225th General Assembly Action Highlights
225th General Assembly Action Highlights
This year’s General Assembly convened over the period of June 17 through July 9. Committees met in person in Louisville, then the entire assembly met in plenary online to discuss and act on committee recommendations. My colleague in presbytery leadership, Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace of Philadelphia Presbytery, was elected as co-moderator, together with Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis of Charlotte NC. They did an outstanding job leading the Assembly.
Our own Stated Clerk, Elder Carla Campbell, was elected co-moderator of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution, which provides counsel to the General Assembly on the constitutionality and advisability of measures being considered by the Assembly.
I offer below a summary of actions that may be of special interest to members of our presbytery. The full digest of General Assembly actions is available for review here.
- Pittsburgh Presbytery’s overture on removing guns from domestic abusers was passed by the Assembly, with an additional statement encouraging the church to minister to the incarcerated and their families, and directing the denomination to develop resources for such ministry that are compatible with our faith tradition.
- Adopted a plan for the next General Assembly that will have online committees and in-person plenary. The in-person plenary will take place June 29 – July 3, 2024, in Salt Lake City.
- In what may be its most significant action for the denomination’s future, GA approved creation of a Commission to unify the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
- Re-affirmed the denomination’s position that reproductive and child-bearing care decisions, including the termination of pregnancy, should be made by those receiving such care, rather than by legislation, with special concern for people in poverty being able to make such decisions for themselves.
- Approved a General Assembly per capita rate of $9.85 per member, up from $8.98 the past two years.
- Adopted a declaration that the laws, policies, and practices of the government of Israel regarding the Palestinian people “fulfill the international legal definition of apartheid.”
- Adopted a declaration that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a “Sanctuary and Accompaniment Church” that supports and encourages its congregations, mid councils, and members to support immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and their children, and to resist efforts by the government to separate families.
- Adopted an apology on behalf of the whole denomination to African Americans for the sin of slavery and its legacy.
- Adopted an extended resolution on race, reparative justice, and the PCUSA.
- Adopted a resolution identifying and responding to racism as a public health crisis.
- Directed the PCUSA to divest from five energy companies that have not been sufficiently responsive to concerns we have raised about climate change – Chevron, ExxonMobil, Marathon, Phillips 66, and Valero – “until their actions comply with the General Assembly’s established criteria.”
- Directed MRTI (Mission Responsibility Through Investment) to engage companies in which the denomination is currently invested that sell guns about discontinuing or limiting their sales. We already have divested from companies that sell “assault type” automatic or semi-automatic guns.
- Directed the Presbyterian Mission Agency to create educational resources that identify and interrupt practices and policies that perpetuate the adultification of Black girls and criminalization of adolescent behavior, and to engage in the work of eradicating systemic violence against Black women and girls.
- Directed that a Special Committee be formed to write a new confession for the PCUSA to be considered for inclusion in the Book of Confessions.
- Established a task force to explore the theology and practice of ordination, especially for new worshiping communities – an overture with which Pittsburgh Presbytery concurred.
- Recommended the following changes to the Book of Order, for circulation to presbyteries to affirm or reject. Any item that receives more than 50% of presbytery votes will be added to the next edition of the Book of Order.
- Require that all installed and temporary ministers have included in their terms of call 12 weeks of paid family medical leave.
- Require presbyteries to provide policies for pastoral dissolution severance agreements, for installed and temporary pastors and for Certified Christian Educators.
- Change references to “Honorably Retired” to simply “Retired.”
- Add language that permits sessions to meet electronically.
- Require all sessions, presbyteries, synods, and the general assembly to adopt an antiracism policy.
- Replace the current “Rules of Discipline” (Part Four of the Book of Order) with a new “Church Discipline” section.
We all owe great thanks to our Commissioners to this Assembly for their diligent, faithful work for the sake of our Lord and his beloved church:
Rev. Rebecca DePoe (Fox Chapel)
Rev. Jodi Flack (Rennerdale)
Elder Clifford Huff (Glenshaw Valley)
Elder Louise Schoppe (Ken Mawr)
Elder Nancy Stanny (Valley)
Rev. Dr. John Welch (Validated, Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist)
Yours in serving our Lord in the PCUSA,