2024 PCA General Assembly Overtures

A total of 35 Overtures have been submitted to the 2024 (51st) General Assembly. This page will provide general information on Overtures and links to discussions on specific issues.

Helpful Reading:

Links to 2024 Overtures

You can find all of the 2024 Overtures here. The title of each Overture is hyperlinked so that you can view a PDF of the actual Overture.

Types of Overtures

For the purposes of tracking and discussion, Presbyterian Pew has divided the 2024 Overtures into 7 categories.

Presbytery Boundaries

Overtures 5, 8, 11, 12, 34 and 35 (more than 1/6 of the Overtures) contain requests to change the boundaries of various Presbyteries. These proposed changes all come from Presbyteries involved in the request and do not appear to be controversial.

Gender and Sexuality

These Overtures all relate to the role of women in the church or matters of human sexuality.

Overture 3 seeks constitutionally binding status for Chapter 53 of the Book of Church Order, including some amendments. Right now, the first two sections of the Book of Church Order (Form of Government and Rules of Discipline) are constitutionally binding (a church could be held accountable for failing to abide by them) while the third section (Directory for the Order of Worship) is not constitutionally binding. Over the years a few sections have been given constitutional status. This Overture seeks to grant constitutional status to the chapter on Preaching of the Word, including adding the phrase "qualified men" or "a qualified man" at several points.

Overture 13 seeks to encourage Presbyteries and sessions to send the letter on gender reassignment surgery written by a commission of the 50th General Assembly to their local governing officials.

Overture 15 seeks to amend the section on the qualifications of pastors in the Book of Church Order by adding the word "biological" in front of the phrase "men only". Note: This Overture was originally submitted to the James River Presbytery where it did not pass. The church session then submitted it directly to General Assembly.

Overture 29 seeks to add a constitutionally binding paragraph to Chapter 53 of the Book of Church Order (which addresses the Preaching of the Word) to prohibit women from preaching sermons in any worship service where men are present (including chapel services or RUF gatherings).

Judicial Cases

All of the Overtures in this category relate to the procedures in a church court trial.

Overture 4 proposes the development of a Study Committee to review any Overtures that seek to amend the Rules of Discipline (the section of the Book of Church Order that relates to church discipline) and propose comprehensive changes as needed. The Overture itself includes the proposed membership of the committee.

Overture 19 seeks to allow for a change of venue in a judicial case, especially when a session or Presbytery is unable to "maintain partiality". Note: This Overture was submitted to the Central Indiana Presbytery and failed to pass. It was submitted by the church session directly to General Assembly. The Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) advises that is it in conflict with other parts of the Book of Church Order (BCO).

Overture 20 proposes a large number of changes to three different chapters (31, 32, and 35) of the Book of Church Order in the section on Rules of Discipline.  It was submitted by the church session directly to General Assembly. The Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) advises that is it in conflict with other parts of the Book of Church Order (BCO).

Overture 21 seeks to prohibit "interlocutory appeal" - in other words, complaints about a church court process while the process is underway. Reports of the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC - the PCA's highest court) suggest that some change is needed in this section but the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) advises that this particular amendment is in conflict with other sections of the Book of Church Order (BCO).

Overture 25 proposes to add language to the BCO to explicitly state that church sessions or Presbyteries may use third parties to assist in an investigation.

Overture 26 seeks to allow for the accused in a church trial to be represented by someone who is a member in good standing in a PCA church. Currently representation is limited to a "member of the court." For example, in a trial before Presbytery, the accused person could only be represented by a member of Presbytery (a pastor or elder).

Witness Eligibility

The discussion of Witness Eligibility is a subcategory of Judicial Cases separated out for specific discussion. Currently the Book of Church Order limits those who may act as witnesses in a church trial by this language:

"All persons of proper age and intelligence are competent witnesses except such as do not believe in the existence of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments."

Overture 1 proposes to change the requirement for witnesses to anyone who will swear or promise to tell the truth. The amendment also proposed an alternative oath for those who will not or cannot swear before God. The Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) suggests that this Overture may be "constitutionally vague" about the situations in which a court may determine that a witness is not competent to participate in the trail.

Overture 18 seeks to remove the language above about belief in God or a future state of rewards and punishments and also to remove the option for courts to object to a witness's eligibility.

Pastors and Ordination

These Overtures cover various aspects of shepherding, examining and ordaining pastors as well as transfers and exit interviews.

Overture 2 seeks to clarify several paragraphs in the book of church order regarding Presbyteries accepting ministers transferring from other denominations or other Presbyteries in the PCA. One addition of note requires that if a Presbytery does not accept a transferring minister, the reasons for this refusal have to be noted in the Presbytery minutes and also communicated to his current Presbytery.

Overture 10 proposed to add a phrase specifically requiring each Presbytery to shepherd the spiritual needs of not only the churches but also the Teaching Elders (pastors) under its care.

Overture 27 proposes to add a phrase to the paragraph in the Book of Church Order which outlines the requirements for examining pastors transferring into the Presbytery. After the phrase "examined on Christian experience" the Overture would add "(including personal character and family management)".

Overture 30 seeks to require Presbyteries to conduct exit interviews with any pastor whose call to minister at a church is being dissolved (in other words, he is resigning or being let go from his position as pastor). Part of the purpose of this Overture is to prevent Non-Disclosure Agreements or Non-Disparagement Agreements (NDAs) from allowing the Presbytery to ask pertinent questions about the spiritual health and possible moral failings of either the pastor or the church leading to this termination of the pastor relationship.

Overture 32 proposes the addition of two paragraphs related to the resignation or termination of a pastor employed by a Permanent Committee or Agency (see more about Committees and Agencies here) such as Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) giving the Presbytery under whose care the pastor is serving the final say in the dissolution of the call, rather than the Committee or Agency.

Background Checks

Background Checks are a specific subcategory of the topic of Pastors and Ordination listed separately for discussion. Overtures 16, 17 and 24 are almost identical. Overtures 6 and 23 are more specific in the types of background checks required.

Overture 6 proposes to add specific background check requirements to several chapters in the Book of Church Order (BCO) that pertain to licensure, examination, transfer, and ordination. In each case, this is the proposed addition "The Presbytery [or Session] shall obtain and review with the candidate an “Identity History Summary” from the FBI and a state/local background check or a “Vulnerable Sector Check” from the Canadian Government."

Overture 16 seeks to require background checks for both Teaching Elders (TEs - pastors) by Presbyteries and Ruling Elders (REs - elders) by church sessions. The proposed language is "A Presbytery [or Session] shall order and review a background check on each candidate, administered under the specific rules and policies of the Presbytery [or Session]." The final sentence reads "The candidate shall be permitted to address the content of the background check."

Overture 17 is nearly identical to Overture 16 in the proposed amended language. One slight difference is the sentence "The candidate shall be permitted to address the results of the background check."

Overture 23 seeks to add more specific background check requirements worded as "a state and federal level fingerprint-based background check." This Overture also specifies that the background check information be shared with the Presbytery, the calling church (in the case of a teaching elder being hired by a local church) or organization (such as a missions agency or RUF), the sending Presbytery (in the case of a teaching elder transferring from another Presbytery) and even the congregation (in the case of a ruling elder) if the session deems it prudent. This Overture also specifies who will cover the cost of the background check in each instance.

Overture 24 is identical to Overture 16 in the proposed amended language.

Miscellaneous

Overture 7 seeks to clarify the procedure for proposed amendments to the Rules of Assembly Operation (RAO - the rules that govern the process of General Assembly). Currently when Overtures seek to amend the RAO in sections that affect Permanent Committees or Agencies, that Overture might be referred to the related Committee of Commissioners. This can cause a problem because the Committees of Commissioners do not have the same ability to deliberate and amend Overtures. This Overture proposes that all Overtures seeking to amend the RAO be referred to the Overtures Committee, with advice sought from the relevant Committee or Agency.

Overture 9 proposes to add specific language to the chapter of the Book of Church Order (BCO) that outlines the responsibilities of church sessions to read "including living in obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)"

Overture 14 seeks to require Committees or Agencies that oversee "institutions of higher learning" (specifically Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary) to include in its minutes data about enrollment.

Overture 28 seeks to address some conflict between the Book of Church Order (BCO) and the Rules of Assembly Operations (RAO - guidelines for how General Assembly operates) regarding important or substantive problems with the records of any Presbytery.

Overture 31 seeks to clarify what changes Permanent Committees and Agencies may make to their policy which require or do not require approval by the General Assembly.

Overture 33 proposes the development of a Study Committee to review the book Jesus Calling, published by a late (female) author who was a PCA member.

Overtures Referred to Committees

The Overtures Committee is responsible for most but not all Overtures. Committees that have responsibility for an Overture will present their recommendations for that Overture on the Floor of the General Assembly during that Committee's report.

Sometimes Overtures are referred to multiple committees. One committee will be responsible to present its recommendations on the floor of General Assembly but the other committees are asked for their advice on Overtures that impact or relate to their work.

Here are the committees to which the 2024 Overtures have been assigned or referred for advice.

Mission to North America (MNA)

Mission to North America is the domestic missions branch of the PCA. It is also the agency that manages Presbytery boundaries. All Overtures related to Presbytery boundary changes are the responsibility of MNA.

Overtures 5, 8, 11, 12, 34, 35

Overtures Committee

The Overtures Committee is a temporary Committee made up of Commissioners to the General Assembly. They are tasked with amending Overtures if necessary and providing recommendations about those Overtures on the floor of General Assembly.

Overtures 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 will likely be handled by the Overtures Committee.

Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB)

Any Overture that proposes changes to the Constitution of the PCA (including the Book of Church Order and Rules of Assembly Operations) will be referred to the Committee on Constitutional Business for advice. The CCB does not advice on the merits of an Overture or whether it should be passed, but only whether the Overture is in conflict with some other portion of the Constitution.

This Committee reports its advice before the Overtures Committee meets to discuss the Overtures.

The Committee on Constitutional Business was asked to advise on Overtures 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 (all Overtures referred to the Overtures Committee except 13 and 33 which do not pertain to the PCA Constitution).

Administrative Committee (AC)

The Administrative Committee of the PCA manages various administrative and organizational tasks within the PCA. The Stated Clerk of the PCA is the head of the Administrative Committee. Like the CCB, the AC may be asked to give advice on Overtures that are ultimately the responsibility of the Overtures Committee.

The Administrative Committee also reports its advice before the Overtures Committee meets to discuss the Overtures.

Overtures 7, 31, 32, and 33 were referred to the Administrative Committee for advice.

Other Committees and Agencies

A handful of 2024 Overtures involve a number of other Committees and Agencies and have been referred to them for advice as well.

Overtures 7, 14, 31, and 32 were referred to a wide range of other Committees.

Resources on 2024 Overtures

Several individuals and groups in the PCA put together a collection of views or their thoughts on Overtures preceding each General Assembly. These documents and their sources are included below in full and will be quoted in discussions of specific Overture topics.

These documents are all publicly available and/or shared with permission from the authors. Please see each author's comments and disclaimers about his own commentary.

The Presbyterian Pew shares these documents for informational purposes only. Posting of these documents should not be considered endorsement by Presbyterian Pew of any of the views or opinions they contain.

  • Pastor Scott Edburg and Pastor Jared Nelson Resource (also published here)
    Unique Features
    - Authors of this chart have attempted to give a fair summary of the positive reasons for the Overture as well as reasons why others may oppose it.
    - This chart includes notes about the advice given by committees who were asked to advise on Overtures.
    - It compiles a fair number of articles and podcasts discussing the subjects of specific Overtures so readers can consider opinions from multiple perspectives.

  • Ruling Elder Howie Donahoe Summary Chart and Comments on Overtures
    Unique Features
    - Chart gives a quick two-page summary of the Overtures including categories
    - Comments group Overtures with similar objectives

  • Dr. David Coffin Comments on Overtures (also published here)
    Unique Feature
    - Includes charts in Appendix that compare the proposed language of Overtures seeking to amend the same sections of the Book of Church Order

  • Pastor Fred Greco Comments on Overtures
    Unique Feature
    - Includes a chart at the end summarizing comments from Committees asked to advise on Overtures

What questions do you have about the Overtures to the 2024 PCA General Assembly?

About the author 

Lynna Sutherland

Lynna has been in the PCA since 1982. Four generations of her family have participated in PCA church planting. Lynna has been around long enough to see the good, the bad, and the ugly and her particular calling is to equip the people in the pew to understand their church government and to advocate for victims of abuse in the PCA.

  • As usual, an interesting mix of overtures. I am quite underwhelmed that someone is asking for a study committee on “Jesus Calling.”

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