GAPJC Rules Against Attempts to Prevent Larges Examination and Capetz Restoration

In two important decisions from the General Assembly’s Permanent Judicial Commission, the church’s highest court has upheld the right of presbyteries to consider “departures” declared by candidates for ordination or for entry into presbyteries.

In Naegeli et al. vs. Presbytery of San Francisco, the GAPJC upheld the right of San Francisco Presbytery to examine candidate Lisa Larges for ordination, although the presbytery’s CPM had alerted the presbytery that she would be declaring a “departure” regarding G-6.0106b. The GAPJC ruled that the presbytery can consider her declared departure only in the context of a full ordination exam in which it considers her statement of faith, manner of life, history with the presbytery, fitness for the office of call, and the like. The Presbytery will examine Ms. Larges for ordination at its November 10 meeting.

In Bierschwale et al. vs. Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, the GAPJC upheld the Presbytery’s decision to restore Dr. Paul Capetz to the exercise of ordained office despite his declaration of a biblically-based “departure” from G-6.0106b. In a very careful process, that presbytery considered Dr. Capetz’s ministry to hundreds of students at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and to multiple congregations, as well as his faith statement and declaration of departure, in deciding that in this case his declared departure did not constitute a “failure to adhere to essentials of Reformed faith and polity.”

While there were particular procedural issues in each case that allowed the GAPJC to rule on fairly narrow procedural grounds, these decisions build on the Authoritative Interpretations issued by the 2006 and 2008 General Assemblies, helping return the church to its historic practice of mutual forbearance in matters of biblical interpretation and conscience.

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