SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. – Teams from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy(ACSWP) and Foothills Presbytery in upstate South Carolina met Saturday, February 18 through Tuesday, February 21. The two groups gathered to discuss differences of opinion on how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should make known its Christian social witness.
Planning for the meeting began at General Assembly 222 (2016) in Portland, Oregon, when one of Foothills Presbytery’s nine overtures proposed that ACSWP impose a moratorium on providing reports and guidance to the General Assembly. Rather, Foothills Presbytery wanted ACSWP to focus its efforts on educating Presbyterians about policies and theological convictions already affirmed, and on encouraging conversations among members, including those who disagree with General Assembly policies.
While the General Assembly didn’t adopt any Foothills Presbytery’s overtures, it did call on PC(USA) congregations to recommit to a biblical witness focused on values of unity, community, diversity and transformation upon which the presbytery based its series of overtures. The General Assembly reaffirmed the denomination’s foundational commitment to social justice and social witness. The Assembly also appointed one member of Foothills’ “General Assembly Reform” team, Deborah Foster, to the Vision 2020 Committee.
Following a discussion of the timeliness of complex overtures and the limited time allocated to discussion and discernment by Assembly committees, ACSWP representatives agreed with the Foothills group that greater engagement with “the people in the pew” is required to educate members on the church’s social teachings. The ACSWP representatives differed with Foothills’ team on matters of polity and practicality, while Foothills made a several part case for a more focused General Assembly and other changes in social witness (and other matters) in the presbyteries.