The presbytery committee’s report is part of an extended dispute between Abu-Akel and Jensen, centering around the attempt earlier this year to call the 2002 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), of which Abu-Akel was moderator, back into session.
Jensen represented the session of Westminster Church, Canton, Ohio, a congregation which brought an action in the Presbyterian church courts seeking to force the moderator to call the Assembly back to address issues of constitutional defiance. That effort failed, but in May, Jensen filed a slander suit against Abu-Akel in state court in California, alleging that Abu-Akel had committed slander in remarks he made to the General Assembly Council during a meeting in Louisville in April.
The moderator responded by filing a request for vindication with Greater Atlanta presbytery, where he is a member.
The civil suit in California still is pending. But the investigating committee appointed by the presbytery has concluded that Abu-Akel did not commit slander and that the remarks he made in January referred to the power of the media to distort the truth, and not directly to Jensen.
In that speech, Abu-Akel referred to claims that he and the PC(USA)’s stated clerk, Clifton Kirkpatrick, were part of a “conspiracy” as they ultimately determined that Abu-Akel would not call the Assembly back into session. Abu-Akel told the General Assembly Council, in part, that ‘this experience taught me about the power of media and the power of communication — how they can create a perception in the mind of people that is more powerful than the truth.”
The moderator also said “my focus on Jesus and the church every day during that time was my salvation, because I did not allow the outside forces to overwhelm me. So when I read that the moderator, the stated clerk and the staff in Louisville have a conspiracy, I became strong in the spirit because I knew that this statement was a lie and I realize that the truth is more powerful than the lie.”
In its report, dated June 20 and released July 7 by the presbytery, the investigating committee concluded that “Abu-Akel refers to the power of the media and not to any specific individual, including Mr. Jensen.”
The members of the investigating committee were Laura Mendenhall, Belle Miller McMaster and Keith Hill.