On Upholding the Confessions of the Church
Dear Mr. Moderator:
Thank you for leading the church in a discussion of the "Nature of Confessions in the Reformed Tradition for the PC(USA)
." It is good to hold up and discuss our faith and our confessions.
Do I understand correctly that you both affirm the authority of the confessions and yet also deny that they have the ability to restrain any action of the General Assembly? If so, does that not render their authority empty, and does that not create confusion in the church?The Book of Confessions
is Part I of our constitution. The purpose of a constitution is to constitute
a disparate group of people into a unified body. Thus the confessions not only say what we believe but also actually help to make us who we are. And as Part I of the constitution, The Book of Confessions
has priority over the rest. It is the official statement of the faith of the church, of what we believe and, therefore, of what we are committed to doing.
The Book of Order
is Part II of our constitution. It is secondary. It is an agreed upon statement of how we are going to live out our faith practically in congregations and beyond. In that statement, we have agreed to operate by Robert's Rules of Order
, an orderly way for deliberative bodies to find and express their common mind. It is, by this reference, practically made an extended part of our constitution.
According to Robert's Rules of Order
, it is out of order to adopt any motion, including a proposed amendment, that conflicts with the constitution (section 10, p. 111, lines 4-6). The proper way to effect extensive change would be to amend all relevant portions of the constitution simultaneously. To attempt anything less than that, such as to attempt only the easier amendment of Part II of our constitution, would an affront to the faith of the church and a violation of the Book of Order
(F-2.01, "The Purpose of Confessional Statements").
The action of last year's assembly declaring itself free to propose amendments to the Book of Order
in conflict with The Book of Confessions
, thus disallowing the confessions any say-so over the government and life of the church, was a knowing and willing rejection both of the confessions and of good order. It was a disavowal of the Reformed tradition and a dismantling of our constitution. For a body to vote against its own constitution is to vote against having a constitution and is therefore to vote against being constituted at all. That is to say, the assembly's action rendered us a non-confessional and post-constitutional church! Organizations cannot sustain such massive contradictions. The assembly itself has created an unresolved constitutional crisis, known in parliamentary terms as a continuing breach. Must we not remedy this situation immediately?