Assembly Turns Down Attempt to Amend Vows for SJC Judges

Louisville, Kentucky (June 17, 1999)-By an overwhelming margin, the 27th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) voted down an attempt to amend the vows taken by those who sit on the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). The issue revolves around which standard is to be used in judging cases-is it the Word of God as understood by the church corporately (and as expressed in the Constitution), or is it the Word of God as understood by the individual interpreter?
In 1993, the General Assembly responded to concern expressed about the conduct of the SJC by appointing an Ad-Interim Committee on Judicial Procedures (AICJP). The AICJP, consisting of men representing a variety of viewpoints in the denomination, worked hard to produce a consensus. When the proposed reforms were adopted by the 1996 General Assembly, they were adopted as a "package." Part of the package was a provision that called for those who judge cases to vow that they will judge according to the Constitution of the church.
For the second time in two years, Evangel Presbytery overtured on the matter. Helping to spearhead the effort was the Rev. Dr. Craig Childs, a member of the denominational Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB).
Reflecting the language of the overture, Dr. Childs argued that binding judges to the Constitutional understanding of Scripture would bind their consciences. However, the Rev. Mr. David Coffin argued against the proposed change, pleading that the present vow was viewed by many as a necessary part of the package, in order to keep the peace of the church.
The Bills & Overtures (B&O) Committee recommended that the overture be answered in the negative. The Assembly agreed.