Three important matters addressed by the Interfaith and Ecumenical Committee came before the assembly Thursday.
Language and worship: Overture 07-01 from the Chicago Presbytery proposed a change of language, distinguishing between ancient and modern Israel within the life of the church, in order to remove potential confusion regarding the modern state of Israel and the conflict in Israel-Palestine. It also proposed development of educational materials for church leaders on the distinction between ancient and modern Israel. The rationale for the overture says references to “Israel” and “God’s covenant with Israel” in the new Presbyterian hymnal “Glory to God” give cause for concern.
Committee 7 voted 53-8 to recommend disapproval of the overture but attached a comment calling for more discussion and education about the use of language. The General Assembly voted 506-72 to disapprove the overture and left that comment in place.
The interreligious stance of the PC(USA): Committee proposal 07-02 addressed the stance, relationship and approach of the PC(USA) with people of other faiths. It suggested further clarification and definition of the PC(USA)’s understanding of Christian faith in connection to other religions.
One committee amendment referred to Christian domination over other religions, including forced conversions. Another amendment acknowledged that any faith tradition encompasses diverse opinions on social issues.
The committee voted 59-4 to endorse the proposal. The assembly approved it by a hand vote.
Seventh-day Adventist dialogue: Committee proposal 07-07 marked acceptance of a report on dialogue between the PC(USA) and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Sheldon Sorge, a teaching elder from the Pittsburgh Presbytery, noted that there has never been a church split in 174 years in the Adventist Church. Halvard Thomsen, a retired official of the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church brought a laugh from the commissioners when he reported that his name card in the committee room identified him as “from the Presbytery of the Seventh Day.”
The committee recommended the report by a vote of 62-0 and the assembly accepted it by consensus.