[Moderator's Note: This covenant was dedicated in a special service on Pentecost Sunday, May 18, 1997.]
The addition of "Amendment B" to the Book of Order, paragraph 6.0106 has caused deep pain and concern within our congregation. As a community of Christian faith and as loyal Presbyterians, we declare the following:
We hold the wholehearted belief that all people are created in God's image, and each of us is unique and wonderful. We celebrate the universal truth proclaimed by the Apostle Paul that as Christians we are many members, yet one body in Christ and members of one another. (I Cor. 12, Gal. 3:28, G-3.0401, G-4.0203)
If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. I Corinthians 12:26-27
As Presbyterians in the Reformed Tradition, we hereby take special heed of the foundation of our faith that declares that matters of conscience are between God and individuals alone. We acknowledge that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) but that through God's grace in Jesus Christ all are saved (John 3:16-17); that the Church reformed is always being reformed; that Biblical revelation comes through the action of the Holy Spirit in our own (individual and corporate) lives and in our own times; and that in our search for order as people of God, we are called to be eternal friends of justice and implacable foes of injustice. (G-1.0301, G-2.0200)
By our actions, the Session and Congregation affirm the common dignity of all people, the equality of all in Christ, and our common responsibility as Christians to fulfill the Great Commandment of Jesus Christ (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Gal. 5:14) to love our neighbors as ourselves, without judgment or condemnation. (James 2:8-13)
We have welcomed - and will continue to welcome - all who profess faith in Jesus Christ and wish to join this congregation into full membership in its life and worship. The Session also affirms its fundamental right, responsibility, and intention to ordain to positions of leadership spiritually qualified persons who are called by God to those positions of leadership - and otherwise to extend the responsibilities and benefits of membership - without regard to gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, station, or other human condition. (Ephesians 2:11-22, G-1.0302, G-4.0400)
So Christ came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through Christ both of us have access in one Spirit to the Creator. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. Ephesians 2:17-19
Given that the above statements are core principles of our congregation and embodied in our understanding of the Reformed faith - and that "Amendment B," by contrast, is in no way essential to Reformed faith and practice and in many ways inimical to it,* we in the Christian community of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church are called to raise our voices in dissent, and do covenant together with other Presbyterians, by the grace of God, to:
- uphold the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in all its provisions, except G-6.0106b (Amendment B);
- remain in the Presbyterian Church (USA), working to change its constitution to reaffirm the historic responsibility of sessions and presbyteries to interpret scripture and confessions as they examine, ordain, and install officers;
- continue support of the mission of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and its per capita apportionment;
- participate responsibly in whatever disciplinary measures may be brought against us for this action;
- pray for the reconciling spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ to transform the entire church.
We declare our intention consistently to seek more of God's truth, particularly in places of disharmony, fear, and brokenness. We affirm our intention to work in love and humility toward a denomination that respects God's great gift of diversity by welcoming all people, without reservation, in Christ's name. We further affirm the right of any congregation to be a welcoming congregation and the responsibility of every congregation to act upon matters of conscience (James 4:17).
Session and Staff of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, PC(USA), Austin, Texas
Date: 11 May 1997
*Among the inconsistencies of Amendment B with our understanding of the Reformed Tradition as expressed in the Book of Order are the following:
- G-5.0101: Membership in the church requires only profession of faith in Jesus Christ and baptism; and
- G-5.0202: Active members are entitled to all the rights and privileges of the church, including the right to vote and hold office.
G-6.0102: Officers differ from members in function only.
G-3.0401b, G-4.0403, G-5.0103: The church is enjoined to practice openness and inclusiveness in the name of Jesus Christ.
- W-7.40001: The church is exhorted to strive for justice and
- W-7.4002: to address wrongs against individuals and groups in the church.
G-1.0306: The right of the people to elect their own officers is inalienable.
G-1.0305: There are truths and forms with respect to which faithful Christians may differ.
G-1.0301: God alone is Lord of the conscience.
G-1.0307: The decisions of church bodies may be in error.
C-9.03: The Confessions upon which the amendment relies primarily are, by their own admission, subordinate standards in the church; no one statement is irreformable.