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Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

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219th General Assembly

Click here for our index page on GA 2010

Committee 11: Social Justice Issues
B: The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World

If you have comments on these issues, or material you would like us to post here, please send a note, and if possible we will add it to this page.

Our other reports and comments on gun control >>

An glimpse of the gun violence issue from a different angle:

A "Conservative Christian and a Pretty Fair Shot"

By Berry Craig   [7-21-10]

Every election year I enjoy bipartisan support when I tell my history students the only thing I'm running for is the county line.

In class, I talk a fair bit about old-time politicians who campaigned the tried-and-true way. They made speeches, debated each other, shook hands with multitudes of voters, hosted liquor-lubricated barbecues and, occasionally, kissed babies.

Now one office seeker from the Wild West is appearing in a TV commercial, shooting guns and invoking the Almighty. She’s Machine Gun Gorman, an uber-conservative candidate for Congress in the Arizona Republican primary.

As the cameras roll, Pamela Gorman, already a state senator, blasts away with a quartet of weapons, including a gangster-style Tommy Gun, while a narrator praises her as a “conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot.”    The rest of this short essay >>

Gun violence measure approved by Social Issues Committee

Virginia Tech campus minister weeps with joy at passage of recommendation

The Rev. Catherine Snyder [a member of the Coordinating Team of Presbyterian Voices for Justice] has seen firsthand the pain and hurt felt by individuals and communities because of gun violence.

Snyder wept openly Tuesday after the Committee on Social Justice Issues: The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World unanimously approved a recommendation for the PC(USA) to take a stronger stand against gun violence.

Snyder, who helped write the recommendation entitled “Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call,” is the Presbyterian campus minister at Virginia Tech University. She consoled students and their families after a distraught student opened fire and killed 32 people in April 2007.

“Why do we so easily accept the unthinkable suffering of gun violence?” Snyder asked the committee. “We are crazy about our guns. Sisters and brothers, the madness must stop. My prayer is that our denomination can lead this nation to its senses.”

[Scroll down for Item 11-06, which is where this action began.]

The committee also approved support for Presbyterian immigrants. Included in the recommendation is a request that the PC(USA) refrain from holding national meetings at hotels or conference centers in those states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color might subject them to harassment due to legislation similar to the recent Arizona law.    

Other items approved to be sent to the full Assembly:

bulletA call for an immediate national moratorium on the death penalty
bulletA recommendation to form a committee to study the nature of the church for the 21st century.  [Item 11-10 below.]

A recommendation to approve the study paper, “On Living a Human Life Before God,” as a PC(USA) resource failed by a vote of 1 to 41, with 10 members abstaining. It will be submitted to the General Assembly with comment.  [See Item 11-07 below.]

Also on the PC(USA) GA website >>

An introductory look at some issues coming to this committee


Click on any Item number to jump to the full text on the PC-BIZ website.

Item 11-01 comes from Charlotte Presbytery, calling for a renewed commitment to the “Call to Restore the Creation” that was adopted by the 202nd General Assembly 20 years ago. It reminds us that much remains to be done, and calls on the Assembly to “urge congregations, Presbyterian church-related institutions, and church members to adopt institutional and individual lifestyles reflecting greater stewardship of resources, particularly in energy consumption.”

Item 11-02 from National Capital Presbytery calls on the Assembly to endorse “The Charter for Compassion,” in which people from Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions have joined to affirm that “[t]he principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.” As one small step toward broadening our circle, and finding ways to talk and act across lines of religious division, this might be a real way forward. Among other things, the statement affirms that “any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.”

Item 11-03, from South Louisiana Presbytery, calls for the preparation of resources on the "Destruction and Loss of Coastal Wetlands."  Click here for a comment from The Layman on this item.

Item 11-04, the “Human Rights Update 2010,” which is provided by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, focuses this year on the issues of human trafficking, detention of immigrants, and the use of torture. It raises many questions for consideration and action, and will merit serious attention.

Item 11-05, “Loving Our Neighbors: Equity and Quality in Public Education (K–12),” is also presented by ACSWP, in partnership with the Office of Child Advocacy. It calls on the Assembly to approve the report with the title above, to “affirm the long-standing commitment of the PC(USA) to public education as an essential institution contributing to the common good in a democratic society by its commitment to equip all children to be effective citizens, capable of living full and meaningful lives and contributing to their society,” and to approve a variety of measures “to provide greater fairness and quality in public education.”  [NOTE: This item has been moved to Committee 10, at Item 10-11.]

Item 11-06 brings another recommendation from the ACSWP: “Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call” advocates incremental improvements in policy and offers many practical ways to involve congregations in reducing gun violence.

Item 11-07 presents a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy that the study paper, “On Living a Human Life Before God,” be approved as a resource to help congregations “become communities of moral discourse, .... developing practices of ethical reflection as communities of covenantal responsibility seeking to hear the voice of God and the voices of others in the context of serious and complex issues.” This is the latest in a series of studies, including “The Nature and Value of Human Life” (1981), which have dealt with the difficult life-and-death questions of abortion, euthanasia, war, and capital punishment.

The introduction includes this statement of the purpose of the paper: “In this paper, we invite groups within churches to become intentional communities of moral discourse, that is, groups committed to reflect together on who we are, what our values are, and how we can respond to specific challenges we face in this century.” The themes include God’s blessing in creation and our response, blessing in Jesus Christ, God’s call to do justice, historical covenants and renewed blessing, Reformed perspectives on social responsibility, and reflecting God’s image through moral discourse. Some may be disappointed because the paper does not take direct positions on war, hunger, genocide, and abortion, but it does provide some helpful theological foundations for local discussions – or in grander terms, “moral discourse.”

Item 11-09, which has been moved from Committee 10, is a call from the Advocacy Committee on Racial-Ethnic Concerns for a continuing review among our denominational agencies to review “Efforts Regarding Cultural Proficiency and Creating a Climate for Change” in the church. This long-term commitment to developing cultural diversity – and making it work – needs serious support, when many might prefer to ignore the need for such change. 

Item 11-10 also comes from the Advocacy Committee on Racial-Ethnic Concerns, calling for the creation of a Committee to Study the Nature of the Church for the 21st Century. Noting the lack of clarity and vision in our church about our nature and calling in an increasingly diverse society, this study, combined with the new Social Creed, might truly open new ways into the future for the PC(USA).


BP disaster gives new meaning to South Louisiana overture, says The Layman     [6-14-10]

The people of Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church authored an overture which will be considered in Committee during this General Assembly. It was approved by South Louisiana Presbytery, and calls on the PC(USA) to provide resources dealing with the destruction and loss of coastal wetlands. The overture was created before the disastrous BP oil spill, but the Rev. Kristina Peterson, the pastor of the Bayou Blue congregation, comments that the crisis “just makes it even more meaningful. ... We really need to understand more fully God’s creation and what that means for ourselves and for all of God’s creation.”

The concluding line of the story may come closest to expressing the traditional Layman stance on such issues:  “Though it certainly will have emotional appeal while the current environmental disaster is still fresh in GA commissioners’ minds, it does not include cost estimates or funding sources for the effort.”

The full article >>

The text of the overture, now Item 11-03, in Committee 11: Social Justice Issues B


GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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