Open Space: Proposed Amendments to PC(USA) “Book of Order” by Michael Burkley

Amazingly enough, the governance of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is left up to … us!  Our churches elect Ruling Elders to serve in the local church and the presbytery. Working with the Presbytery our churches call pastors to teach and care for their congregations and to serve in the mission of the presbytery. The presbytery, as a union of our local churches, reaches out to our larger denomination and world, and inward to support its churches in their ministry. It’s a rather complicated system that is sometimes bewildering but is always seeking to be faithful.

What guides us (since we are the presbytery)?  

A simple answer would be God guides us, but as Presbyterians we recognize that we sometimes deceive ourselves and can’t always be trusted to be right when we say, “God told us to do this.” That’s when we fall back to the tools that we believe God has given to us: The Scripture and our Constitution (The Book of Confessions and The Book of Order). Now the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments is God’s word to us, and we’re called to obey it and so obey God. The trouble is, it is sometimes hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16)!

“…speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.”

That’s when we fall back on the wisdom of the church as found in The Book of Confessions and The Book of Order. In them we see how the Reformed church, down through the ages, has understood the Scripture, and we see in them how we put the Scripture into practice in our particular situations.

Our Constitution is a good tool that can help us to put our faith into practice, but it’s not a perfect tool. Just like we ourselves, it needs to be reformed and always being reformed according the word of God by the call of the Spirit. That “re-formation” is happening right now, and you get to participate in it.

A series of ten amendments to our “Book of Order”

Presbyteries have requested the General Assembly to make changes to the Book of Order, and the 2018 General Assembly has made some of those changes, but they don’t become effective immediately. They only become effective when a majority of Presbyteries (made up of us!) vote to approve them (or a 2/3 majority when it is the Book of Confessions that is being changed).

They cover a broad range of topics dealing with church discipline, worship, service and more. There is even an amendment to fix something that was overlooked in a previous amendment. We work on getting things right!

Two Open Space Meetings: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 5:00 pm

At our next Presbytery meeting there will be two Open Space meetings beginning at 5:00 pm:

1) Open Space: Session with Finance and Personnel Committees

One will be sharing and listening to reports from the Finance and Personnel Committees about their proposals for Presbytery staffing in the coming year.

Click here to read the Personnel Committee Report

2) Open Space: Session concerning proposed amendments to our PC(USA) Book of Order

Another Open Space meeting (led by me) will provide us with an opportunity to look at and discuss the proposed amendments to our PC(USA) Book of Order.

What we’re interested in will set the agenda!

What is Open Space? Click here to learn more.

Both Open Space times will be interesting, useful, and profitable, and I hope that you will attend one of them. It’s our hope that as we learn more about these issues we will find our discussions during our stated Presbytery meetings to be more profitable, inspiring and for the glory of God. Hope to see you on the 13th!

320th STATED MEETING OF ALBANY PRESBYTERY
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

  • Open Space Presentations 5:00 pm
  • Registration will begin at 5:30 pm
  • Call to Worship and Business Meeting begin at 6:30 pm
  • Hosted by Westminster Presbyterian Church
    85 Chestnut Street, Albany NY 12210

Click here for meeting information and directions

–Michael Burkley
Vice-Moderator, Elect


Michael has been a pastor for over 30 years (unbelievably to him) and for over 11 of those years he has had the privilege of serving in Albany Presbytery as the pastor of the Rockwell Falls Presbyterian Church. He is currently serving as the Albany Presbytery Vice Moderator-Elect and is very glad to be serving God here with us.

The purpose of the Albany Presbytery Blog is to share information, tell stories, and promote the mission and ministry of the presbytery, synod and beyond. While the breadth of this medium is intentionally broad, it is not a platform for opinion pieces related to business coming before the presbytery unless designed as part of an initiative to provide a diversity of viewpoints at the direction of the presbytery. Exceptions to this policy may be brought to the presbytery officers who will determine appropriateness of submissions.