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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ◆ 223 General Assembly 2018
June 17, 2018
Kindom building for the 21st Century.
On fourth ballot, Cintrón-Olivieri, Kohlmann win close moderator contest Victors, second pair of co-moderators in history, elected by a 266-253 vote by Mike Ferguson ST. LOUIS – It took commissioners four ballots Saturday evening to elect an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and a mid-council executive as the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s second-ever co-moderators. Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri of the Presbytery of Tropical Florida and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann of the presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England gained their victory at 9:01 p.m. Central Time over two pairs of challengers – the Rev. Eliana Maxim of the Presbytery of Seattle and the Rev. Bertram Johnson of the Presbytery of New York City, also standing as co-moderator candidates, and Chantal Atnip, a ruling elder who stood for moderator, and the Rev. Ken Hockenberry, her vice-moderator running mate from the Presbytery of Chicago. On the final vote, Cintrón-Olivieri and Kohlmann received 266 votes to 253 for the team of Maxim and Johnson. Atnip and Hockenberry got 5 votes on the fourth ballot after having received 45 on the first ballot.
Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II, places the moderatorial stole on Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri Saturday night. (photo by Danny Bolin )
Following their election, the new co-moderators were immediately installed by the co-moderators of the 222nd General Assembly by the Revs.
Gather at the river
Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, as well as the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II, stated clerk of the General Assembly. Cintrón-Olivieri’s family displayed
the Puerto Rican flag as the two new leaders were being installed, honoring the place where she lived until 2011. See Main head p. 4
Presbyterian partners eye Korean reunification
GA223 is water-born by Fred Tangeman
South Koreans say they’re ‘grateful’ for longtime PC(USA) support By Mike Ferguson
ST. LOUIS — The 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) convened Saturday with an opening worship service buoyant with
Sudie Niesen Thompson [left] and Chad Herring [right] celebrate the renewal of baptism at the opening worship service. (Photo by Michael Whitman)
See Gather. 2
ST. LOUIS—After the June 12 Singapore summit between U.S. and North Korean heads of state, South Korean church leaders say they’re increasingly optimistic about the chances of reunification up and down the Korean peninsula—of nations and of families. “Because of your presence, we Korean churches can sustain our long march toward peace and reunification,” the Rev. Jaecheon Lee, general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), said during a General Assembly news conference
[Left to right]: the Rev. Kyoung-gyun Han, the Rev. Jaecheon Lee and the Rev. Robina Winbush speak during a press conference of Korean Church leaders at 223rd GA  (Danny Bolin)
Saturday. “I am pleased to talk about how you have stood by my church for a long time.” The Rev. Kyoung-gyun Han, ecSee Korean reunification p. 2
Environmental Issues Social Justice Issues
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2 Gather from p. 1 music and prayer and punctuated with calls for community-based acts of social witness. Befitting its “River City” location, the liturgy, hymns and sermons shared a leitmotif of water: The Gathering Words, Prayer of Invocation and Thanksgiving, Call to Confession, Assurance of Forgiveness and Anthem — “Shall We Gather at the River?” — referenced water’s potential to baptize, wash, destroy, sustain and renew. A Prayer of Illumination by Annie Dowell of Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church in Missouri referenced the nearby Mississippi. The Jordan and Euphrates rivers mentioned in the service’s Old Testament Lesson gave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s co-moderators, the Revs. Jan Edmiston and Denise T. Anderson a theme for discussions of PC(USA) support for oppressed peoples in today’s Middle East, the United States and other parts of the world. The co-moderators delivered a co-sermon, their last together after two years in that role. A new moderator/co-moderators would be elected later in the day. “The world feels angrier and meaner than it did two years ago,” Rev. Edmiston said. “We are sorting ourselves into like-minded groups of people who look just like us,” Rev. Anderson said. “Our nation will only thrive if we embrace all kinds of diversity.” “God calls on us to be successful by being rich in wisdom, understanding,” Rev. Anderson later said,
Sunday June 17, 2018
Korean reunification from p. 1 prompting Edmiston to joke, “So much for the prosperity gospel!” Just as the co-moderators used a polyphonic sermon style, the service music allowed for a fluid interplay of voices. A performance of “Halleluya! Our God is God” included a stirring call-and-response between worshipers and the Assembly Choir, composed of members of congregations from the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy and directed by Bill Stein of First Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood, Missouri. Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II led the Lord’s Prayer and an Invitation to Offering, asking Assembly participants to give money for bail relief. The offerings will be delivered during a silent march to the St. Louis City Justice Center. “As we seek to be bold,” the Nelson said, “following the example of Jesus Christ, to walk by faith and not by sight . . . Today’s offering and the monies we’ve collected will be used to help release captives here in St. Louis, those held in prison without a chance to argue their case because they can’t pay bail.” The co-moderators returned to the pulpit for a communion service, pouring wine from a jug similar to those used earlier in the service to decant water into the font. During the blessing, Anderson said, “We are drenched and fed and changed.” The hymn “Come Sing, O Church, in Joy!” ended the service, instructing GA223 with its last line to, “Celebrate the journey now and praise the Lord.”
umenical officer for the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK), was a military chaplain in the late 1990s when North Korean soldiers attacked their southern counterparts. “This summit was a kind of miracle,” he said. “I thank God for those who have supported peace. Without your support and prayer, it wouldn’t happen. We are about to move forward.” The Rev. Robina Winbush, associate for ecumenical relations in the Office of the General Assembly, said the involvement of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) began with the Rev. Syngman Rhee, a former General Assembly moderator, with a focus on family reunification. “U.S. churches are in a position to influence policy on the peninsula and speak on behalf of our ecumenical partners in Korea,” she said. “In the PC(USA) we are clear that we take our lead from the churches in Korea. They are
our closest ecumenical partners.” Over the past three decades, organizations including the World Council of Churches and the World Communion of Reformed Churches have launched Korean peace-building efforts that envision full democratic participation for Koreans from both countries. “Since 1988, Koreans have been claiming that as a key factor for reunification,” Lee said. “All the people — not just the important political figures, all the people — must be guaranteed the right to participate. It means that God is asking us as God’s people to participate in God’s history, the building of peaceful coexistence.” President Donald Trump and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un “are doing their work, but we are going to do what we have to do as God’s people,” Lee said. “That is the Korean church’s basic duty. God wills us to do something for peace.”
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Alums and friends are invited to join Pittsburgh Seminary for fun, fellowship, drinks, and refreshments! Sudie Niesen Thompson and Chad Herring celebrate the renewal of baptism during opening worship. (Photo by Michael Whitman)
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY NEWS Published daily, June 16-23, by Office of General Assembly Communications in cooperation with Presbyterian Mission Agency Communications
Reporters: Pat Cole, Erin Cox-Holmes, Eleanor Ferguson, Mike Ferguson, Theo Gill, Rick Jones, Chris Keating, Emily Enders Odom, Eva Stimson, Gail Strange, Duane Sweep, Fred Tangeman, Shane Whisler.
Managing Editor/Publisher: Jerry Van Marter
Copy Editors: John Filiatreau, Jennifer Cash
Associate Editor: Gregg Brekke
Proofreaders: Dawn Biggs, Andy Kendall
Designer: Mark Thomson
Tuesday, June 19 | 7:00-8:30 p.m. Marriott Grand No Ticket Required
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Social Media: Mari Graham, Tacoma Monroe
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Kindom building for the 21st Century. 3
223 General Assembly
GA223 backgrounder: Mission Coordination
New PMA leader, mission work plan and mission budgets on the docket for Assembly Committee 10 by Pat Cole LOUISVILLE – The confirmation of the Rev. Diane Givens Moffett as president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) will be among the items before the Mission Coordination Committee when the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 223rd General Assembly meets June 16–23 in St. Louis. Moffett was elected to the position May 8 by the PMA Board for a fouryear term, but her election is subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. She begins her duties June 11 as head of the PMA, the agency that leads the national and international mission work of the PC(USA). Moffett comes to the position from St. James Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, N.C., where she was pastor and head of staff for 13 years. Previously, she was pastor of Elmwood Presbyterian Church in East Orange, N.J. (1995–2005), executive director of Harbor House Ministries in Oakland, Calif. (1993–1995), and student pastor of Elmhurst Presbyterian
Church in Oakland (1987–1992). The committee will also take up the PMA’s 2019–2020 mission work plan. The two-year plan includes three emphases: • Congregational vitality – prioritizing faithfulness over self-sufficiency • Poverty – fighting unjust economic systems that perpetuate destitution and need • Structural racism/white supremacy – dismantling structures and ideologies that oppress people of color In addition, the committee will consider PMA budgets for 2019 and 2020. The PMA Board is proposing budgets totaling $71,589,237 for 2019 and $70,531,957 for 2020. The PMA Board is also asking the Assembly to recommend approval of a report on the Doctrine of Discovery, a legal concept that U.S. courts have used to invalidate or ignore possession of land by Native Americans. The report, titled “The Doctrine of
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Discovery: A Review of Its Origins and Implications for Congregations in the PC(USA) and Support for Native American Sovereignty,” describes the doctrine and its history and makes recommendations on how congregations can support Native Americans in their efforts for sovereignty and human rights. The report was mandated by an action of the 222nd General Assembly (2016), which also called on the church to confess “its complicity and repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.” In other action, Committee 10 will consider: • A resolution from the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns asking that a five-member task force be created to determine the need for a committee to advocate for LGBTQ+ concerns • An overture from Grace Presbytery urging the creation of a PMA office dedicated to the ministry and mission of small congregations • An overture from Grand Canyon Presbytery requesting that the PMA inventory the physical needs of Native American congregations and chapels and create a fund for repairs and improvement • An overture from Mission Presbytery asking that a $250,000 grant be established for the development of resources related to serious mental health issues. The resources would be for presbyteries, congregations, and seminaries and would serve as a foundation for denominational action. • An overture from Greater Atlanta Presbytery calling for a study of the purpose and place of the humanities – including religion and ethics – in PC(USA)-related colleges and universities
YAAD Journal Claire Wineman, Presbytery of Denver
One of the most unique aspects of YAAD orientation has been the time for reflection provided amidst the whirlwind experience of GA. Through a combination of community-building, worship services, and discussions, we’ve been able to prepare for the Assembly in a way that bring us closer together with each other and God, while still making space to understand what this experience means to our personal faith journeys. As part of our first days together, the YAADs created a community covenant that I am deeply proud to be part of, based on the ideas we all bring to the table from our own lives and reflections. It includes everything from reminders to stay hydrated and healthy in St. Louis to making sure we always respect each other as we were created in the image of God. When addressed during our Friday night worship service by the co-moderators of the 222nd General Assembly, Denise Anderson posed that the future of the church may lay with us changing the kingdoms of the past using the truth of our voices, so we can move forward and build our “kindom”. I believe our YAAD covenant is representative of the new kindom that the PC(USA) is in the process of constructing, manifested in the meaningful bonds we have already begun to form with ourselves and each other in our hotel, in plenary and our committees, and in the world.
Scenes from opening plenary
2019 APCE Annual Event
February 6–9, 2019
Bring your entire team: Educators, Pastors, Musicians, Youth Workers, Mission Leaders, and Volunteers!
The Rev. Diane Givens-Moffett, newly elected Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The Rev. Cedric Portis and Carol DeVaughan, co-moderators of the Committee on Local Arrangements. (Photo by Michael Whitman)
Kindom building for the 21st Century.
4 Cintrón-Olivieri is an ESL teacher and a ruling elder at First Spanish Presbyterian Church in Miami. Last year she was moderator of the Presbytery of Tropical Florida. She was a Youth Advisory Delegate to the 205th General Assembly in 1993, and was asked at age 19 to serve on the session of Caparra Terrace Presbyterian Church in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Kohlmann has pastored congregations in Ohio and Massachusetts. She’s currently resources presbyter for the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England. As resource presbyter, she designs leadership training opportunities, connects pastors and congregations with local and denominational resources and has helped start sometimes difficult conversations about structure and vision in the midst of change. “We are deeply honored by your confidence,” Kohlmann told commissioners following their installation. “We will seek God’s will in all we do, praying that the Spirit will blow us to new places – all because of our common love for Christ, who is our lord and savior.” Before the election, Cintrón-Olivieri promised their work over the next two years will be marked by “audacious, spirited, bold, unapologetic women.” Asked to assess their strengths and weaknesses, Cintrón-Olivieri admitted
the pair’s main weakness is “that we get into our heads a lot. But our family shakes us and says, ‘Get over it at and move on.’ A strength is that we are very loving. I am a hugger, and I cry a lot when something really moves me – like worship this morning.” Ministry can look different in some of the small New England towns where Kohlmann serves two presbyteries. One example: Leeds, Maine, a town of about 2,300 people where the town’s church and gathering place “took the locks off the door and unlocked the internet.” Now the church is full of “unchurched” people – students doing their homework after school and “a gym full of people.” “Sometimes we get tied to our buildings,” Cintrón-Olivieri said. “Maybe we need to see what is happening in the community to rethink the structures we have.” “We want to invite the church into deeper faithfulness, including languages and cultures and many identities and orientations, all of which reflect the breadth of God’s creation,” Kohlmann told commissioners. “I look different, and sometimes I feel that way too,” Cintron-Olivieri said. “But we need to keep showing up, even around people who don’t think like we do. We need to concentrate on what we cherish and what we share. If we do that, we can claim to be walking with God.”
Sunday June 17, 2018
Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, co-moderators of the 223rd. General Assembly. (Michael Whitman)
Join in the celebration of Gradye Parsons’ new book by getting your copy signed! Stop by the Board of Pensions booth at General Assembly Monday, June 18, 12:30 –2 p.m.
2000 Market Street • Philadelphia, PA 19103-3298 • © 2018 The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
223 General Assembly
Kindom building for the 21st Century. 5
GA223 backgrounder: General Assembly Procedures
Assembly Committee 3 to consider raising per capita to $9.35 over two years by Shane Whisler
LOUISVILLE – A revised request for an increase in the per capita rate will be considered by Committee 3 of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, which meets June 16–23 in St. Louis. The new request, from cuts in half his original recommendation of a 39-percent increase in the per-member apportionment over the next two years. The revised proposal recommends a 20 percent increase in the per capita rate, which now stands at $7.73. If approved, per capita would increase by 10 percent to $8.50 in 2019 and by another 10 percent to $ 9.35 in 2020. (The original ask topped out at $11.45.) Per capita funding is the only source of revenue for General Assembly meetings. It funds the work of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA), including organizing the biennial meetings, maintaining records, the work of the Stated Clerk and Assembly Moderators, mid council relations, shared costs with the Presbyterian Mission Agency, ecumenical relations and 62% of the budget of the Presbyterian Historical Society. The General Assembly’s 2018 per capita budget is $14,214,859. All c ongregations are encouraged to contribute to per capita, and participating in per capita is a constitutional requirement for presbyteries. For more information about per capita, see http://www.pcusa.org/ news/2018/5/30/compromise-results-smaller-capita-increase-request/ Committee 3 will also consider several revisions to the standing rules that guide General Assembly procedures. Goals of the revisions include reducing time spent in public hearings (0313) and plenary (03-10) while ensuring that committees hear various points of
view from experts asked to speak (0312). The General Assembly Committee on Representation (GACOR) is asking the Assembly to add two at-large members to its number, restoring its membership to 16 (03-06). GACOR is also seeking to become more involved in the review of GA agencies and to serve as a resource for finding nominees to serve on various bodies related to the PC(USA). Because the number of commissioners participating in General Assembly meetings has decreased (to 538 this year), and standing rules require a 3:1 ratio of commissioners to advisory delegates, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly is recommending reducing the number of Theological Student Advisory Delegates (TSADS) from 28 to 15 (03-13). The recommendation also would allow PC(USA) ministry candidates attending seminaries not related to the PC(USA) to apply for TSAD positions. Other business before the General Assembly Procedures Committee: A recommendation to bar staff members of PC(USA) agencies from serving as elected members of committees, commissions, or special committees and commissions unless otherwise designated by the General Assembly Replacement questions for the Session Annual Statistical Report A proposal that Salt Lake City (The Presbytery of Utah) be the site of the 226th General Assembly, June 29–July 6, 2024 Reelection of three OGA staff members as Associate Stated Clerks and election of two new Associate Stated ClerksA request to approve the Administrative Personnel Association, the Educator Certification Committee and the Presbyterian Association of Musicians as national certifying bodies.
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1866 Both the New School and Old School factions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. met in River City for their 1866 general assemblies. The Old School gathered at St. Louis’s Second Presbyterian Church; the New School at First. The PCUSA had split in 1838 over social and theological issues including slavery, infant baptism, and ecumenism in foreign missions. Following the end of the Civil War, both sides began committees for reunion. Minutes of the 1866 Old School GA report that “the assembly expresses its fraternal affection for the other branch of the Presbyterian Church and its earnest desire for reunion.” New School minutes show that the two assemblies held a joint celebration of the Lord’s Supper on May 23 at the Second Presbyterian Church. The New and Old School reunited in 1870.
Three other major Presbyterian denominations held general assemblies in 1866, also along major American waterways—the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. in Memphis; the United Presbyterian Church of North America in Allegheny, Pennsylvania; and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Owensboro, Kentucky. In the twentieth century all would connect, in sum or in part, as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). –David Koch, Reference Archivist
Kindom building for the 21st Century.
Advisory delegates add global, ecumenical perspectives to GA by Pat Cole ST. LOUIS – Commissioners to the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are being informed by the perspectives of 14 ecumenical advisory delegates and eight missionary advisory delegates. Most ecumenical delegates are from global churches that partner with the mission work of the PC(USA). All missionary advisory delegates have been appointed to international service by church. Ecumenical Advisory Delegates this Assembly include representatives from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Iraq, the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger, the Hong Kong Christian Council, the Moravian Church of North America, the National Evangelical Church of Guatemala, the Presbyterian Church
of Colombia, the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, the United Protestant Church of France, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Reformed Church of Equatorial Guinea, the Church of God in Christ, and the Waldensian Evangelical Church of Rio de la Plata, This Assembly’s Missionary Advisory Delegates currently serve in Costa Rica, East Africa, Eastern Europe, Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Mexico and Guatemala, South Asia and South Sudan. Advisory delegates serve on Assembly Committees with voice and vote. In plenary they have voice and cast advisory, but not counted, votes.
Sunday June 17, 2018
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223 General Assembly
GA223 backgrounder: Environmental Issues
Divestment from fossil fuel industry to be considered – again – by Assembly Committee 8 by Fred Tangeman PHILADELPHIA – Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are the major cause of climate change. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders overwhelming agree on that. What’s more contentious is what to do about it. In keeping with the last two General Assemblies (GA221 and 222 in 2014 and 2016), this year’s GA223 in St. Louis will debate whether or not the church should divest from companies heavily involved in the fossil fuel industry. The forum for those discussions is the Assembly’s Environmental Issues Committee, which holds its first meeting June 17. An overture from the Presbytery of Hudson River, if approved by the committee and full Assembly, would direct the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation to divest from fossil fuel and actively invest in securities that focus on renewable energy. A like-minded overture from the Presbytery of East Tennessee would require the addition of “all companies that meet specific listed criteria” – such as deriving more than 50 percent of their annual revenue from extraction, production, and distribution of fossil fuels – to the GA’s list of companies from which to divest. Forty-two presbyteries have concurred with one or both of the divestment overtures, including the Presbyteries of Boston and San Francisco, which brought similar overtures to GA221 and GA222. National church agencies that have commented on the divestment overtures disapprove. The Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns and Advisory Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns maintain that divestment makes it harder to advocate for climate-responsible actions by corporations – at the board level and with regards to employees and the economically disadvantaged around the world who are disproportionately affected by
climate change. An overture by the Presbytery of New Covenant steers clear of divestment, instead directing the church to continue its work of corporate engagement and to encourage reduced greenhouse gas emissions at the national and congregational level through “adoption of lower-carbon and zero-carbon technologies and lifestyles.” A second overture by New Covenant stipulates that MRTI should report back to GA224 in 2020 with a list of companies that have made insufficient progress toward improved stewardship of the earth and that should be considered for divestment. The Environmental Issues Committee will also be considering a raft of overtures on issues other than divestment. The Presbytery of Newton and the Presbytery of Monmouth have submitted overtures recommending increased dialogue around issues of environmental justice and environmental racism, focusing on communities struck by natural disasters, such as Puerto Rico and Houston in 2017. ACSWP recommends that the church affirm the “Precautionary Principle,” which manages risks to the health and safety of human beings and the planet from new and existing technologies. MRTI asks the Assembly to affirm the methods the church is currently using to engage corporate entities regarding climate change, especially through the presentation of shareholder resolutions. Two more overtures from New Covenant Presbytery complete the Environmental Issues Committee docket: one calling for reduced use of polystyrene (Styrofoam) by national church agencies and congregations, and another urging support for carbon pricing, which aims to “bring into effect national and international policies that create a consistent, rational, and escalating price for emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases” and thereby “reduce consumption and support investment in sustainable alternative energy sources.”
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Sunday June 17, 2018
GA223 backgrounder: Social Justice Issues
Committee 11 takes on issues ranging from nationwide action to prevent gun violence to racist disparagement of people and nations by Gail Strange LOUISVILLE – What does the Lord require of you? This will be the question before Assembly Committee 11 when the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 223rd General Assembly meets June 16–23 in St. Louis. The committee will consider issues ranging from “racist nationalism” and the “unjust, racist disparagement of people and entire nations” by politicians and government officials to effective drug policies that put healing before punishment. Committee 11 – Social Justice Issues – will address issues that many would consider hot topics, including sexual misconduct in the PC(USA) and an overture from the Presbytery of Boise asking the Assembly to affirm and clarify the PC(USA)’s position regarding the appropriate boundaries of religious liberty. The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy is recommending that the Assembly approve resolutions on “religious freedom without discrimination” and “honest patriotism.” The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta has submitted an overture asking the Assembly to join Assemblies as far back as 1959 and as recent as 2014 in declaring the church’s continued opposition to capital punishment. The overture calls for an immediate moratorium on all executions in all jurisdictions that impose capital punishment. The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC) is recommending that the Assembly change the terminology used when referring to different ethnicities. ACREC is asking the Assembly to direct all six agencies of the PC(USA) to move toward changing from the term “racial ethnic people” to “people of color.” The requested action also includes ACREC updating its own name to Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC). The committee maintains that the term “racial equity” more accurately represents its work and ministry. These recommendations are a final response to a referral from the 222nd General Assembly (2016). In a matter directly related to the nation’s current political climate, an overture from the Presbytery of Hudson River asks the Assembly to affirm a declaration expressing “concerns about the direction towards autocracy that our country is taking.” The rationale for the overture states, “Our theology calls us, as Presbyterians, to be active participants in the political life of the world and to speak when fundamental tenets of our faith are being violated.” An overture from the Presbytery of New Castle calls for the Assembly to pray for a movement of the Spirit to
engage the PC(USA) and its more than 9,300 congregations in nationwide action to prevent gun violence. In its comments on the overture, ACREC says, “No longer will Presbyterian congregations be paralyzed and threatened by gun and ammunition lobbies.” ACREC says it believes the overture “will save lives by creating a safe community and restoring peace.” The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC) is asking the Assembly to direct it to form a five-member task group comprised mostly of black women “with a passion and experience of advocating for black girls and/or women.” ACWC recommends that the task group study the research on disparities of black girls and women, including the results of the report “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” with the intention of “intersecting and expanding the work that is already being done around the national church in racial justice.” Committee 11 will act on two overtures related to gender identity, both sponsored by New Castle Presbytery. One calls for the affirmation and celebration of the full dignity and humanity of people of all gender identities. The other calls for the celebration of the gifts of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in the life of the church. Acting on a recommendation from the Presbyterian Intercultural Network (PIN), the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is asking the Assembly to declare that the PC(USA) must become a “Church of Intercultural Transformation.” It also asks the Assembly to designate 2020–2030 as the “Decade of Intercultural Transformation” and to denounce “the persistent and demonic presence of racism and the misuse of power and privilege in our individual and institutional lives.” An overture from San Francisco Presbytery asks the Assembly to recognize the prophetic voice of Presbyterian pastor Henry Highland Garnet’s for today’s time. The first African American to address Congress – on February 12, 1865 – Garnet gave what the overture says is considered the most important speech in African American history. The Assembly is also being asked to commend the congregations and pastors of greater St. Louis for “the Christian witness in their community ministries of justice and service” and to commend “all those who have engaged in conversations and education about the tensions of race and class.”