The Covenant Network rejoices in the approval by the presbyteries of a new translation of the Heidelberg Catechism for the Book of Confessions.  It also is thankful for the defeat of Amendment 12-B, which would have added unnecessary language to the ordination standards newly approved in 2011.  [ The voting tally is posted by the Office of the General Assembly here.]

The Heidelberg translation, already approved by several other denominations and unanimously recommended to the last General Assembly by a theologically diverse special committee, has received the affirmative votes of more than two-thirds of presbyteries. Using the original 1563 German and Latin versions of the document, it makes substantial changes where the English translation departed from the original language or created unclarity for modern readers. It also restores biblical citations from the original document.  If approved by the 221st General Assembly (2014), the new translation will replace the current version in the Book of Confessions.

Among the important changes are in the answer to Question 87, “Can those who do not turn to God from their ungrateful, impenitent life be saved?” The 1967 translation read, “Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God.” But the original document contained no reference whatsoever that could be translated as referring to homosexuality. The more accurate, newly approved translation says, “Scripture tells us that no unchaste person, no idolater, adulterer, thief, no covetous person, no drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Amendment 12-B proposed amending G-2.0104a., one of the paragraphs addressing standards for ordination. Amendment 12-B would have required the examination of a candidate’s manner of life to include exploration of “repentance of sin and diligent use of the means of grace.” The language, also found in the Rules of Discipline as part of the language of rebuke to be pronounced to one who has committed an offense, was only narrowly approved by both an assembly committee and the Assembly itself. The amendment’s defeat will allow the new ordination standards, which allow presbyteries and sessions to affirm the calls of openly LGBTQ people, time to work before they are critically reexamined.

“Both of these votes are positive steps for the church,” says Covenant Network executive director Brian Ellison. “They reflect wise judgment by presbyteries, fidelity to scripture and confessional heritage, and forbearance with one another as the church lives into a new day in its life.”