Assembly approves new social creed, the first in a century

by Mike Ferguson
Presbyterian News Service

SAN JOSE, June 27, 2008 — By a 5-to-1 margin, the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Friday approved “A Social Creed for the 21st Century,” exactly 100 years after the “Social Creed” of 1908 spoke to the harshness of industrial life at the turn of the last century.

Commissioners defeated a alternate motion that would have sent the 2008 creed to churches for study before the 2010 Assembly.

According to its language, the creed provides “a message of hope for a fearful time” by “offering a vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination, and finds security in joined hands rather than massed arms.” It calls for equal pay for comparable work, protection from dangerous working conditions, criminal rehabilitation through restorative justice, an end to the death penalty, tax and budget policies that reduce disparities between rich and poor, affordable housing, sustainable use of resources and just immigration policies.

Acting on overtures presented by the Social Justice Issues Committee, the Assembly also approved:

  • “On Addressing the Tragedy of Gun Violence,” which commends people, churches and organizations that are working to end firearm tragedies and calls on legislators to, among other things, close the gun show loophole on firearm purchases that remains in 35 states.
  • A call for Presbyterians to work toward universal access to safe, decent, accessible, affordable and permanent housing. An amendment urged Presbyterians who are able to forego one meal per week as an act of worship and humility, with the value of the meal going to feed people in need.
  • Commissioners’ resolutions — one that deem it dangerous for families and the community in general when police officers work in collaboration with federal immigration authorities, and another that calls torture and cruel and inhumane treatment against prisoners “immoral, unwise and un-American.”
  • A call to study energy sources, their advantages and disadvantages and the impacts each source has on human communities, all species and ecological systems.
  • Studies on pay equity and just compensation and the status of women in the church and a 10-year effort to transform the church with regard gender, race and class.
  • Creation of a resolution team to study the church’s policies on public education, especially desegregation, affirmative action, faith-based initiatives, home-schooling, charter schools and the No Child Left Behind law.
  • A resolution thanking Presbyterians for their generous giving, prayers and volunteer services in recovery efforts following the Gulf storms of 2005. Volunteers worked both in partnerships with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and with local congregations. In-kind, financial donations and commitments from Presbyterians to help relieve suffering following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita total $39,850,000.