Historical Documentation
of MDPC’s Discernment Process

This page contains a comprehensive and chronilogical listing of congregational letters, documents, presentations, and all other communication items associated with the events leading up to the February 22, 2015 decision to enter the Discernment Process through the remainder of 2015. The process was put on hold until Spring 2016, when a Discernment Team was established.

Click here for 2016 documents, communications, and events related to the Discernment Process

After the Vote: A Letter from the Executive Pastor

February 25, 2015

Dear MDPC Friends,

On Sunday, February 22, 2015, the Congregation of MDPC met to consider a motion whether or not to enter Presbytery of New Covenant’s Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure (GRDP). This motion was approved by MDPC’s Session on December 15, 2014, by a vote of 48-7, with our Elders believing that it was important for our church family to begin an open and balanced dialogue about MDPC’s affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA).

During the Congregational Meeting, the Rev. Dr. Casey Jones, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Pearland, presided as Moderator and facilitated a balanced presentation of opinions in favor of the motion and opposed to the motion. The vote was taken by secret ballot, only after verifying that each voter was an active member of MDPC. The results were that 1,116 votes were cast, 839 in favor and 277 opposed. This means the motion was approved by 75.18% of the congregation. An additional seven provisional ballots were cast by people whose membership was in question, four against the motion and three in favor. These provisional ballots were insufficient in number to affect the outcome. The vote results were certified by Lynn Hargrove, the Stated Clerk for Presbytery of New Covenant.

I want to first commend our church for the way we handled this important issue. People were free to express their opinions on the question of entering into the GRDP, and they did so with civility, respect, and grace. I firmly believe that this vote was not about winning or losing. This vote was an opportunity to listen to each other, and seek God’s will for MDPC. Thank you for being strong and faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ.

Many have asked, “What now?” We have been in close consultation with both our Senior Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) and with Mike Cole, our General Presbyter. All have agreed that there is no desire to rush into further action at this time. It’s important now to give our PNC some space to complete its important work of nominating a new Senior Pastor. This needs to be done free of any new initiative to discuss denominational issues. The Presbytery outlines that the GRDP may take six months to two years to complete. The Session will continue to monitor developments, but plans to wait until a new Senior Pastor has been installed and has been in place for a while, before it begins the GRDP process.

When the GRDP process is initiated, a Discernment Team will be formed by Presbytery. This Team will have MDPC representation and will work closely with our Session to develop informational and educational opportunities, along with “town hall” meetings for people to express their views. This is the appropriate time and place to offer positions of advocacy, not before. I would ask all of us to honor this process, and refrain from any form of advocacy, either for or against the Presbyterian Church (USA), until the appropriate time.

You may have noticed in today’s Houston Chronicle a front-page article with the headline “Church looks at possible secession” (print version) or “Angered by same-sex, investment decisions, Memorial Drive Presbyterian weighs leaving denomination” (online version). In my opinion, this article stated the information with reasonable accuracy. The headline, of course, is intended to be provocative and attention grabbing, and doesn’t really capture the real issues. After consulting with our Session Clerks, we agreed to offer a couple of corrections to this article. First, the article uses strong words like “secede” and “angered.” We think the tone of these does not accurately reflect the climate of MDPC’s community. Second, the article cited that it was the Denominational Task Force that sent a letter to the congregation expressing concern over recent General Assembly decisions. That letter was actually approved and sent by our Session, not the DTF.

Yale Divinity School Assistant Dean, William Goettler, was quoted in the aforementioned Chronicle article as saying, “At the end of the day, we come to the best decision together. We make decisions as a body. Sometimes parts of the body especially grieve; sometimes there’s division. We’re sad at the division, but continue to be willing to take a stand when we understand that’s where the Spirit is leading us.” This is an important and abiding part of being Presbyterian. We talk with each other, we make decisions, we believe that God’s will is revealed with the majority vote, and then we move on with our mission. It is now time for us to refocus and return to the important things to which God has called MDPC. These include making disciples of Jesus Christ, living generous lives, praying with fervency and passion, and affirming our unity in Christ alone.

Thank you for your faithfulness to Jesus Christ! May God bless us as we seek to bring honor and praise to His Name.


Dave Steane
Executive Pastor & Head of Staff

Video of Congregational Meeting | February 22, 2015

Videos of the Denominational Task Force Presentations

Learn more about the current denominational issues, and our possible courses of action. The Denominational Task Force (DTF) and MDPC Elders presented information regarding the possibility of MDPC entering the Discernment Process. On February 2, 2015, these reports were presented live; however, samples of the presentations were previously recorded and may be viewed below, either in it’s entirety, or in individual segments.

Monday, February 2, 2015: DTF Informational Meeting

Informational Meeting Video | Part One: The Presentations
Informational Meeting Video | Part Two: The Q&A

Pre-recorded Video Presentations

These presentations were recorded in January of 2015, and essentially includes the same information that was presented on Monday, February 2.

Watch the Full Presentation

The presenters, their credentials, and topics are as follows:

Jere Overdyke
MDPC Elder, Class of 2016
Clerk Elect
An Introduction from the Clerk Elect of Session

Watch Jere Overdyke’s Presentation

Jody Harrington
MDPC Elder, Class of 2017
Personnel Moderator Elect-Elect
General Assembly Commissioner 2014
Polity and the General Assembly 

Watch Jody Harrington’s Presentation

Bob Giles
MDPC Elder, Class of 2015
Personnel Chair
Moderator, Denominational Task Force
The Survey Results

Watch Bob Giles’ Presentation

Larry Nettles
MDPC Elder, Class of 2013
Denominational Task Force Member
Former Moderator, Strategic Issues Committee
The Legal and Practical Ramifications of Our Decision

Watch Larry Nettles’ Presentation

Julie Hempel
MDPC Elder, Class of 2007
Denominational Task Force Member

Watch Julie Hempel’s Presentation

Martha Moore
MDPC Elder, Class of 2017, Clerk Elect Elect
Denominational Task Force Member
BSD Teaching Leader
A Spiritual Perspective

Watch Martha Moore’s Presentation

Jere Overdyke
MDPC Elder, Class of 2016
Clerk Elect
Closing Remarks from the Clerk Elect of Session

Watch Jere Overdyke’s Presentation

The Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure (GRDP)

The Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure (GRDP)

The Denominational Task Force has informed the MDPC congregation of the proposed changes to the PC(USA)’s Gracious Dismissal and Reconciliation Procedures that may go into effect in March of 2015. In brief, the proposed changes would substantially increase the fees required to leave the denomination, and would also require the congregation to agree to the presbytery’s claim on the MDPC property at Blalock and Memorial. The proposed revision is subject to amendments at the March meeting so the final revision may or may not be the same as the proposed revision. It is possible that amendments could prohibit our new senior pastor from participation in the GRDP and make the cost much higher. However, if MDPC enters Discernment before the new policies go into effect, we will be grandfathered into the more favorable existing policy which is also more predictable. Nine congregations have participated in that policy with eight of them being dismissed. Below, please find links to both the existing and proposed policies. The third link is a document showing the marked changes so that the proposed changes may be easily understood; the fourth is a chart showing a side-by-side comparison of the proposed changes.

Current GRDP

Summary of the Presbytery Procedures under GRDP

Summary of the Presbytery Procedures for Discernment under
Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure

If the congregation votes to enter the Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure (GRDP) of the Presbytery of New Covenant, then:

  • Presbytery and MDPC sign a Covenant Agreement to abide by the presbytery’s Discernment Procedure to discern God’s will for the relationship between MDPC and the presbytery.
  • Discernment Procedure begins with appointment of a Discernment Team (DT).
  • DT is comprised of four representatives from MDPC selected by the session (one from the church staff, one from the session, and two members at large) and four representatives of presbytery selected by its General Council (two Teaching Elders and two Ruling Elders).
  • DT representatives approve appointment of a facilitator who is not a member of the team. The facilitator has voice but not vote and moderates and coordinates the team.
  • DT meets at least four additional times to determine common theological and ecclesiastical ground; to create a process of prayer and discernment for the congregation; and to address the concerns and questions of congregation members.
  • Discernment Procedure will include opportunities to hear all voices, including representatives of the PC(USA) and information about other Presbyterian denominations.
  • After completion of the meetings , DT makes a report with recommendations to the congregation in one or more town hall meetings.
  • The session determines either that the congregation is still called by God to remain in the PC(USA), or should seek dismissal to another Presbyterian denomination.
  • If the session determines the congregation should remain in the PC(USA), there is no congregational meeting and the session and presbytery follow the Guidelines for Restoration of Fellowship in the GRDP.
  • If the session recommends dismissal, a congregational meeting is called and the session  and presbytery follow the Procedure for Seeking Dismissal if 30% of the members vote at the meeting and at least two-thirds vote in favor of dismissal.
  • Financial terms of dismissal request to presbytery will be agreed upon by the session and presbytery prior to the vote according to GRDP guidelines.
  • Request for dismissal to another Presbyterian denomination must be approved by a meeting of presbytery by majority vote.

Update from Session Leadership | January 26, 2015

Update from Session Leadership

Dear MDPC Family and Friends,

Beginning with our two letters to the congregation last summer, the Session has placed great emphasis on communicating clearly with the congregation regarding MDPC and denominational developments. Those two letters (dated June 26 and August 1, 2014) can be found below. They address notable developments at the 2014 General Assembly and our Session’s careful and deliberative responses to those developments.

Since then, the leaders of MDPC have been engaged in a process of discerning God’s will with respect to our affiliation with the Presbyterian Church USA [PC(USA)]. Most notably, a survey was conducted last fall by TAG Consulting, which had a 99% confidence level with an error margin of +/- 2.6 percent. In a nutshell, the survey revealed significant differences between the beliefs and values of a majority of the MDPC congregation and the beliefs and values of the PC(USA).

In light of the survey’s results and other recent developments in the denomination, the MDPC Session voted on December 15, 2014, to enter the discernment process as outlined in the Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure currently in place in the Presbytery of New Covenant.

Approval of this motion required a super majority (66%), and the results of the vote were 48 voting in favor and seven voting in opposition (87.2%). This vote was taken only after a thorough review of the facts as well as ample opportunity for everyone present—both Session and non-Session members alike—to express their views.

After weeks of prayer, study, reflection, and listening, the Session believes that the time has now come for courageous leadership.

On Sunday, February 22, there will be a Congregational Meeting at 9:45 AM in the Sanctuary, called for the express purpose of voting whether or not to enter the Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure. Please note that this is NOT a vote on whether to leave the denomination; this is simply a vote on whether to enter the process for exploring all options available to us as a congregation.

In Ephesians 4:15, Paul exhorts all followers to speak the truth in love. Entering this process is a wonderful opportunity for us to heed this exhortation as a congregation. The prospect of entering discernment does not automatically mean we will seek dismissal from the PC(USA); it does mean we will engage in ongoing dialogue to discern if God is leading us in that direction. Rest assured that this process will be done in cooperation and partnership with the Presbytery of New Covenant.

As we celebrate 60 years as a congregation, this surely is a time for all of us to join in prayer for our beloved church. Our December Session meeting on this topic was conducted with a remarkable degree of grace, respect, and civility. We pray that this same tone will prevail in the days ahead as we seek God’s truth and follow His leading every step of the way.


David Thomas
Clerk of Session

Jere Overdyke
Clerk Elect

Martha Moore
Clerk Elect-elect

About the Discernment Process | December 18, 2014

The Discernment Process

As MDPC begins seeking God’s will for our affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA) [PC(USA)], the leadership of the Session offers this summary of the discernment process.


The Discernment Process is part of the Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure (GRDP) adopted by Presbytery of New Covenant to assist congregations seeking to discern whether God is leading them to seek dismissal from the PC(USA) and affiliation with another Reformed denomination. A vote of the congregation to enter the GRDP is a vote to enter into a process of discernment. It is NOT a vote to request dismissal from the PC(USA). The process will be designed by the Session in consultation with the Presbytery and will include congregational education, communication, discussion, and, most importantly, prayer seeking God’s will for His church. The process requires at least six months but no longer than two years to complete. The Session may determine either that the congregation is being called to remain in the PC(USA), or it may call a meeting of the congregation for the purpose of voting on whether or not to seek dismissal. An affirmative vote of two-thirds of congregation members present and voting at that meeting is required in order for the Session to request dismissal from the Presbytery.


Results of the TAG survey indicate that a majority of the members who responded favor dismissal from the PC(USA) and affiliation with another Reformed denomination. The session believes the appropriate response to this survey is to engage in the Discernment Procedure so the congregation can make a faithful, informed decision about the future of MDPC’s denominational affiliation. Our relationship with Presbytery of New Covenant has been collegial and supportive, but controversial decisions and policies established by the PC(USA) General Assembly over the past decade have resulted in loss of membership and churches leaving the denomination. After months of study and prayerful consideration, the Session has concluded that these decisions are theologically troublesome, distract from our mission, are potentially divisive, and are contrary to the Christ-centered vision of MDPC. In this time of pastoral transition, the question of denominational affiliation should be addressed as MDPC moves forward.


The Session will call a congregational meeting on February 22, 2015, to vote on entering the GRDP. The Presbytery is in the process of revising the GRDP and there is concern about changes in the financial settlement requirements and a proposal that would prevent pastors from participation in the process. For example, the proposed revision may require that congregations entering the process affirm the validity of the denomination’s claim to a trust interest in the church’s property. Such a claim is not enforceable under Texas law and would encumber the title to MDPC’s real property, which is critical to our shared mission and vision. Congregations entering the GRDP process before the anticipated change in March will follow the current policy, not the proposed revision. The advantage of the current policy is that eight congregations have been dismissed using it, so we can be guided by those experiences. Because the proposed revision may be amended in additional ways that cannot be predicted, Session believes it is prudent to preserve the option of using the current procedure by entering into it at this time.


Let us seek to follow the admonition of the apostle James: “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness” (James 1:19-20). May the Name of God be glorified in all we say and do during this time of discernment.

Update on Discernment | December 17, 2014

Dear Friends,

Discerning God’s will is usually more of an art than a science. It often involves prayer, study, contemplation, and conversation. The process is one that God’s people have done since creation, and even today, it calls us to seek first His Kingdom in our lives and in His Church.

For the past several months, leaders from MDPC have engaged in a process of discerning God’s will for MDPC, as it relates to our affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA) [PC(USA)]. This process has included communications to the congregation regarding recent actions of the General Assembly, educational materials to help increase awareness and understanding of the relevant issues, a Congregational Survey to let people express their views and preferences regarding the PC(USA), and further information to communicate the unfiltered results of that survey.

The Congregational Survey, conducted by TAG Consulting, has a 99% confidence level with an error margin of +/- 2.6 percent. The Survey told us that 55% of MDPC believe that we should disaffiliate from the PC(USA); that 21% believe we should remain affiliated with the PC(USA); and that 24% are undecided. Furthermore, the survey revealed significant differences between the beliefs and values of the majority of MDPC and the beliefs and values of the PC(USA). There were 1,429 Survey respondents, which represents about 36% of MDPC’s active members. For those who completed the Survey, thank you for taking the time to participate and express your views.

In light of the survey results, and other key issues and developments in the PC(USA), the Session of MDPC voted on December 15, 2014 to enter the discernment process as contained in the Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure currently in place in the Presbytery of New Covenant. A super majority (66%) of the Session was required to approve this motion, and the vote results were 48 voting in favor, and 7 voting in opposition (87.2%). This vote was taken only after a thorough review of the facts. Everyone present, including many non-Session members, had an opportunity to express their views. The Session has prayed, studied, listened, and reflected and now believes the time has come for courageous leadership.

The next step in this process is for the MDPC members to vote on whether or not to affirm the Session’s decision to enter the Gracious Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure. This will be done at a Congregational Meeting on February 22, 2015. More details will follow on this meeting. Between now and then, there will be a considerable emphasis on prayer, education, and communication, to allow everyone the opportunity to understand and express their views on the issues.

What does this discernment process mean? It does not mean that we have voted to leave the PC(USA), or that it is inevitable that we will seek dismissal from the PC(USA). It does mean, however, that we will now engage in an official conversation within the life of MDPC to discern if God is leading us either to stay in the PC(USA) or to seek admission to another Presbyterian denomination. This will be done in cooperation and partnership with the Presbytery of New Covenant.

I invite you to join me in praying regularly for MDPC. We must seek to discern God’s will for this wonderful church. I also ask that we would listen well to each other, and allow truth to shape our perspectives. We need to speak that truth in love, and do so with grace, respect, and civility. And we need to do all we can to further the peace, unity, and purity of the Church of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we can have this conversation in the MDPC way: with excellence, authenticity, generosity, and love.

Thank you for being an incredible and unique church family. I hope and pray you are enjoying the peace of Christ as you prepare to celebrate His birth!

Dave Steane, Executive Pastor

Denominational Issues Survey Results

The Denominational Issues Survey

The member survey, conducted by the MDPC Denominational Issues Task Force, concluded on November 10, 2014, and the survey results are now available for congregational review.

Does MDPC provide funds to the PC(USA)?

MDPC Does Not Provide Funds to the National PC(USA)

As MDPC continues to evaluate our affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA) [PC(USA)],  you might be interested to know that MDPC does not provide funding to the national PC(USA) denomination. The Session voted in December 2008 to stop paying per capita funds to the PC(USA) in response to decisions and policies being made by the PC(USA) with which MDPC’s leadership continues to disagree.  Per capita is a voluntary financial contribution which the PC(USA) encourages, in order to provide funding for the operational expenses of the national PC(USA) headquarters in Louisville, KY. Therefore, all funds donated to MDPC are either used to fund our ministries and operations, or to fund our outreach giving which is approved by our Outreach Committee and Session. Thank you for your faithful support of the Lord’s work at MDPC.

Denominational Issues Task Force

The Denominational Issues Task Force

In response to the actions of the 2014 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) [PC(USA)], the MDPC Session voted on July 28, 2014, to approve the formation of a Denominational Issues Task Force. The committee members were approved at the same meeting. They are as follows:

Bob Giles, Moderator
Tom Caver
David Eyre
Julie Hempel
Janell Kelleher
Martha Moore
Larry Nettles
Sandy Smith
Mary Beth Staine

The Committee is currently meeting weekly to advance the agenda prescribed by the Session. From the Session-approved motion (in bold), the scope of work includes:

Develop and execute an educational strategy to help the MDPC participants understand denominational issues.
The Committee is contemplating a variety of communication tools, including Q&As, educational pieces describing developments within the PC(USA), charts and other statistical data comparing the PC(USA) to other Presbyterian denominations, and a town hall meeting.

Develop and execute an assessment mechanism to determine the will of MDPC participants regarding staying in or leaving the PC(USA).
The Committee is currently considering the use of a Congregational Survey, in addition to a town hall meeting.

Keep abreast of emerging issues in the PC(USA) and MDPC’s relationship to the denomination. 
The Committee is actively monitoring all issues that might impact MDPC.

Make a report to Session at the October 2014 Session meeting.
The Committee plans to make a progress report to Session in October, with a final report no later than the end of the year.

Please understand that the Committee is NOT a body purposed to re-affiliate MDPC to another Presbyterian denomination.  Rather, the committee consists only for the purposes stated above. Once it has fulfilled these obligations, the Committee will report its findings to the Session on the will of MDPC regarding staying in, or leaving, the PC(USA).

Frequently Asked Questions

Denomination Comparison Chart

Session Response to GA Decisions | August 1, 2014

Dear MDPC Friends,

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. May God’s grace and peace be with each of you.

The Session of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church met on July 28 and approved this letter to be sent to you as a follow-up to the recent decisions made by the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly (GA). You received a letter in late June, in which three key decisions were presented, with the promise that Session would engage these as soon as possible.

Those three key decisions were made in regard to (1) the allowance of same-sex weddings in the states where legal; (2) the divestment from companies doing business in Israel related to the West Bank occupation; and (3) the consideration of divestment from fossil fuel companies related to the environmental impact. There were, in fact, nearly 90 items of business before the GA, which included a myriad of political, social, and theological issues, but these three may well be the most significant and noteworthy.

MDPC has enjoyed a long history of congregational harmony. We have successfully held two important issues in balance: compassion and conviction. We seek to be a respectful and hospitable church family, where we focus on the mission to which Jesus Christ has called us. But after careful reflection and consideration, the Session has decided that it must voice its opposition to the continued direction of the General Assembly, which seems to disregard Scripture, the Confessions, and our Ordination Vows. Therefore, the Session has voted to formally dissent against the GA decisions on these three key issues, and to communicate this to MDPC, to the Presbytery of New Covenant, and to the General Assembly Council of the PC(USA). On the issue of same-sex marriage, we believe the GA committed an egregious act by voting to disregard the biblical and historical understanding of God’s design for marriage, while also showing blatant disregard for our historical Confessions of the Church and the Constitution of the PC(USA).

Also troubling was the tactic used to get this approved. An Authoritative Interpretation (AI) was introduced and approved, which became binding on the denomination, without allowing the voice of individual congregations and presbyteries to be considered. There will be a proposed change to the Book of Order to reflect this redefinition of marriage coming before the presbyteries in the coming months, but the improper use of the AI effectively bypasses the fundamentals of Presbyterian polity.

On the issue of divestment from three companies doing business in Israel (Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar, and Hewlett-Packard), we believe the GA committed an egregious act, deeply hurting the Jewish community by effectively siding with the Palestinians in the West Bank conflict. There were several items of business before the GA which attempted to marginalize Israel and call into question God’s unique and historical relationship with the Jewish people. As God’s covenant people, we share our biblical and theological heritage with Israel, and it is disturbing to think that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has taken such action against Israel.

On the issue of considering divesting from fossil fuel companies, we need to be clear that no formal decision was made on this by the GA. This matter was referred to the appropriate committee for further study, with the issue to reappear at the 2016 GA. If approved, though, the PC(USA) would begin divesting from about 200 different fossil fuel companies, and effectively denouncing this industry as being harmful to the environment. We believe the GA is engaged in an egregious act by allowing political lobbyists to use the PC(USA) to advance its agenda with lawmakers in Washington.

Speaking pastorally, we are well aware that MDPC enjoys a diversity of people and viewpoints, and that some may be in agreement with the decisions of the GA. But we have also heard from a considerable number of MDPC members who are outraged by the actions of the GA, and who have expressed deep concern about the direction of the PC(USA). As these issues continue to be studied, it will be important for us to respectfully seek the love of Christ, the mind of Christ, and the fellowship of Christ together as a church family.

We will keep you informed of other key developments as we enter into a season of study, prayer, and reflection as we seek to discern God’s will for MDPC on these important denominational matters.

The leadership of MDPC remains committed to surrender lovingly our lives to God in every way, to the priority of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as God’s plan of salvation, to the submission of our lives to the authority of Scripture, to responsible and generous stewardship of the resources God has given, and to reaching out to all people and generations with God’s transforming love in the person of Jesus Christ, whom alone we serve.

On behalf of the Session of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church,

Ann Bixby
Clerk of Session

David Thomas
Clerk Elect

Jere Overdyke
Clerk Elect-elect

Breakdown of the 2014 General Assembly Decisions

Follow the link below to review a detailed description of each of the individual decisions made by the 2014 General Assembly.

General Assembly Decisions

Unpacking the Recent GA Decisions | June 26, 2014

Unpacking Recent Decisions of General Assembly

Last week the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) met in Detroit. The GA is the biennial meeting of our entire denomination, and consists of about 600 elected Commissioners from all the presbyteries. It is considered the highest governing body in the PC(USA), and its biennial meeting is where decisions are made that affect the PC(USA) nationwide and worldwide.

MDPC has played an active role in our denomination’s life and ministry, with many of our congregation and staff serving on various councils and committees. Our church has also had the privilege of representing our presbytery at GA. Dave Peterson was a Commissioner in 2010, Vicky Jones was one in 2012, and Jody Harrington was privileged to serve this year.

The General Assembly is a very complex event, with the Commissioners being asked to digest and vote on a huge docket of business. Many decisions are made, including actions to change the denomination’s polity on a number of issues. Much of the GA’s business is relatively minor in nature, but there are usually a few significant issues that become noteworthy.

One of the more significant issues before the GA this year was a cluster of proposals seeking to redefine marriage by changing the language from “between a man and a woman” to “between two persons.” The GA approved two measures on this issue: one is an Authoritative Interpretation which goes into effect immediately, and the other is a proposed change to the Book of Order which must be ratified by a majority of the presbyteries. These actions effectively allow Presbyterian clergy to perform same sex weddings in the states where they are legal, and where the particular church’s Session has agreed to the practice.

A second significant issue before the GA was a series of proposals to have the PC(USA) divest itself from companies which do business with Israel related to the West Bank occupation. These companies include Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar, and Hewlett-Packard. The GA approved this action, and, in doing so, lodged a protest against Israel’s policies against the Palestinians.

Thirdly, the GA considered an item to liquidate its holdings in fossil fuel companies in order to express concern and opposition to their environmental impact. While some in the GA wanted immediate approval and to begin liquidating holdings, the GA voted to refer the matter to the appropriate committee and make a report at the 2016 meeting.

The other decisions and developments of this year’s GA are too numerous to mention in this letter. Please visit www.pcusa.org for a more complete summary of key decisions.

There is likely a diversity of viewpoints on the issue of sexuality and marriage within MDPC, but we must acknowledge that the decisions from General Assembly have raised concerns for many people about the denomination’s stance on human sexuality and about its understanding of marriage. In addition, a Constitutional conflict has been created whereby the new Authoritative Interpretation is in direct conflict with the Book of Confessions, which is part of the Constitution of the church, on the issue of the definition of marriage.

It takes time to digest the meaning and implications of the GA’s decisions, so MDPC’s leadership is being encouraged to study and understand the issues presented by this year’s GA. We are committed to thoughtful and respectful discussion, and making whatever decisions, if any, are necessary based on facts and good information. In the coming weeks we will engage in a heart-felt season of reflection. We covet your prayers for wisdom.

Rest assured, regardless of what the General Assembly does or doesn’t do, MDPC will maintain its mission of Loving God, Proclaiming Christ, Living Generously, and Engaging All. We will continue seeking to be a healthy and dynamic Christian community, which believes that transformation through Jesus Christ is paramount. We will do our best to help people discover the abundant and joyful life that only Jesus can provide. We will maintain obedience to Scripture as our authoritative rule of life and faith. We will maintain our resolve to nurture the next generation of Christians to carry the sacred trust of the Gospel into the future.

Thank you for your interest in these important issues before the church, and for your commitment to Jesus Christ and His church here at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church.


Ann Bixby
Clerk of Session

David Thomas
Clerk Elect

Jere Overdyke
Clerk Elect-Elect

Dave Steane
Executive Pastor