GA Votes Down Proposed Amendment to Directory for Worship Regarding Who May Read Scripture in Public Worship


Louisville, Kentucky (June 17, 1999)-The 27th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) today voted down an attempt to state in the Directory for Worship that only a "man approved by the Session" may read Scripture in public worship. The current terminology simply says that "the minister" or "some other person" may read the Bible in public worship.
Some PCA churches have interpreted the Constitution to mean that women and children may properly read Scripture in public worship. On the other hand, the 1997 General Assembly took exception to the minutes of Southern Florida Presbytery for having a woman read Scripture and another one lead in prayer during an organizational service; and the 1998 Assembly reaffirmed that judgment by giving Scriptural and Constitutional rationale for it.
By a vote of 24-2, the Bills & Overtures (B&O) Committee recommended that the Assembly answer the overture in the negative; and gave as grounds that the overture had not presented sufficient exegetical reasoning. B&O Chairman Mark Rowden spoke approvingly of the fact that in his congregation on Mother's Day, the children had come up front to read Scripture. Other commissioners spoke of the legitimacy of non-authoritative reading of Scripture.
The man who had submitted the overture was the Rev. Mr. Timothy Rott. Originally presented as a proposed overture from his congregation, Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church, Cochranville, Pa., it had been turned down by Susquehanna Valley Presbytery. According to Mr. Rott, several of the congregations in Susquehanna Valley do have women read Scripture in public worship.
A retired Navy chaplain, Timothy Rott spoke of his ministerial journey. When he was ordained in 1979, these kinds of issues regarding women were not even on the horizon in the denomination. When he went into the Navy chaplaincy in the early 1980s, he faced much pressure to incorporate female chaplains as leaders in public worship-which pressure he resisted. He was looking forward to returning to civilian pastoral work, where he would not have to deal with such issues, and was dismayed to learn that the same issues were now in the PCA. He is fearful, he said, of where the church is headed. Pastor Rott stated that in his twenty years of being an ordained minister, he had spoken only one other time on the floor, and that was to call the question. He gave that anecdotal history in order to emphasize to the court how deeply he feels about the issue of women's leadership in worship.