Returning delegates have generally found themselves questioned about two items that appeared before General Synod. The first is the issue of merger with the (Southern) Presbyterian Church, U.S.A committee comprised of twelve representatives from each denomination asked per. mission to formulate a “plan of union” that might be presented (though not necessarily) in 1967. The Particular Synod of Chicago (Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin) had overtured General Synod to cease merger discussions. Even so, only sixteen delegates voted against the formulation of a plan of merger.
The small number opposing tile plan of merger could easily be misinterpreted. A vote for the formulation of a plan of merger is not necessarily a vote for merger. Several delegates voted for the proposal to formulate a plan of merger, even though they are known to oppose merger. One can safely suggest that the opposition to merger is much larger than the vote for a plan would seem to indicate. One hundred sixteen ministers from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin have signed a declaration opposing merger. Though this declaration is now a year old, none of them has indicated a change of opinion.
If a plan of union should be presented in 1967, and if it should be approved by General Synod, it would then be sent to the classes for approval. Two-thirds of the classes must approve the plan, or it will fail of adoption. The classes defeated the merger proposal with the old United Presbyterian Church in the late 1940’s. If merger is to be defeated, it will be at the classical level again.
The ordination of women to the offices of elder and deacon was approved by Synod. In prior years overtures had come to Synod asking for the ordination of women and were defeated. The present overture simply asked for the deletion of the word “male” from the constitutional requirements for these offices. Interestingly, the action of Synod does not apply to ordination to the ministry. Requirements for ordination to the ministry are spelled out in another section of the constitution. Those who opposed ordination of women wanted to speak to both issues because of their close relationship to each other, but such discussion was ruled out on the technicality that only one section of the constitution was being altered.
The vote was taken by acclamation, and, therefore, could not be counted as in the case of merger. One may suspect that the vole was approximately two to one, since this is how the vote divided on most questions facing the Synod. Again, however, the issue must be referred to the classes, and approval of two-thirds of the classes is necessary to a constitutional change.
Significantly, only one delegate, an elder from Canada, spoke to the biblical-theological significance of the change. He made an incisive speech, beginning with creation and man as an office-bearer and continuing through the biblical evidence. A professor of theology replied that the matter had been studied by two other professors, “trusted servants of the church,” and they had found no biblical grounds prohibiting the ordination of women. This was one of the few occasions when many of the delegates felt that one of their number had been treated somewhat unfairly on the floor of Synod.
On only one issue did the Synod drastically reverse the action of a reporting committee. The report of the Social Action Committee probably received more opposition than any other, and at one point Synod took a stand contrary to that of the report. This was on Viet Nam. The Social Action Committee proposed a stand that would, in effect, call upon the United States to withdraw her troops and negotiate with the Communists. Synod, instead, sent a letter commending President Johnson for his strong stand in Viet Nam.