Nonviolence Discernment Overture - Final Version

PPF was instrumental in crafting an overture to the 219th General Assembly (from National Capital Presbytery) calling the church to a time of discernment "to Seek Clarity on Whether God Is Calling the Church to Embrace Nonviolence as Its Response to War and Terror." The overture was strengthened in committee and combined with an overture from Pittsburgh Presbytery, On Strengthening the Peacemaking Program." The final text of the overture, which was approved by unanimous vote in committee and by consensus by the GA, is below:

On Strengthening the Peacemaking Program

Lifting the example of Jesus as the model of our behavior and beliefs in love and peacemaking exemplified in Luke 6: 27–38 as our policy for Presbyterians now and in the future, the 219th General Assembly (2010) directs the General Assembly Mission Council, through the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) and the Peacemaking Program, to appoint a five-person steering team, at least one of whom shall be a college student or other young adult, to work with ACSWP and Peacemaking Program representatives to design and implement a broadly participatory four-year process to do the following:

  1. Seek clarity as to God’s call to the church to embrace nonviolence as its fundamental response to the challenges of violence, terror, and war;
  2. Identify, explore, and nurture new approaches to active peacemaking and nonviolence, reporting to the 221st General Assembly (2014) with recommendations for policy and action. This process shall include the following elements:
    1. Build upon “Peacemaking: The Believers’ Calling” (1980), “Christian Obedience in a Nuclear Age” (1988), “Just Peacemaking and the Call for Intervention for Humanitarian Rescue” (1998), and other policies related to just war, just peacemaking, and nonviolent principles and issues of peace and justice approved by past General Assemblies, culminating in updated policies on nonviolence and peacemaking.
    2. The steering team is encouraged to consult with ministries of the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC), particularly Compassion, Peace and Justice, World Mission, and Presbyterian Women; Office of the General Assembly; college chaplains and campus ministers; middle governing body staff; and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in the design and implementation of the proposed policies and process.
    3. The steering team is encouraged to consult with national and international ecumenical and interfaith partners and draw on the experience and learnings from the International Ecumenical Peacemaking Convocation of the World Council of Churches (2011), and other initiatives of the broader Christian and interfaith community.
    4. The process shall help Presbyterians on all levels of the church to recognize and focus upon updated policies and actions that
      1. consider the new realities, challenges, and opportunities for working for peace and seeking justice, including the dangers currently posed by weapons of mass destruction, globalization, pluralism, the implications of U.S. foreign policy (including two current wars), impact of climate change, and an increasing competition for natural resources by developing nations as they affect the worldwide mission of the church and promotion of peacemaking;
      2. explore new thinking on nonviolence, reconciliation (including the role of truth-telling, forgiveness, confession, and public apology), human rights, security strategies, genocide and terrorism prevention, economic conversion, development, and the violence of poverty;
      3. explore new models for engaging in active peacemaking and working for justice, including new technology for advocacy and organizing, communication and decision-making, accompaniment, conflict-resolution, artistic expressions, church-based community organizing, and nonviolent direct action;
      4. respond to and prevent violence on the local level (e.g., action and advocacy concerning gang violence, gun violence, and family violence), the national level (e.g., action and advocacy on budget priorities, and decisions about investments in dependent industries), and the international level (e.g., action and advocacy on issues of war and peace) through prayer, direct action, and advocacy; and
      5. address sexism, racism, and other patterns of oppression as tasks of peacemaking and justice seeking.
    5. The steering team shall
      1. consider at least two gatherings of individuals who are engaged in action and reflection on peacemaking and justice seeking, including faculty and students from Presbyterian colleges, universities, and seminaries (“… to engage students in active peacemaking and to share the wisdom of faculty among our church-related educational institutions”), activists, individuals engaged in nonviolent witness, grassroots persons working for justice and peace, and others engaged in peacemaking in congregations, middle governing bodies, Presbyterian Women, and other Presbyterian-related entities;
      2. invite Presbyterians, individually and corporately, across the church into a time of study and reflection on the root causes of violence and responses to it, and on peace, justice, and ministries of peacemaking and justice—seeking that honor the gospel, the history of the church, and the movement of the Holy Spirit as the church attempts to live out Christ’s command to love one another, even those we call our enemies; and
      3. create new resources or identify existing resources, working ecumenically when appropriate, that will help Presbyterians pray and study Scripture for guidance about how to respond faithfully to Jesus’ call to be peacemakers in this time.
    6. The steering team, in consultation with the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy and Presbyterian Peacemaking Program staff, would recruit additional writer(s) or team members as necessary to help create a report with recommendations to bring to the 221st General Assembly (2014).
    7. An interim report shall be made to the 220th General Assembly (2012). The interim report to the 220th General Assembly (2012) will include specific recommendations of strategy and policy to invite the broader church into the time of discernment, framing the conversation, naming the best partners, and laying out a process to help our congregations to wrestle with these important ethical questions.
    8. The steering team will offer its recommendation for action to the 221st General Assembly (2014), asking for that assembly to receive the report for a two-year period of study before final action in 2016.

See also, from Prospectus: Discerning Future Presbyterian Peace Witness

"The action of the Assembly is a detailed combination of three approaches concerned with deepening the non-violent peacemaking and peace-building witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). While the action retains the name given to overture 13-11 from Pittsburgh Presbytery, it goes well beyond the Peacemaking Program to encompass churchwide discernment processes proposed in overture from 13-01 from National Capitol Presbytery and a framework for updating and developing new social witness policy on peace and non-violence. Thus the action of the Assembly was an innovative uniting of program and policy elements, seeking to provide the church with a comprehensive and highly participatory approach."

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