PORTLAND, Ore. – On its final evening of deliberations, the 2016 General Assembly dealt with a series of recommendations from its Peacemaking and International Issues committee – including consideration of an overture concerning the killing of Korean civilians in July 1950 and peacemaking affirmations crafted by the Peace Discernment team of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP).
Before Jochebed Jordan, moderator of the committee, and Sarah Sanderson-Doughty, the committee’s vice-moderator, presented the committee’s report, the assembly heard greetings from the ecumenical advisory delegates including one from the general secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, Hong Jung Lee. He opened with words of gratitude for the partnership, but included a call for help in the pursuit of reconciliation between the two Koreas, one of the last signs and vestiges of the Cold War.
The overture regarding the killings of Korean civilians (Item 12-01) and the peacemaking affirmations from ACSWP (Item 12-06) received most conversation. On 12-01 a representative from the Korean church spoke powerfully in favor of the overture – emphasizing the need to show preference for the victims’ memory of traumatic events, and stating that if “we denied their memory” on this it would be denying the memory of all civilian casualties of war.
Yet, by voice vote the assembly passed the committee’s recommendation on 12-01 –providing an alternate resolution using language suggested by ACSWP in comments sent in response to the original overture.
The ACSWP comments acknowledge the killing of 150 Korean civilians in the village of No Gun Ri vin 1950 during the Korean War by American troops, and direct the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to ask U.S. leaders to offer an official apology and statement of regret. The statement approved further directs the Presbyterian Mission Agency to consult with the PC(USA)’s mission partners in the Republic of Korea, including the Presbyterian Church in Korea (PCK) and the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), in order to offer condolences and create resources and worship materials about the event.
The action taken on 12-06 also served as its response to Item 12-02, an overture from Mission Presbytery celebrating the six-year discernment process which the 2010 assembly initiated, to “seek clarity as to God’s call to the church to embrace nonviolence as its fundamental response to the challenges of violence, terror, and war” and to “identify, explore, and nurture new approaches to active peacemaking and nonviolence.”
Commissioners made several attempts to amend the committee’s recommendation on the five peacemaking affirmations, and at one point a commissioner offered a substitute motion. Much of the dialogue surrounding the 12-06 echoed the committee’s own conversation on June 20th, and questioned the use of Just War traditions. The assembly, however, overwhelmingly voted all of these down. The final vote taken electronically supported the committee’s recommendation 332-169, with a slight amendment of the first affirmation.
On June 25, during assembly’s final Saturday morning plenary, an attempt was made to to reconsider the vote on 12-06, but that was voted down.