PPF's GA Summary

PC(USA) takes strong action for peace.

As divisions around issues of sexuality continue to dominate conversations in the wake of the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA), our church has demonstrated remarkable unity in its collective call to peacemaking. In fact, on many issues there was such consensus among commissioners that little or no discussion was offered in plenary sessions. We want to highlight the many ways our denomination adopted policies that will strengthen its larger witness for peacemaking in our broken world.

 

Nonviolence, not war

By adopting a strong overture from Twin Cities Area Presbytery, 11-16, which passed unanimously in committee and then by consensus agenda in plenary, the Assembly delcared that it stands "for international communication and cooperation, for conflict resolution by non-violent means, and for the enforcement of international law", and supports "efforts to abolish war and to oppose the doctrine of preemptive war." The Assembly also took a stand by this overture to oppose torture and promote civil and human rights.

 

Peace with Iran

By voice vote, the Assembly passed a Commissioner's Resolution specifically advocating resolution of tensions between the U.S. and Iran by "peaceful, diplomatic means", and opposing "preemptive military action by any nation against Iran." This action has already enabled the Presbyterian Washington office to expand advocacy efforts on this urgent issue. Click Here to learn more and contact your representative.

 

On War, Mercenaries, and Profiteering

PPF members played a strong role in helping draft the original version of this overture, 11-17, which passed by a strong margin in committee and then by voice vote in plenary. The action strongly opposes the use of private military or mercenaries in any war or conflict. It also directs the Stated Clerk to petition Congress to investigate profiteering in our current wars and to levy "an excess profits tax be assessed against any company found to be engaged in war profiteering" as the U.S. has done in previous wars.

 

Human Rights in the Philippines

Another strong expression of unity, this powerful statement of solidarity with our partners in the Philippines passed unanimously in committee and by consensus agenda in plenary. The Commissioner's Resolution, 11-31, was sponsored by two PPF members. Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua, General Secretary of PC(USA)'s partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, spoke eloquently in committee of the grave situation of violence and impunity against church workers and other advocates for human rights in the Philippines.
Click Here for more on the Philippines.

 

Human Rights in Colombia

In many ways, the strong statement on Human Rights in Colombia adopted by this Assembly is connected to PPF's accompaniment program with our partners in Colombia. PPF had a large role in a commissioner's resolution to the previous Assembly in 2006 concerning Colombia. That resolution was referred at the time, resulting in this year's Report on Human Rights in Colombia from ACSWP,
11-18. Some language opposing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement from a Chicago Presbytery overture was added to the overture in committee, effectively combining the two overtures.

Our partner church in Colombia, the IPC, testified powerfully to the situation in Colombia through the voices of the Rev. Diego Higuita-Arango, the IPC's current moderator, and Milton Mejía, former General Secretary of the IPC and the overture advocate from Chicago Presbytery. When objections were raised in plenary to items concerning the Colombia Free Trade Agreement and calling on the U.S. government to suspend military aid to Colombia, the support of our partners on these items was reiterated by PPF members, including our Executive Director, Rick Ufford-Chase. The report then passed as submitted by the committee by a vote of 521-142-11 (Yes-No-Abstain).

 

Iraq

Overtures concerning the rights and care of refugees (11-09) and women (11-11) in Iraq passed by strong margins in committee and by voice vote in plenary.

Of the many overtures concerning the war in Iraq directly, the committee chose to answer all overtures with a version of overture 11-10 from Baltimore Presbytery, which was the strongest of the presbytery overtures in PPF's estimation. Great debate occurred in committee and in plenary surrounding language concerning troop withdrawl. The compromise language finally arrived on included calling on the U.S. government to "responsibly bring the troops home."

Other highlights from this overture include:

  • "Commend and thank the peacemakers who have worked nonviolently to end the war in Iraq through prayers, vigils, and acts of resistance and witness such as the actions organized by the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq; and encourage all Presbyterians to participate enthusiastically in peacemaking efforts to end the occupation of Iraq."
  • "Call upon the United States to return full direct control of Iraq’s oil resources and oil revenues to Iraq."
  • "Call upon the United States and other responsible nations to voluntarily make restitution in an amount adequate to repair war damage."

The overture also recommended for study ACSWP's excellent study paper "To Repent, Restore, Rebuild, and Reconcile," included in overture 11-24. This paper offers an in-depth analysis of the situation in Iraq and the church's witness to peace in the face of this conflict. We think it will be a helpful resource as you and your congregations engage issues surrounding the war in Iraq.

The final version of the overture passed 505-152-10.

 

Israel/Palestine

Actions and debate of this Assembly regarding Israel/Palestine clearly acknowledged the complexity of the conflict, yet decidedly opted for active peacemaking rather than passive "neutrality."

The primary action of the Assembly occured through its adoption of overture 11-01. The overture affirms the church's prophetic role with respect to government, commends the nonviolent witness of Christians in Israel/Palestine, and encourages pilgrimages. It also endorses the Amman Call, which was the most debated aspect of the overture. The Amman Call originates from the World Council of Churches, and affirms a "'two-state' solution, a shared Jerusalem, and the human rights of refugees and occupied peoples, its call to resist extremism and push for reconciliation, and its commitment to imperatives of ecumenical solidarity in action for Just Peace."

A more thorough summary of these actions is available from our partners at the Israel/Palestine Mission Network.

 

Conscientious Objectors

The overture "On Supporting Those Who Feel Called to Seek Status as Conscientious Objectors," 11-22, builds on previous policy for COs. Especially significant is the encouragement to create a "structure to document and support" those seeking CO status, and to extend that ministry to non-confirmed baptized members and to attending non-members.

 

Gun Violence

Following powerful testimony to the committee from the Rev. Jim Atwood, a PPF National Committee member and the overture advocate, the Assembly adopted an amended version of overture 09-05, a strong statement addressing gun violence in the U.S. by a vote of 555-95-13. The action supports background checks and banning assault weapons, as well as many other legislative and church-based actions to reduce gun violence. It further calls on various PC(USA) agencies to "articulate a Reformed Theology of proactive, constructive nonviolence" as a way of life. This may be an area for PPF to contribute in the future.

 

Immigration

Yet another sign of strong consensus, a commissioner's resolution on enforcement of immigration laws,
9-21, passed by a hand vote in plenary. The action "Declares that the common practice of police officers working in collaboration with Federal government institutions to enforce immigration laws represents a dangerous situation for families and the community in general."

 

Torture

A strong statement against torture was adopted through commissioner's resolution 09-20. It passed by voice vote in plenary after unanimous approval in committee. No2Torture played an important role in resourcing and advocating for this action.

 

A Social Creed for the Twenty-First Century

The new Social Creed offers broad yet strong commitments to living out the church's call in many areas of society.
Among the many statements is the promotion of "Peacemaking through multilateral diplomacy rather than unilateral force, the abolition of torture, and a strengthening of the United Nations and the rule of international law." The creed passed in plenary by a vote of 552-110-7.