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), even if they disagree in conscience with them.

The GAPJC, in a landmark ruling dated Feb. 11 on a case from Pittsburgh presbytery, declared that the authoritative interpretation that the General Assembly approved in 2006 does not permit exceptions to the requirement in the PC(USA)’s ordination standards, which say that candidates must practice fidelity if they are married or chastity if they are single.

It described the “fidelity and chastity” provision as “a mandatory standard that cannot be waived.” And it upheld language from a prior Synod of the Trinity PJC ruling that made a distinction between allowing departures from the church’s standards related to belief – but not departures related to behavior."
This ruling is a long-awaited clarification of just how the Peace, Unity, and Purity report would be applied in the inevitable attempts to probe the boundaries.

My quick take on this is that the plain sense of the English language is to apply to how the Book of Order is applied to polity decisions. "Shall", "Should", and "May" mean very different things, and the Book of Order uses those words purposefully.

In this particular ruling the PJC clearly states that to change such provisions of the Book of Order will require a constitutional amendment, and not the "scrupling" that has been the object of a number of recent actions in presbyteries around the nation.

Hopefully this will allay some of the fears that the PUP authoritative interpretation would be employed as an end run around the Presbyterian Constitution.

The PJC has made a sensible decision and I hope it can serve to cool things down among those who are trying to leave the denomination as well as those who are trying to parse authoritative interpretations in such a way as to change the Constitution with submitting amendments to the Presbyteries for up-or-down votes.

NOTE: I first saw this a couple hours ago on the Presbyweb site, but no details were given. It seems that Hans Cornelder is in the hospital. I sure he could use our prayers.

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