The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)’s Committee on Theological Issues and Institutions approved the preliminary report of the Theological Task Force (TTF) on Peace, Unity and Purity, during the denomination’s 216th General Assembly, Monday, June 28, 2004.
In addition to the preliminary report, the TTF also recommended for the creation of “intentional gatherings of Presbyterians of varied theological views to discuss divisive issues in the church and try to replicate its experience;” a proposal that was also endorsed by the committee.
The Task force member Mark Achtemeier told the committee that the group concluded, "drawing closer to Jesus Christ is the key to holding peace, unity and purity together" in the church.
Another member, Stacy Johnson, said: "Some say the task force has met for three years with little to show for it … (but) we were not asked to impose a solution from the top down; we were asked to help the whole church take ownership of the issues. … Ownership of the task force's work belongs to you."
Johnson said the task force is "exploring workable proposals" for learning "how to be Presbyterian and to allow our differences to edify, not divide."
The Rev. Shelly Parsons, an observer, also defended the report. She said the report affirms “all of our language is inadequate to describe the Trinitarian God," affirms "the language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit," and is "in line with scripture and the Book of Confessions ."
Meanwhile, the TTF’s proposal for a more specific definition of the "essential tenets" of the Reformed faith, drew some opponents who thought that the measure would go against the Westminster Confession and de-emphasize “the very words that God himself uses to describe himself."
The task force, created after the 2001 Assembly due to tensions over the issue of sexual-conduct standards in pastoral ordinations, was asked to address the issues of Christology, Biblical authority and interpretation, ordination standards and power.
The TTF listed their three main goals as:
· Deepen our understanding of our Christian and catholic identity and clarify key themes of the Reformed, theological and constitutional heritage;
· Study and evaluate sources of health and promise as well as the causes of dissension and unrest in the church; and
· Recommend ways for the church to move forward in peace, unity and purity.
In other PC(USA) news, the Committee on Evangelism and Higher Education, voted to recommend that the full Assembly:
· Endorse the “Alpha” evangelism program and continue publishing “Alpha: From a Reformed Perspective” and making supplemental materials on the Holy Spirit available on the Internet;
· Approve three overtures calling for more intentional evangelism, especially with racial-ethnic and immigrant fellowship groups, in keeping with the denomination's established goals of increasing racial-ethnic and immigrant membership.
Both recommendations were made on Tuesday, June 29. The PC(USA) General Assembly, which began in Richmond, Virginia on June 27, will continue through July 3.