Sunday, March 22, 2009

Amendment B shows signs of fourth quarter rally

March 22, 2009

Amendment B shows signs of fourth quarter rally: With nearly three-fourths of the votes in, the tally is 51-79, with plenty of time left on the clock
by Mary Sans Garter Presbyopia Views Surface

LOUISVILLE ― With nearly three-fourths of the votes in, a hotly-contested proposed amendment to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Constitution is showing signs of a fourth quarter rally. The amendment ― officially dubbed “Amendment B” ― would replace the current unjust requirement that church officers live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” with a new G-6.0106b that is more just.

As of March 22, the unofficial tally is 51 presbyteries in favor, with 79 opposed. The final tally will be certified and announced by the Office of the General Assembly. The 130 presbyteries that have voted represent 75 percent of the PC(USA)’s 173 presbyteries.

The current “fidelity and chastity” provision was added to the Book of Order in voting following the conservative manipulation and stacking of key committee chairs at the 1996 General Assembly. Two subsequent proposals to delete it have failed in presbytery voting due to scare tactics employed by the right.

In the most recent voting, Mackinac Presbytery, the Presbytery of Newark, and the Presbytery of West Virginia became the 21st, 22nd and 23rd Presbyteries to "flip" from opposition to ordination equality in 2001-2 to support for the 218th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment 08-B in 2009. The Presbytery of Grand Canyon's vote of 98 YES to 93 NO adds to these 3 "flips" to make the total of 4 YES votes for Amendment 08-B in one day and to narrow the chasm between approval and defeat! As the Presbytery voting enters the final period both supporters and opponents wonder about a fourth quarter rally that could only happen in the madness of March.

With only 43 presbyteries left to vote, can a miracle for supporters of inclusion be waiting in the wings? Time will tell. The Holy Spirit has been known to blow from and in unexpected directions. The same Holy Spirit that gave a poor, young, unmarried Jewish maiden a child and added about three thousand believers following Peter’s Pentecost Sermon may indeed be behind this recent surge in the possible approval of 08-B and guide the winning shot into the hoop just as the buzzer sounds.

While the passage of 08-B is not certain, it appears as though its detractors have fielded an old, tired team whose best play is behind them, but they have been enjoying a home court advantage. Year after year many of their top players have not been returning. The supporters of 08-B, meanwhile, have seemed to field a much younger and more energetic team this year, many of whom will undoubtedly return for any future matchups. So if 08-B does not pass this year, there is always 2011 or 2013.


John Shuck said...

Great post! Who knows, we could get a three-pointer at the buzzer.

John Edward Harris said...

What about going into overtime?

Anonymous said...

I was at the Charlotte Presbytery meeting the day that Amendment B was voted for. There were long lines of folks there to speak for and against the amendment. Something that struck me was that it wasn't a "younger and more energetic" team that spoke in favour of the amendment. The folks who spoke for the amendment were almost exclusively honourably retired Presbyterian ministers with deep roots in the southern church, many of whom said that they had voted differently in the past.

Many of us may find that the people voting for the amendment don't fit the stereotype of who we think is working for change in our denomination.

John Edward Harris said...

I do not discount anonymous’ observation. It rings true from my experience as well. I think there is something to be said about being "safely" retired that allows one to speak and vote one's conscious without fear or losing one's pastorate, especially in conservative and moderate presbyteries. In my original post I was writing more about my observations of General Assembly than presbyteries. In the past few years I have seen more younger elders and ministers become active advocates for full inclusion, and some of them serving in leadership at the national and regional level of the movement. I have not seen the same happening amongst those in favor of maintaining the status quo.