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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ◆ 223 General Assembly 2018

June 20, 2018

Kingdom building for the 21st Century.

Hundreds of Presbyterians join march to St. Louis’ Justice Center More than $47,000 raised to bail out people charged with misdemeanors by Rick Jones

Presbyterians march in the ‘Freedom Should Be Free - No Cash Bail’ rally at General Assembly 223 in St. Louis. (Photo by Danny Bolin)

ST. LOUIS — Several hundred Presbyterians took to the streets on a hot and humid Tuesday afternoon in downtown St. Louis calling for social, racial and economic justice. Partici-

pants – including Co-Moderators Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, along with the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, General Assembly stated clerk – joined other advocacy

Matthew’s Gospel unfolds in first-century setting eerily similar to today

GA223 Bible study leader Raj Nadella unpacks contrasts between empire and God’s kingdom by Eva Stimson ST. LOUIS — In terms eerily similar to today, Raj Nadella, assistant professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary near Atlanta, described the Roman empire of the first century — the context of New Testament Christianity — in the second of two Bible studies at the 223rd General Assembly (2018) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In Matthew 14, a king (Herod) hosts a lavish birthday banquet that ends in the grisly beheading of a prophet (John

the Baptist) committed to a life of poverty. Herod represented an oppressive system in which people were taxed to build new cities to dedicate to the emperor of Rome. People at the top had great wealth, but “all these massive building practices were coming at great cost to the poor people in Galilee,” Nadella said. He reminded listeners of the Old Testament story in which the Israelites begged God for a king because they See Matthew’s Gospel p. 2

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Remembering Peg

groups for the one-mile walk from the America’s Center (St. Louis’ convention center) to the City Justice Center to participate in a “bail out.” Organizers say the jails are full of

people being held on minor offenses, unable to pay cash bail. The marchers, working with local organizations such as the Bail Project and the St. Louis AcSee March p. 8

Middle East panel continues support for rights of Palestinians Threat made against one speaker outside of meeting by Rick Jones ST. LOUIS – The 223rd General Assembly’s Middle East Committee has signed off on most of its business, including overtures on Israel/Palestine, the U.S. government’s decision to disengage with Iran and the Syrian conflict. While the committee meetings themselves were respectful and calm, the ongoing debate over the Israeli occupation of Palestine created some concern outside committee sessions. One speaker was confronted by another individual after the group broke for lunch on Monday. Once the committee reconvened, Moderator Charon Barconey addressed the panel.

“One of our speakers shared with the committee that they were followed across the street, where an individual made a statement that could be considered a threat,” she said. “Authorities were notified, and it appears the threat was made by someone who had not registered with the General Assembly.” A security officer was stationed in the hall for the remainder of the first day of meetings. Eleven out of 13 overtures and resolutions considered by the committee addressed issues surrounding Israel/ Palestine. The committee rejected one See Middle East p. 2

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The Way Forward National Black Presbyterian Caucus

Diane Moffett Public march photos


Kingdom building for the 21st Century.

2 Middle East from p. 1 condemning the militarization of Palestinian children to be used in attacks on Israeli citizens. The committee also disapproved a resolution that would no longer classify Israel as a “colonial project.” An overture from the Presbytery of Grace was approved with amendment urging the PC(USA) to remain committed to justice for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. The committee also approved an overture urging the real estate company RE/MAX, LLC, “to do everything within its legal and moral power” to stop facilitating the sale of property in Israeli settlement colonies. Other actions included: • Confirming support for the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and defending First Amendment rights for those who exercise their freedom of speech. • Condemning violence against Palestinians during the Great March of Return protests along the Gaza strip. • Supporting successful grassroots efforts aimed at bringing Israelis and

Palestinians together. • Directing the church to report to the 224th General Assembly on the United Nations’ intentions for the status of Jerusalem. • Urging church staff and members to reach out in “open, truthful dialogue” with Jewish colleagues on the issue of the Israeli occupation. “I rejoice in reconciliation, but the elephant in the room is the occupation. If we truly seek reconciliation, that needs to be the consequence of justice, restoration of human rights and dignity,” said Victor Makari, a Missionary Advisory Delegate. “There can be cordial encounters between groups, but there can be no reconciliation unless justice is exercised.” The committee approved an overture calling for the U.S. government to reopen and expand Syrian refugees’ entry into the United States as well as a resolution urging all parties to comply with the Iran nuclear deal. It also asks for the U.S. government to reconsider its unilateral withdrawal from the agreement.

Members of the Assembly Committee on Middle East Issues hear from an overture advocate at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis on Monday, June 18, 2018. (Photo by Michael Whitman)

Wednesday June 20, 2018

Matthew’s Gospel from p. 1

Raj Nadella presents the Tuesday morning Bible study at General Assembly 223 in St. Louis. (Photo by Danny Bolin)

thought that a king could make them “a great nation.” As it turned out, Nadella said, life under kings and emperors turned out to be “oppressive, greedy and real bad.” The term “imperial paradox,” he said, refers to the disconnect between Rome’s stated values of peace and prosperity for all and the realities of life in the empire. “In order for people at the center to enjoy wealth, it’s OK for people on the margins to live in poverty. In order for there to be peace in the capital, there must be war in the outlying colonies.” Worst of all, “Rome used religion to justify the paradox” by proclaiming that “the gods themselves sanctioned these oppressive economic structures,” Nadella said. “Sadly, not a lot has changed in the last 2,000 years.” Later in Matthew 14, a very different kind of banquet occurs. In contrast to Herod’s banquet for the elite, Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 is a meal for the poor. Instead of resources being moved from the margins to the center,

as in the Roman empire, food is moved from Jesus out to the hungry people, Nadella said. Soon after, in Matthew 15:21–28, Jesus encounters a Canaanite woman who asks him to heal her daughter. Acknowledging that Jesus’ response to her is puzzling, Nadella said Jesus was reflecting the “zero-sum worldview” of Rome by implying that food (and healing) could not be shared among enemies. “Rome not only perpetuated poverty at the margins, they convinced marginalized communities that they could only survive at the expense of the other,” he explained. “People in power have a way of designing narratives that are a way of deflecting attention away from oppressive structures.” Ultimately, Jesus commended the Canaanite woman for persisting and challenging the zero-sum mentality. Christians today should “get on the phone and be persistent — like the nasty Canaanite woman — until we get what we want,” Nadella said. “A church that supports the empire is an absolute contradiction in terms.”

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Kingdom building for the 21st Century. 3

223 General Assembly

Committee 11 approves change in terminology for racial ethnic people

Remembering Peg

National Capital ‘GA junkie’ died Friday – at GA, of course by the Rev. David Ensign, Pastor, Clarendon Presbyterian Church, Arlington, Va. ST. LOUIS — I’m in St. Louis for the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and over the next few days I’ll post a fair bit about the important business of the Assembly. But, in the way of things, life and death will disrupt even the decent and orderly plans of Presbyterians. So, instead of spending the first day of the Assembly doing orientation work with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship interns I am helping to support, I spent most of yesterday in the hospital keeping vigil for a dear friend and colleague in ministry. Last evening (Friday), the Rev. Peg True joined the church triumphant, and life will never be the same! She was surrounded by the prayers of countless friends, and her hands were held in a small circle that included her older brother, Fred, and sister-in-law Betsy. I am comforted in my own grief imagining Peg already serving on the Heaven Innovation and Transformation Team. Peg, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a fall Friday evening and never regained consciousness, was a life-long part of the congregation in Arlington that I’ve been privileged to serve for the past 15 years. Our fellowship hall is decorated with a mix of photographs of the community over the years, and in one taken around 1945, an 8- or 9-yearold Peg is sitting at a Sunday school table with a twinkle in her eyes that suggests she was up to something. She had that same twinkle Friday afternoon as we chatted on the flight we shared from DC. Behind the twinkle lay a sharp, deeply thoughtful and creative mind buoyed by a warm and compassionate heart. Peg was an educator, a vocational path she followed as a young adult when, in the late 1950s, her call to ministry was blocked by a church still far from ready to support women in ordained ministry. Nevertheless, she persisted, and, a quarter century later, encouraged by my predecessor at Clarendon, the Rev. Madeline Jervis, Peg was among a group of five women the small congregation supported in seminary. Peg was ordained by National Capital Presbytery and served congregations in National Capital and Baltimore presbyteries until her retirement in the early 2000s. In retirement, she served as parish associate at Clarendon, where her deep wisdom helped the community through several significant transitions

and innovations. In fact, the mission discernment team on which she served for the congregation over the past five months just gave its final report to the session two weeks ago, and the congregation will be making some significant decisions this summer that will become part of her great legacy to Clarendon. All of that, however, is a bit like a resume. Peg was so much more than even the most impressive curriculum vitae could cover. She invested in relationships, and a walk with her through her retirement community was like walking with a celebrity. She knew everyone there, even though she’s only lived there for the past few years. In the short while she lived at Goodwin House she’d already been deeply involved in several groups working to make improvements for both residents and the staff. That was simply the way she walked through life: paying close attention to people and situations, and using her immense gifts to help them get better. After she died, I made some calls to folks who I hoped would hear the

Nomenclature to move from ‘racial ethnic people’ to ‘people of color’ by Gail Strange

Peg True

news from me rather than via Facebook. Among those were my three young-adult children. Peg was part of each of their confirmation journeys, but more than that she was part of their lives. When I reached Martin, my 24-year-old middle child, he simply said, “Aw, Peg was the best.” That pretty much captures it. Margaret ‘Peg’ True was the best. Well done, good and faithful servant.

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ST. LOUIS — A change in terminology from “racial ethnic people” to “people of color” was approved by Committee 11 of the 223rd General Assembly on Monday and will be moved forward to the full Assembly. In a 51 to 3 vote, the Assembly Committee on Social Justice Issues also agreed to ask the GA to approve a name change for the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC) to Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC). In presenting the rationale for the proposed name change, ACREC representatives said they want the organization’s new name to be more reflective of their role in the church today. ACREC says its work has moved from an advisory role for racial ethnic concerns to an organization that advocates for racial equity for people of color. The committee’s recommendation also calls for all six agencies of the PC(USA) to move toward using the term “people of color” instead of “racial ethnic people” in all documents, parlance and programs. The ACREC recommendation came in response to a referral from the 222nd General Assembly (2016) directing the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC) to work with the Office of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries (RE&WM) of the Presbyterian Mission Agency to determine more appropriate terminology than “racial ethnic.” In an ACREC briefing, the committee acknowledged the term “racial ethnic” was very dated and unique to the PC(USA). While there was discussion about the change in terminology, the committee agreed it was most important for appropriate naming to be determined by people of color themselves.

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Kingdom building for the 21st Century.

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Wednesday June 20, 2018

Nelson, Moffett offer up a Way Forward

Trust can be restored as attempts are made to fix ‘structural flaws’ by Mike Ferguson ST. LOUIS — The denomination’s top two officers told the Way Forward Committee on Tuesday that the agencies they lead will live faithfully and collegially together no matter what governance model the committee recommends to the General Assembly. “Whatever this group comes up with, I want as the executive director to be able to do the job I need to do,” said the Rev. Diane Moffett, the new president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “I want to work together, but when I get too involved in the weeds, I can’t see the big picture. If this doesn’t work or it doesn’t fit, I will lift my voice like a trumpet and you will hear it. That’s where I stand on the issue.” The issue is whether the committee should recommend that the General Assembly reform the A Corporation, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s centuries-old corporate entity. The current A Corporation membership exactly matches that of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, but the Way Forward Commission’s recommendation would include representation from other agencies, among other changes.

The A Corporation “is a structural flaw that has been here for ages,” said the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II, stated clerk of the General Assembly. “It occurred over the years trying to bring the church together. … I have no doubt Diane Moffett and I can work together, but I do think the A Corporation is too big at this point for any of us with a vested interest to work it out. If that were possible, it would have happened already.” Nelson said he doesn’t see a disconnect between the Office of the General Assembly, which he heads, and the PMA. “We inherited the history of two denominations coming together, North and South struggles. Deals were made to get along and stay in the same church, and over time it has gotten convoluted. People don’t remember that history, and there is no one narrative you can point to. What this process does is give us a clear view of what type of resources we need.” “Who would not want a seat at the table?” Nelson said. “I think that is what we are asking for. It’s about power sharing, and there are many models by which we can share pow-

er. We come up with the best decision we can to make sure all people are heard. There’s something Christian about that.” Moffett told the committee she is interested “in bringing life and openness to the system. I depend on the Holy Spirit to work through the body to help us get to the work of ministry.” To some Presbyterians, “it can look like the national church is doing things that are inconsequential,” she said. “People are worried about putting food on the table and having clean water. There is a lot of work to do because there is a lot of suffering out there. We need to get to it, and create a way of operating that allows us to get to it — a way that’s streamlined and keeps us relevant.”

“We have to have a collective voice as we move ahead as a church,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s important to receive input, reflections and thoughts from staff. Good leadership will seek that.” During his six years heading up the PC(USA)’s Washington office, Nelson served in the PMA before moving over to the OGA following his 2016 election as stated clerk during the 222nd General Assembly (2016). “I have a deep and abiding faith in the work of mission, going back to my mother’s work in global ministries,” he said. “This is not about throwing anybody under the bus. It’s about doing something different. We can restore trust sitting around the same table.”

Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (Photo by Michael Whitman)

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S C OT U S TO U R S.COM J. Herbert Nelson II speaks at The Presbyterian Outlook 200th anniversary kickoff luncheon. (Photo by Danny Bolin)


Kingdom building for the 21st Century. 5

223 General Assembly

Take the baton from MLK

National Black Presbyterian Caucus to move ‘from education to action’ by Shane Whisler ST. LOUIS — Motivation for racial justice fed the 120 souls gathered for the dinner of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus (NBPC) Monday, with the Rev. Thomas H. Priest Jr. saying it is time to finally pick up the baton from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and act for racial justice and equity at the 223rd General Assembly (2018). “It takes all the feet on the street,” said Priest, who is president of the NBPC, co-chair of the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns of the PC(USA) and member of the Presbytery of Detroit . Presbyterians of many backgrounds attended the event, which featured the theme “Where Do We Go from Here? Seeking Racial Justice and Equity.” “(The NBPC) is not doing anything until we pick up the baton that Dr. MLK is handing to us,” Priest said, urging those gathered to invite Christian brothers and sisters with privilege to take action and report the accomplishments a year from now, when the NBPC holds its biennial convention in Atlanta.

In opening comments, the Rev. Craig Howard, transitional presbytery leader of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, urged people to take to the streets for Tuesday’s Presbyterian-led march on the City Justice Center. The demonstration was planned as a witness to injustice and a call for change stemming from the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Mo. “We are now called … to move from education to action,” Priest said. “This is work started by our ancestors and it is for us to continue.” Priest called for the PC(USA) to become “a visible, diverse partnership – koinonia – at all levels.” Members were urged to encourage young people to participate in leadership of the NBPC and to work in partnership with white brothers and sisters who can use their privilege in the call for justice and equity for all people. To achieve this, Priest said, “put on the whole armor of God.”

Rev. Thomas H. Priest, Jr. [right] talks with Elder Stefanie Lewis, Board of Directors, NBPC, Membership Chair, before opening ceremonies of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus dinner Monday night. (Danny Bolin)

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Jarvie reconciliation called for

Forgiveness of church mortgage grants affirmed by Eva Stimson ST. LOUIS — Responding to two overtures raising concerns about the administration of the Jarvie Commonweal Fund, Committee 13 of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) issued a call for reconciliation. Later, the committee passed almost unanimously a motion asking the GA223 co-moderators to form a team to identify and engage all parties in a peacemaking and reconciliation process and report back to the 224th Assembly. The fund was established in 1925 by a wealthy lifelong Presbyterian, James N. Jarvie, to aid older adult Presbyterians in the New York City area “who in their declining years find themselves without sufficient means of support.” The original overtures had called for the creation of an administrative commission or special committee. Advocates of those overtures and six speakers at an open hearing cited concerns about a lack of openness, accountability and compliance with donor intentions on the part of the Presbyterian Foundation, which administers the Jarvie fund. Most speakers at the open hearing affirmed the Foundation’s administration of Jarvie and noted that the concerns raised by the overtures had been addressed multiple times by both secular and church bodies, including the 222nd General Assembly. The speakers

included the Rev. Marjory Roth, who was hired last year as the first full-time chaplain Jarvie beneficiaries. Several speakers said creating a special committee or commission would be “a huge waste of church resources.” A report on financial implications indicated the reconciliation team proposed by Committee 13 would cost about $46,200, while an administrative commission would cost about $151,000. In other actions, Committee 13: • Passed a substitute to a commissioners’ resolution encouraging the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Presbyterian Development and Loan Program to consider forgiveness of mortgage grants established in 1968 or earlier only to congregations closing and turning over their assets to presbyteries, and not to churches leaving the denomination. • Voted to affirm the election of the Rev. Thomas F. Taylor to a third term as president and CEO of the Presbyterian Foundation, and to confirm Karen L. Garrett as director of the Foundation’s New Covenant Trust Company. • Applauded the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation’s contribution of more than 1,500 copies of the Presbyterian Hymnal in Spanish to churches in Puerto Rico devastated by last year’s Hurricane Maria.

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GENERAL ASSEMBLY

HISTORY

1919

In 1919, 35 years before Brown v. Board of Education brought national attention to the issue of race-based educational inequality, a Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. General Assembly standing report from the Board of Missions for Freedmen offered an example of how the Church was trying to address the imbalance in opportunity. African American schools such as Harbison Agricultural College in Irmo, South Carolina were funded by the board, which minutes from the 1919 assembly in St. Louis describe as “one of the best equipped educational systems possessed by any branch of the [C]hurch with 480 trained teachers, 127 schools and 17,00 students.” The Board of Missions for Freedmen was created after the Civil War to help educate young black students in the South. The GA report notes a number of other board achievements, including

the $250,000 contributed to its mission by African Americans in 1918. In 1923, the Board of Missions for Freedmen merged with other boards and agencies of the PCUSA to become the Board of National Missions, a precursor of today’s Presbyterian Mission Agency. —Kristen Gaydos, Development and Communications Assistant


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Wednesday June 20, 2018

Stated clerk issues statement in wake of altercation Openness and safety must be held in balance, Nelson says from Office of the General Assembly Communications ST. LOUIS — General Assembly Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II has issued a statement (based on a letter to a concerned Assembly-goer) addressing a nasty confrontation that occurred outside the Assembly Committee on the Middle East (Committee 12) meeting room Monday. The full text of Nelson’s statement: Regarding the conflict that occurred yesterday involving Messrs. Bassem Masri and Bassam Eid in the context of the work of our General Assembly on the conflict in Israel/Palestine, I want to say unequivocally that we regret the fact that this unpleasant and disruptive incident occurred.

Presbyterians tend to have strong feelings about public issues and, in the case of the search for peace in the Middle East, that exposes the General Assembly to strong, divergent opinions. We take seriously allegations of death threats made by Mr. Masri against Mr. Eid, although we are un-

able to substantiate these charges either through the review of the video made by Mr. Masri or by the testimony of Palestinian bystanders such as former General Assembly Moderator the Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, who heard threats in the spoken Arabic of Mr. Masri. That said, the most important issue at the moment is the way in which this whole matter was handled by our General Assembly staff, which at least one person believes was not adequate to the situation. Among our most basic principles as Presbyterians, enshrined in the Standing Rules of the General Assembly, is the openness of all of our meetings. Everyone is welcome and is free to observe, record, and photograph our proceedings, both in our committee deliberations and in our plenary meetings. We have people who attend out of curiosity and others who come at the invitation of our own staff and elected members. Many of these persons are invited to offer testimony to the assembly and to our committees on matters of critical importance to the church and to society. Admittedly, Presbyterians tend to have strong feelings about public is-

sues and, in the case of the search for peace in the Middle East, that exposes the General Assembly to strong, divergent opinions. Sometimes that exposes us to the existential passion of people embedded in the struggle, who have been invited to provide information and advice to the assembly committees. When that passion boils over, we have to deal with the results. This appeared to be the case as Mr. Masri, perceiving Mr. Eid (representing an advocacy group often seen as slow to criticize Israel) to be a Palestinian traitor to the Palestinian cause, became abusive and threatening.

In the effort to manage the crisis thus created, our staff, after broad consultation, took the strongest measures that seemed advisable, short of banning Mr. Masri, who was the invitee of one of our official networks, from the committee or from the convention center. While some may not deem the measures taken in this case adequate, please understand that they were taken in good faith in an effort to balance our church’s commitment to openness and transparency and yet to provide order sufficient for the work of the assembly to proceed without further disruption.

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223 General Assembly

Kingdom building for the 21st Century. 7

Committee unanimously recommends the confirmation of the Rev. Diane Moffett as head of PMA New executive hailed as ‘adaptive and transformative’ leader by Pat Cole

Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (Photo by Michael Whitman)

ST LOUIS — The 223rd General Assembly’s Mission Coordination Committee voted unanimously Monday evening to recommend the confirmation of the Rev. Diane Moffett as president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA). Prior to her election by the PMA Board, Moffett was pastor of Saint James Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, N.C., 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. (1993–95), and pastor of Elmhurst Presbyterian Church in Oakland (1987–92). Nancy Ramsay, chair of the search committee that recommended Moffett to the PMA Board, called her “an adaptive and transformative leader” who has a “passion for mission.” The board elected Moffett on May 8 for a fouryear term, but her election is subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. In her remarks to the committee, Moffett emphasized that the need for the agency to be faithful to its “deep call from God.” “Jesus gave it all, and he requires no less for us,” she said. Moffett also said she would “bring to the work the importance of relation-

ships with God and with each other.” Asked about her thoughts on the PC(USA)’s international witness, Moffett said, “We have a treasure in the gospel of Jesus Christ and we need to share it. We need to listen, learn and then lead.” The committee also recommended that the General Assembly urge denominational entities to confess their complicity in the “Doctrine of Discovery” and to repudiate the doctrine. The doctrine is a legal concept that U.S. courts have used to invalidate or ignore the possession of land by Native Americans. The recommendation asks that sessions, mid councils, seminaries, Presbyterian Women’s groups and other organizations address the issue. It also calls on the PMA to develop related resources, and it encourages Presbyterian schools and seminaries to prepare students to articulate Native American theologies. The action was placed before the committee by the PMA, which was acting on a referral from the 222nd General Assembly (2016). “The Presbyterian Church has played a role in the implementation of this doctrine,” said the Rev. Irv Porter, the PMA’s associate for Native American Congregational Support. “We stood

by while Native Americans were killed and their land was taken.” The recommendation passed by a vote of 47–0 with three abstentions. In a related move, the committee approved an overture by the Yukon Presbytery that expanded the committee’s initial action on the Doctrine of Discovery. For example, it lists several theological issues that PMA resources should explore. “How is it that Christians took land and somehow thought that this was a Christian ethic?” asked the Rev. Curtis Karns, an overture advocate from Yukon Presbytery. The committee also sent to the full Assembly an overture from Grand Canyon Presbytery concerning the conditions of buildings where Native American Presbyterians worship. Clyde Parks, an overture advocate from Grand Canyon Presbytery, said many Native American church buildings have serious structural problems. Some, he noted, are heated by wood or coal-fired stoves. The overture asks the PMA to conduct an inventory of maintenance needs. “We don’t do this work normally,” said the Rev. Rhashell Hunter, director of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries for the PMA. The committee voted to direct the PMA to work with mid councils to facilitate the assembly-wide assessments of the 95 Native American congregations and chapels. While no commissioner voiced op-

position to helping Native American congregations, some expressed concern over the inventory’s $302,217 estimated cost over the next two years. “I am completely supportive of the intent, but I don’t think we can afford the overture the way that it is written,” said Martin McGeachy, a commissioner from Hudson River Presbytery. In addition to the inventory, the overture says that “a means must be established to match identified projects with teams of volunteers capable of making the repairs.” In other action, the committee recommended that the denomination explore the need to create an advocacy committee for LGBTQ+ concerns. The measure was brought to the committee by the PC(USA)’s Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns. In recent years, the denomination has changed its policies to allow the ordination of individuals who are in same-gender relationships and to permit Presbyterian clergy to officiate the weddings of same-gender couples. Noting the growing role of the LGBTQ+ individuals in the denomination, JoAnne Sharp, a member of the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns, said, “Let us be proactive as we experience the growing pains that we will face.” The action directs the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns to create a five-member task force to study the need.

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Kingdom building for the 21st Century.

March from p. 1 tion Council, took more than $47,000 – collected at Saturday’s opening worship offering and from online contributions – to provide bail for persons who have been prescreened for release. Local advocates say inability to pay bail has been a driving force in the increase in mass incarceration over the last 15 years, resulting in job loss, mounting fines and child custody issues. The Bail Project screens incarcerated individuals and seeks to help those whose bail is less than $5,000 so more people can receive assistance. Before leaving the convention center, organizer Michelle Higgins told the crowd that standing for a cause is not easy. “We who believe in freedom shall not rest, but stand up for those in pain,” she said. “It’s our duty to stand shoulder to shoulder with people we might not see eye to eye with but there is a trust built between us.” The marchers received a police escort, blocking off intersections as the crowd went by singing and chanting. Supporters carried wagons of ice water to hydrate the walkers in temperatures that hovered in the 90s. “This has been in the planning stage since the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson declared his vision for the Hands and Feet initiative,” said Erin Counihan, co-organizer. “People are ready for the church to take action. I think the church showing up in the community is crucial now.” A mile later, the crowd gathered on the steps of the detention center to hear from Nelson as he turned the money over to Bail Project coordinators. “Our God will turn the light on for some folk who’ve been in jail for way

too long. Quite frankly, they should have been out a long time ago with their families,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this day for a long time. We’ve seen what God can do for us that we cannot do for ourselves.” Nelson said the church was returning to the justice understanding of the 1960s when church leaders marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “We call upon the government and principalities to release those who ought to be at a place where they can make a life for themselves,” he said. “We are fighting for freedom all over the world, whether it be in Palestine or right here in the U.S. Today, we know we have to put up or shut up.” Nelson challenged the marchers to go back home and find young activists and see what they can do in their own communities. Gina Torres, a St. Louis resident, lost her son a year ago when he was killed during a police raid. She was marching at the front of the line. “This march means a lot to me because mass incarceration needs to stop,” she said. “There are people in jails that don’t have the means of bailing out. I just hope it makes a difference.” Higgins hopes it sends a strong message to those who’ve lost hope. “It is a message for people who are in chains right now that we will be with you. We’ll come into the jails if we have to and we will shout and make demands with you,” she said. “We’re not free until you are.” Assembly-goers who could not participate in the march, took part in a concurrent program sponsored by Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministries at the convention center.

Wednesday June 20, 2018

General Assembly News - Day 5 - June 20, 2018  
General Assembly News - Day 5 - June 20, 2018