An introductory look at some issues coming to this committee
any Item number to jump to the full text on the PC-BIZ website.
13-03,13-09 On the War in Afghanistan.
Six presbyteries have submitted or concurred with similar overtures calling
upon the United States to replace military operations in Afghanistan with
nonviolent approaches including diplomacy and material aid and to mitigate
the war’s impact through restitution and reconstruction. We also need to
evaluate the cost of the war to ourselves – in financial, moral, and human
terms – in the hope that we can learn to engage in international affairs in
ways that nourish peace, prosperity, and stability.
The rationale points out that no General Assembly has yet addressed the
eight-year war in Afghanistan. So there has been no directive to the
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program to develop informational and study
materials regarding the conflict, and the voice of the church has been
silent in a world anticipating its religious bodies to speak out. It is time
for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to be heard.
Item 13-04 On Partnering for Peace in Sudan.
This overture from the Presbytery of Trinity calls upon the Assembly to
support “working toward a just and lasting peace for all of Sudan” by
advocating for a renewed international commitment to the implementation of
the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, increased private investment for
the economic development of Southern Sudan, increased development assistance
by the US government, and “renewed efforts by all parties to end hostilities
in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan ...” These appear to be genuine steps
toward peace in a nation that has certainly known more than its share of
13-05 On Protecting Christians in the Muslim World.
Growing out of a presbytery relationship, this overture is based on a
particular situation in Pakistan, but uses general language to appeal to the
United Nations to “exhort the religious and political leaders of Muslim
nations to moderate extreme behavior and protect (their) religious
minorities from ... harm, and encourage brotherly harmony ...” While the
concern merits the GA’s attention, there are several problems with the
overture. Most importantly, it fails to set a comprehensive context that
includes U.S. military operations in the region and the injustices or
resentments that may have motivated attacks on perceived allies of the U.S.
It also asks the UN to send a message to all Muslim nations, without
documenting that the problem exists in more than a few.
There are several ways that the committee could respond responsibly to the
overture. They could issue a statement dealing specifically with the
incident documented in the rationale. They could request assistance from the
Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy in drafting a broader statement
on the situation in Pakistan, including this concern. Or they might consider
requesting a report to the next General Assembly on the complex situation in
13-06 On Entering a Six-Year Term of Discernment to Seek Clarity on
Whether God Is Calling the Church to Embrace Nonviolence as Its Response to
War and Terror.
This overture proposes a study that could lead to profound changes in the
church’s thinking on war and violence. It challenges us to consider
reaffirming the early church’s commitment to nonviolence and to reevaluate
our reliance on just war doctrines. While Presbyterian polity will always
permit a General Assembly to endorse a particular military option, shouldn’t
the presumptive position of the church be in opposition to war? The overture
is not about the unrealistic hope of the United States becoming a pacifist
nation. Instead, it asks questions about the role of the Christian
perspective in national debates on war and peace. The rationale points out
that modern weapons and military strategies have made traditional Just War
theory obsolete. Nevertheless, the burden has generally been on war
opponents to demonstrate that a particular conflict is unjust, rather than
to its supporters to demonstrate that military action is the only realistic
and just option. The decision does not need to be a rushed one, but
shouldn’t we start thinking about reversing that dynamic?
13-07 Twenty-first Century Peacemaking and Seminaries, Colleges, and
This overture calls for several GAMC entities and church-related seminaries
and colleges to investigate the possibility of pooling their resources to
help Presbyterians deal with challenges in the 21st century, such
as wars with no end (on terror or drugs), or those that rage in the Middle
East, globalization and pluralism, U.S. foreign policy and developing
nations, or climate change and the competition for natural resources. The
foundational PC(USA) peacemaking document, “Peacemaking: the Believers’
Calling” (1980) still calls us to the privilege and challenge of taking part
in God’s peacemaking in this century by assembling all the resources that
God has given us. The hope is that a very intentional plan may emerge from
an exploration of how our agencies and educational institutions and
congregations can comprehensively cooperate together.
13-08 On Assisting with a Process for Negotiation of a Peace Accord in
The 2008 General Assembly called for a suspension of military aid to
Colombia, which would preclude the expanded U.S. military presence which is
the concern of this overture. However, it was the hope of our partner, The
Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC), that the election of President Barack
Obama would strengthen the search for peace and respect for human rights.
This has not been the case. In September 2009, the government of the United
States certified the Colombian government in human rights, even with the
revelation of a high number of extrajudicial killings of youth by the army.
It was also made public that the Colombian intelligence agency conducted
illegal surveillance on leaders of the opposition, human rights defenders,
and church leaders, threatening them because of their work for peace. And
now our government has made an accord with the Colombian government for the
U.S. military to use seven military bases within Colombia. In February 2010,
the General Assembly of the IPC expressed its concern: “… that the
democratic security promoted by the [Colombian] government, the increased
military costs, and the growth of the army have not shown us the prospect of
peace even though they have reduced the actions of illegal armed groups. It
is evident that there is a resurgence or strengthening of former armed
groups. Furthermore, there are tensions with Columbia’s neighbors – Ecuador,
Venezuela, and throughout the region because of the announcement of the U.S.
Army’s use of Colombian military bases.”
For this reason the IPC has called on the PC(USA) to join them in making
stronger efforts (initiatives) toward peace in Colombia. In light of these
new developments and this urgent request from our partner church, it is
appropriate for the General Assembly to direct the stated clerk to ask
President Obama to suspend U.S. use of Colombian military bases and to
instead promote a peace process to resolve the conflict.
which has been moved here from Committee 9, reflects an overture from Pittsburgh Presbytery entitled
“On Strengthening the Peacemaking Program.” This is set forth as a
celebration of the 30th anniversary of the important document,
“Peacemaking: The Believers’ Calling,” and the establishment of the
Peacemaking Program. It would “celebrate” by creating a nine-member task
force to present suggestions to the 220th GA for updating the
church’s peacemaking efforts in light of more recent developments such as
the emergence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); the recovery by the
U.S., after Viet Nam, of its status as a respected “superpower”; the end of
the “cold war”; new wars; globalization and the current global financial
crisis; the role of religions in wars and in peacemaking; and “the rise of
Muslim influence and militancy.” [NOTE: This item has now been
moved to Committee 13, and is numbered 13-11]
The proposal focuses much concern on “weapons of mass destruction,” which is
a term used largely in accusations against those accused of terrorism,
without any reference to the nuclear arsenal and other forms of warfare such
as drone aircraft, which are primarily a part of the arsenals of U.S. and
other “Western” nations. There seems to be a certain one-sidedness about the
“updating” that is being envisioned.
The proposal calls for the creation of “an advisory committee of six expert
persons to meet quarterly to counsel the Peacemaking Program on issues
regarding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and other emerging issues.” It
is unclear why the standing committee for the Peacemaking Program would need
to be supplemented with such an “advisory” body. It’s worth noting that an
earlier advisory committee voted to disband, so that revenue from the
Peacemaking Offering could be devoted to staff, programs, and resources, and
not spent on their meetings.
The proposal also includes a very interesting call for “a seminary and
college-wide review of peace studies and peacemaking opportunities
appropriate to the major shifts in the approach of the United States
international relations ...” Its goal would be to “engage students in active
peacemaking and to share the wisdom of faculty among our church-related
educational institutions.” (Item
13-07 deals with similar possibilities for
supporting peace studies and action in the arena of higher education.)