Settling one of its most celebrated judicial cases in recent years, the 117th General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterians ruled that a minister is free to believe women should not be ordained as long as he takes no action to prevent their ordination.
The assembly, sitting as the denomination's top court in Nashville, Tenn., upheld the church's Permanent Judicial Commission in permitting the Rev. Thomas T. Ellis to become pastor of Atlanta's Capitol View Presbyterian Church. Mr. Ellis had declared his conscientious objection to female officers in the Church.
The crucial question in the case, according to the Assembly's decision, was "not primarily what the candidate thinks, but what he does," Ellis had specified that he would try to avoid participating in the ordination of female ministers or local church officers, but that he would take part if required to do so by the presbytery.
Differentiating between beliefs and actions, the judgment pointed out that if the actions, as opposed to the views, of a minister trend to degrade or deny to women their rights to full status as church officers, or otherwise, in the work and worship of this Church, then no congregation, no presbytery and no synod should ordain or continue such a person in office.
The General Assembly also appealed to church members to boycott Christian Yellow Pages and similar "buy-Christian" business directories.
Christian Yellow Pages is a commercial franchise operation publishing directories in several cities, particularly in the South and on the West Coast.
Promoted as a means to encourage born-again Christians to trade with businesses operated by persons of similar religious convictions, the directories have been denounced by both Jews and Christians as discriminatory.
The resolution adopted by the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States called such directories "not only divisive among Christians but more especially discriminatory in relation to the Jewish community" and a threat to interfaith relations.
In other action, the assembly of the 890,000-member denomination approved a budget of $7.38 million for next year. More than half of the total is earmarked for foreign missions.
Approval of money for foreign missions is in line with the assembly's action a day earlier in expressing concern for Christian repression overseas and calling on the church to support ministers and others jailed for speaking out for human rights.
The assembly, cited arrest or jailing of Christian leaders in Russia and South Africa for speaking out against government policies.
During the week, the assembly also:
Called on President Carter to reconsider withdrawing 30,000 ground troops from South Korea on grounds this might invite invasion from the Communist North and an end to the church. However, the government in South Korea is one of nine "repressive regimes" that the assembly said had received $6.8 billion in foreign aid during the past year from the United States.
Called on the President and Congress to devise, new agricultural policies to help feed the hungry at home and abroad, including new price supports for large and small farmers and a revised food stamp and welfare plan.
Called for the church to stand for equal rights for homosexuals in launching a two-year local church study of this problem and refusing three times, to brand homosexuality or homosexual practices a sin. But the assembly said homosexuality "falls short of God's plan" for sexual practices.
Reaffirmed previous stands against violence on television.
Refused to require two church agencies to sever ties with the national Coalition on Abortion Rights.
Took steps toward reuniting with the 2.6 million-member United Presbyterian Church, which is conducting its own 189th General Assembly in Philadelphia.
The two denominations separated over the Civil War in 1861 and efforts at reunion have been under way for years.