The Case for Amendment A: a Summary

Prepared by the Covenant Network of Presbyterians


Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture and instructed by the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to demonstrate fidelity and integrity in marriage or singleness and in all relationships of life. Candidates for office should acknowledge their own sinfulness, their need for repentance, and their reliance on the grace and mercy of God to fulfill the duties of their office.

 

Amendment A puts Jesus Christ first.

Asking officers to live "in obedience to Jesus Christ" means that, like all believers, they accept him as their Lord. Asking them to "acknowledge their reliance on the grace and mercy of God" means that they accept him as their Savior.

Amendment A correctly reflects our Reformed understanding of authority.

The requirement that officers live "in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and instructed by the historic confessional standards of the church" conforms with the ordination vows all officers presently take (G-14.0405b[4] and G-14.0207d). It also corrects Amendment B's erroneous elevation of the Confessions as the principal authority.

Amendment A reflects a Reformed understanding of the necessity of grace.

In the Reformed tradition, sinfulness is the condition of human life and cannot be overcome by human efforts. Amendment A's call for officers to "acknowledge their own sinfulness [and] their need for repentance" is at the heart of Reformed theology. It neither invites nor permits hypocrisy or self-righteousness.

Amendment A is true to our Reformed theology of ordination.

No one can "earn" ordination by following a checklist of required and prohibited behaviors. Ordination is not a seal of approval but a call to service. In asking all officers to acknowledge their "reliance on the grace and mercy of God to fulfill the duties of their office," Amendment A recognizes that "all ministry in the church is a gift from Jesus Christ" (G6.0101) and is possible only because of God's grace.

Amendment A sets high and demanding standards for church officers.

Amendment A recognizes that the church expects exemplary conduct from its deacons, elders, and ministers. It specifically requires marital fidelity of them, and prescribes that unmarried church officers exhibit fidelity and integrity in personal relationships. It leaves unchanged the authoritative interpretation now in place that prohibits the ordination of self-affirming, practicing homosexual persons. Unlike the narrow focus in Amendment B, however, it also requires fidelity and integrity "in all relationships of life." This phrase, as used in the Confessions (C.67-9.44) and in Amendment A, calls officers to demonstrate faithfulness and integrity in all relationships-marital, economic, parental, professional, institutional, political, and ecclesiastical.

Amendment A uses the Reformed concepts of fidelity and integrity as standards of conduct.

God's faithfulness and wholeness are models toward which church officers are asked to strive. A faithful keeping of promises made-that is, "fidelity" (from the Latin fides, faith)-is a moral standard in all areas of life. Calls for "integrity"-which is defined as wholeness, honesty, and purity (from the Latin integer, whole)-occur frequently in the Book of Order, for example in the recommendation that Sessions encourage members to "review the integrity with which they are involved in the ministry of the church" (G 5.0501). The need for officers to adhere to "the essentials of Reformed faith and polity" is described as "necessary to the integrity and health of the church" (G-6.0108). The wholeness of the church depends, to a great degree, on the integrity of its officers.

Amendment A fosters the peace and unity of the Church.

By faithfully reflecting our Reformed theological tradition and affirming its understanding of the authority of Scripture, Amendment A provides standards for ordained officers which all Presbyterians can endorse and follow. Unlike Amendment B, which is already causing distress throughout the church, Amendment A speaks to the beliefs that we share. The integrity, or wholeness, of the church as "the provisional demonstration of God's intention for all of humanity" (G-3.0200) is of paramount importance. Respecting differing interpretations of particular scripture, while maintaining the essential recognition of the sovereignty of God, the need for Christ's saving grace, and the responsibility of the church and its officers to "demonstrate the Christian gospel in the church and in the world" (G6.0106a), Amendment A allows all Presbyterians to leave factional differences aside and focus together on the great ends of the church.


 

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