GPC TOWN HALL: What the PCUSA General Assembly did, and what it means to us
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA took action in June to allow same-sex marriage, divest from U.S. companies in Israel-occupied territories, add the new Belhar Confession and more. The GPC Adult Ministries Committee will host a town hall-style discussion of the PCUSA’s actions and their impact on Georgetown Presbyterian Church.
A panel including Matthew Taylor, Adrian Vaagenes and Alan Wisdom, moderated by Susan Page, will provide information and context about what happened. We also want to give GPC members a chance to express and discuss their views on these important issues. Please join us in the Georgetown Room at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 21.
Nursery care and Sunday School begin at 9:30. Youth 6th grade and up are encouraged to attend the panel discussion. Please send your comments, suggestions and questions beforehand to [email protected], post them on Facebook, or tweet them to @gtownpres.
Below is a summary of decisions that we will be discussing.
GPC TOWN HALL
To explain and discuss actions by the General Assembly of the PCUSA
September 21, 2014
Panel: Matthew Taylor, Adrian Vaagenes and Alan Wisdom, moderated by Susan Page
The Presbyterian Church USA ended up on the front page of the New York Times twice in June with actions taken at the 221st General Assembly. The GPC Adult Ministries Committee is hosting a town hall to explain and discuss what the PCUSA did and what it means for Georgetown Presbyterian Church. We’ll focus on three specific actions.
- The Belhar Confession (Panelist Adrian Vaagenes)
By an overwhelming 551-87, the General Assembly approved adding the Belhar Confession, which has its roots in the struggle against apartheid, to the Book of Confessions. The decision now must be ratified by two-thirds of the denomination’s presbyteries – that is, 115 of the 171 presbyteries – within the next year. Then the next General Assembly, in 2016, must again approve the inclusion. It would be the first addition to the Book of Confessions in nearly 30 years. The Belhar Confession, written in 1982, is based on themes of unity, justice and reconciliation. In 2010, the General Assembly approved inclusion of the Belhar Confession, but it fell eight votes short of the two-thirds ratification by presbyteries.
- Same-sex marriage (Panelist Matt Taylor)
By 371-238, the General Assembly voted to allow pastors to decide whether they will perform same-sex marriages, in states where they are legal. Also approved, by 429-175, was a revision to the Book of Order to read that ‘marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.’ The change in the Book of Order requires ratification by a majority of presbyteries. The PC(USA) in 1991 and 2008 voted to bar its pastors from performing gay marriages, and it has held ecclesiastical trials for ministers who violated the ban and blessed gay couples. In 2010, the General Assembly decided in ordain openly gay pastors. Since then, about 350 congregations have left the denomination, many citing opposition to that action.
- Divestment (Panelist Alan Wisdom)
By a narrow 310-303, the Assembly approved a proposal calling for divestment from three U.S. companies that it says supply equipment used by Israel in the occupation of Palestinian territory. Supporters say the three companies – Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions – are engaged in ‘non-peaceful pursuits’ in the region. Some supporters likened the action to divestment in the 1980s of companies that helped South Africa enforce apartheid. Many of those opposed argued it would damage relationships with Jews and Jewish organizations. A similar overture had failed 333-331 at the General Assembly in 2012. The measure that passed this time also reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist, endorsed a two-state solution in the region and encouraged interfaith dialogue.