Proposals and Overtures

Below are overtures from Presbyteries and individual church Sessions. A word of caution to the reader: these overtures are all related to editing the current Book of Confessions. A number of Presbyteries have changed the title of this book, perhaps to separate it from the PCUSA's book of the same name. One of the proposed titles, Confessional Standards (Mission Pres., Rivers of Life, National Theology Task Force), should not be confused with the existing "Confessional Standards" document found attached to our Essential Tenets. Whether we use Book of Confessions (East Central Pres.), Confessional Standards, Foundational Statements of Faith (North West Pres.), or Historic Foundations of Reformed Heritage (Great Lakes Pres.), all of the following overtures refer to proposed changes to the current Book of Confessions.

+ Texas Presbytery (Successfully Submitted to Synod)

Overture has received concurrence by Upper Midwest Presbytery on 8/26/17

Texas Presbytery is proposing an alternative mode of voting at Synod, rather than advancing a preferred list of confessions. In essence, Texas is asking ECO to vote only on its current Book of Confessions in 2018, and continue the process of considering the confessions through a more empowered Synod Executive Council (SEC) and National Theological Task Force (TTF). Thus, rather than waiting for presbyteries to advance overtures, proposals could come from the SEC and TTF.

If Texas's overture passes on the floor of Synod, none of the other overtures will be considered because they represent contradictory methods of voting.

Their overture has 9 Resolutions that can be summarized in four points here:

  1. To accept the core documents about which there has, as yet, been total unanimity: Apostles’, Nicea, Heidelberg, and 3 Westminster documents.
  2. To vote individually to accept or reject the rest of the documents of our present Book of Confessions (Scots, Barmen, Second Helvetic, C67, Brief Statement)
  3. To vote to override hearing of other overtures from other Presbyteries (this is necessary because Texas is proposing a changed voting process and it would present impossibilities if other overtures were heard after Texas)
  4. To vote to empower the Synod Executive Council and the National Theological Task Force to create a new process to work on developing consensus around and future changes to the Confessional Standards.

To see the full language of the resolutions, click here.

+ East Central Presbytery Overture (Successfully Submmitted to Synod)

Overture has received concurrence by Northern California/Nevada on 9/9/17

Summary of motions

A. Include the following in the new Book of Confessions

  • The Nicene Creed
  • The Apostles' Creed
  • The Scots Confession
  • The Heidelberg Catechism
  • The Westminster Confession (single version in contemporary English)
  • Westminster Longer Catechism
  • Westminster Shorter Catechism
  • The Theological Declaration of Barmen

B. Prepare a new Reformed, evangelical confession for ECO, consistent with the Essential Tenets of ECO, and take the necessary steps to include this new confession in the Book of Confessions

C. Include in the Book of Confessions a preface to explain the nature and purpose of the Book of Confessions, rationale for the selection of its various confessions, the relationship of the Essential Tenets to the confessions, and the meaning of subscription to the Esential Tenets and hte confessions within the context of ECO

D. Include before each document a short summary of its historical context, theological value, and significance.

E. Include in the Book of Confessions a "For Further Study" section, listing documents that—while neither binding nor authoritative—the ECO Synod would deem commendable to those desiring a broader understanding of the Christian faith, especially in the Reformed tradition. The following documents are just a few that the Synod may want to list: the Athanasian Creed, the French Confession, the Belgic Confession, the Second Helvetic Confession, the Canons of Dort, A Brief Statement of Belief (PCUS), the Lausanne Covenant, Our World Belongs to God, and the Manhattan Declaration.

For the full PDF click here

For detailed rationale see this PDF

+ Mission Presbytery Overture (Waiting for Concurrence)

Summary of proposal

Mission Presbytery proposes that the following be declared the theological authority and confessional standards for ECO:

  1. God's Word
    1. Holy Scripture
  2. Ecumenical Distinctives
    1. Apostles' Creed—second to third centuries
    2. Nicene Creed—325
  3. Reformed Distinctives
    1. Scots Confession—1560
    2. Heidelberg Catechism—1563
    3. Westminster Standards—1646
    4. Barmen Declaration—1934
  4. Evangelical Distinctives [New Proposal]
    1. Lausanne Covenant—1974

Summary of motions

  1. Move to accept the above documents (2–3) as the confessional standards of ECO
  2. Use modern language versions of the above documents
  3. Commission a fourth section of ECO's Essential Tenets to reflect the Evangelical Distinctives represented in the Lausanne Covenant and ECO's Core Values. A first draft should be made available for the National Gathering in 2019, and vote upon it at Synod 2020.
  4. Amend ECO Polity and Essential Tenets to reflect the adoption of the Confessional Standards to replace the current Book of Confessions.
  5. The Constitution of ECO will consist of Confessional Standards, Essential Tenets, and Polity.
  6. The Theology Task Force of ECO will continually engage with the denomination for continual examination and, where necessary, revision of the Essential Tenets for theological integrity, clarity, and comprehension...

Read the full text of this overture in this PDF

All six motions were approved at Mission Presbytery's March meeting (3/25/17). This overture will go before the Presbytery of Northern California in May.

If you are not familiar with the Lausanne Covenant (1974), the full text is available here.

+ Great Lakes Presbytery Overture (Waiting for Concurrence)

Summary of proposal Great Lakes Presbytery recommends the following

  1. Adopt the National Theological Task Force Recommendation (removal of all 20th Century documents and Second Helvetic)
  2. National TTF Confessional study resources of enduring value be made available on ECO website.
  3. National TTF provide addional consel and service to ECO in the following areas:
    • PROPOSE a frequency to ask the Church to once again consider the Confessions
    • CLARIFY the role of ECO Mission Statement and ECO Core Values
    • DEVELOP ways in which the Essential Tenets might be understood so that the distinctives of the 20th Century Confesssions (removed) might be addressed.
    • ADDRESS the wisdom of ECO adding a Directory for Worship and other non–confessional resources
  4. National TTF engage in producing a Confession.

See the full PDF document here

+ Rivers of Life Presbytery Overture (Waiting for Concurrence)

Summary of proposal Rivers of Life Presbytery recommends the following motions:

  1. We move to designate seven documents to comprise The Confessional Standards of ECO:

    1. The Apostles' Creed
    2. The Nicene Creed
    3. The Scots Confession
    4. The Heidelberg Catechism
    5. The Westminster Confession
    6. Westminster Longer Catechism
    7. Westminster Shorter Catechism
  2. We move that a new confession be written under the direction of the National Theological Task Force and the Synod Executive Council for potential inclusion in The Confessional Standards of ECO and request this document be prepared for consideration at the next Synod Business Meeting to be known as "Synod Four," likely to be held in January of 2020.

Further Recommendations for the Conversation "Our team respectfully gives the following guidance regarding other proposals in the national conversation regarding the make up of our future Confessional Standards.

  1. Updated modern English versions of confessions to be as accessible as possible.
  2. An interest in considering a Book of Worship to be added to our approved resources as a church.
  3. A recommendation against adding any documents to our Confessional Standards not part of our current collection.
  4. A recommendation against the elevating the confessions to constitutional status.
  5. A recommendation against adding additional sections to the Essential Tenets.
  6. A recommendation against adding qualifying footnotes to certain sections of the Confessions.

See the full PDF with detailed rationales here

+ Presbytery of the Northwest proposal (Waiting for Concurrence)

Summary of Propoal

  1. The following documents as ECO's Foundational Statements of Faith
    1. Nicene Creed
    2. Apostles' Creed
    3. Heidelberg Catechism
    4. Westminster Standards
    5. Theological Declaration of Barmen
  2. Title the collection of documents Foundational Statements of Faith
  3. National Theology Task Force use updated language versions of Reformation–era statements.
  4. ECO Polity be amended to require affirming the Foundational Statements of Faith as a qualification for ordained office.
  5. Retain the introductory statement in the current Book of Confessions on Roman Catholics.

Read the full proposal here

+ Mid-America Overture (Awaiting Concurrence)

Developed from First and Calvary Presbyterian Church (Springfield, MO)

Summary of Proposal

  1. Accept the following list:
    1. The Apostles' Creed
    2. The Nicene Creed
    3. The Heidelberg Catechism
    4. The Westminster Standards
  2. The document will be called "The Foundational Statements of Faith"
  3. Simimlar to the National TTF's recommendation, except for the Scots Confession, which is removed for the following reasons:
    1. Made redundant by Westminster in Scotland
    2. Westminster states the Reformed doctrine of the Sacraments better than Scots.
    3. Scots Article XXII speaks against egalitarian ministry.

See the full document here:

+ National Theological Task Force Proposal

In recognition of the values and significance of our Essential Tenets, our Polity, and our Core Values, ECO's Theological Task Force recommends for discussion and consideration the following Apostolic and Reformed Confessional Standards:

  • The Apostles' Creed
  • The Nicene Creed
  • The Scots Confession
  • The Heidelberg Catechism
  • The Westminster Standards

These Creeds and Confessions have been valued in the life of the Church as insightful and accurate expressions of a biblical faith and of our Reformed standards. They also assist us in bringing a measure of brevity and accessibility to the system of doctrine contained within the Creeds and Confessions. We believe that they will both reflect and shape a clearly articulated theology that is Christ–centered, Reformed, and Evangelical.

This is a sample motion for presbyteries to discuss and, if desired, raise as a motion. This is proposal represents an acceptable consensus of the members of the Theological Task Force.

+ North Palm Beach Recommendations

Summary of proposal

  1. Elevate ECO's Essential Tenets to confessional status to reflect their current usage as a binding statement.
  2. Keep all current documents in the Book of Confessions with many notes to highlight historic context.

The full text of this recommendation has a signficant number of suggested notes to add to the documents in the current Book of Confessions, and other suggestions for how a new Book of Confessional Standards should look. This is found in this linked PDF.

+ Charleston Presbyterian Church Recommendations

Summary of Proposal

  1. Accept the following list:
    1. The Apostles' Creed
    2. The Nicene Creed
    3. The Heidelberg Catechism
    4. The Westminster Standards
    5. The Lausanne Covenant
  2. If the Scot's Confession is included, delete paranthetical inclusion from Article 22, because it speaks directly against women as preachers and administrators of the sacraments.
  3. The National TTF should consider the Belgic Confession.

See the full document here