Assembly Votes to Study Doctrine of Creation

St. Louis, Missouri (July 2, 1998)-The Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly voted today to erect a special committee to study the doctrine of creation. The action came in response to overtures from Central Carolina and Westminster Presbyteries.

The Bills and Overtures Committee had recommended, 13-11, to deny these overtures. But the Assembly substituted the minority report for the majority report by a vote of 521-371 (or a margin of 58.4% to 41.6%).

Presenting the minority report was last year's Moderator, RE Sam Duncan. In closing arguments, he noted that "there were almost no seats in the house" when the Standing Judicial Commission report germane to this matter was voted on yesterday. "It's an issue that's resonant in our denomination. And we need to talk about it. . . . to help this denomination come to a resolution. . . . Study committees have helped us in the past to retain our unity."

The original proposal was "to study the exegetical, hermeneutical, and theological interpretations of Genesis 1-3." Upon motion from the floor, the committee was also charged with examining "the original intent of the Westminster Standards' phrase 'in the space of six days.'" But an effort to add an inquiring into the original intent of the founders of the PCA, failed, overwhelmingly.

The attempt to add the instruction that the view of the PCA in 1973 be looked into was apparently an effort by people who believe that the Confessional phrase, "in the space of six days," was not intended by the founders of the PCA to have a definite meaning. The refusal by the Assembly to mandate that inquiry presumably means that the court was interpreting the original intent of the Standards to refer to 17th century Britain rather than to subsequent American developments.

Usually study committees have no more than seven members. The Assembly's rules were suspended by a greater than 2/3 vote so as to allow eleven members, who will be appointed by the Moderator.