Special Committee on Existing Authoritative Interpretations of the Book of Order
The 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) appointed the Special Committee on Existing Authoritative Interpretations of the Book of Order.
The committee was recommended after last year’s assembly adopted a revised Form of Government, which was approved by a majority of the PC(USA)’s 173 presbyteries to become an official part of the Book of Order within the denomination’s Constitution.
The focus of the special committee is on authoritative interpretations (AI) of the former Form of Government, which are interpretations of the Form of Government that are binding on the councils of the church. An AI is made by action of a General Assembly upon the advice of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution (ACC) or through a decision of the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) in deciding a remedial or disciplinary case. The most recent interpretation of a provision of the Book of Order is binding.
This year’s assembly has asked the special committee to “make recommendations to the 220th General Assembly (2012) concerning the status of specific existing authoritative interpretations of the Constitution based on the Status of Authoritative Interpretations as shown below:
While the status and applicability of any authoritative interpretation is subject to the judgment of the assembly, … generally speaking the status of authoritative interpretations would vary according to the relationship of newly approved language to previous language.
- If language approved in the Constitution explicitly restates the content of existing authoritative interpretations, it is no longer an authoritative interpretation but is incorporated into the Constitution.
- If language is approved that is identical to, or essentially the same as the language of constitutional provisions that have already been interpreted, current authoritative interpretations would continue in force.
- If language is approved that is substantively different from currently interpreted constitutional language, clarification from the General Assembly would be required as to the status and applicability of existing authoritative interpretations.
- If language is approved that contradicts the substance of an existing authoritative interpretation, the current interpretation would have no effect.
- If language is approved that totally removes a constitutional provision that has been authoritatively interpreted, the authoritative interpretations attached to that provision would be removed as well.
The special committee has no authority of its own, but will present its findings and recommendations to the Advisory Committee on the Constitution (ACC). The ACC will then make its own recommendations to the 220th General Assembly (2011) based on the special committee’s work.
The assembly action specified that the six individuals named to the special committee by current GA Moderator Cindy Bolbach come from recommendations by the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC), the Advisory Committee on the Constitution (ACC), and the Office of the General Assembly (OGA).
The special committee includes former GAPJC members Reverend Fane Downs and elder Steve Tabor; former ACC members elder Alyson Janke and the Reverend Neal Lloyd; and elders Laurie Griffith and Doska Ross, OGA staff members at the time of appointment.