“CHRISTIANS AND JEWS: PEOPLE OF GOD”
“This is a paper that has been under development and consideration for many years by the Office of Theology and Worship. It states clearly important matters about how we think theologically about Jews and about the religion of Judaism,” declared Cynthia Campbell, president of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Campbell was not a member of the committee that prepared the document nor a commissioner to the Assembly, but as a seminary president she does have opportunity to speak to business before the GA.
The paper “helps to place our historical commitments of understanding, the unity of both testaments and God’s continuing covenant relationship with the Jewish people [with respect to] our life in the modern world,” she added. “This is an important paper. The church needs it, and I think it is time for it to come out to the church for study and resourcing.”
Nevertheless, the assembly committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations took exception to the fact that, while those preparing the report had consulted with Jewish scholars, they had not engaged in any significant discussion with Palestinian Christians, who are the most affected by the implications of the paper.
The assembly committee recommended to send the paper back to the original authors, the Office of Theology and Worship and the Office of Interfaith Relations, with instructions to consult with the National Middle East Presbyterian Caucus, the denomination’s partner churches and agencies in the Middle East, related mission networks of the PC(USA), the Advocacy Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns, and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. They were directed to bring the final product to the 2012 General Assembly
“TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM RELATIONS”
On the other hand, the General Assembly did approve a paper outlining the theological beliefs of Muslims, highlighting doctrines held in common and other doctrines with which Christians differ.
When this paper was first introduced months ago, a wave of criticism arose in response to the suggestion that Presbyterians and Muslims should find opportunities to “celebrate religious holidays together, setting aside days of worship during which there can be congregational suppers, and dialogue groups.”
The assembly committee deleted that language. It retained other language, calling Presbyterians to “come to know and befriend their Muslim neighbors, and to talk in-depth with them about matters of shared concern, life and faith, and the questions each has about the other.” It also added the call “to implement a program of shared community experiences that might include sharing meals, cultural events, and activities in mosques and churches together, and to develop an educational program that includes inviting a Muslim leader to offer instruction in a church and a Christian leader to offer instruction in a mosque.”
That controversy resolved, there was little debate in the plenary session. Final vote was 548 in favor, 129 opposed, and 4 abstaining.