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GA NEWS: GA adopts new ecumenical top ten

SAN JOSE – The question of how Christians can witness to their faith in an interfaith world is never easy — and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is hoping to provide guidance in that through a new ecumenical policy statement.

            With little discussion, the 218th General Assembly approved the new policy statement on June 25 – listing 10 priorities ranging from peacemaking to bringing more ecumenical voices to the table.

            The assembly also reaffirmed the PC(USA)’s commitment to continue working through the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the National Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches, while at the same time strengthening other ecumenical relationships.

            And the document contains a biblical and confessional section and an historical overview of the PC(USA)’s long-time ecumenical involvements – putting the 10 priorities into context.

            The statement is an effort to explain “why we do what we do” in ecumenical work, said Edward W. Chan, an elder from Los Angeles and chair of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations.

            The last policy statements were written before the northern and southern branches of the Presbyterian Church re-united in 1983, and the world has changed a lot since then, Chan told the assembly.

            As a first step in developing the statement, the committee Chan leads convened a consultation in Sept. 2007 and that conversation provided guidance for a first draft.

            The 10 priorities the paper identifies are, in short:

            1.  Growing the ecumenical vision. The PC(USA) “is called to listen anew to what the Spirit is saying to all the churches, and to listen to what Christians from other churches are saying to us.”

            2. Facing obstacles to Christian unity. The PC(USA) “is called to recognize the full range of obstacles to Christian unity, and to commit itself to breaking down all dividing walls in both church and world.”
            3. Bridging the gaps between local and global, individual congregations and the denomination. The PC(USA) “is called to new ecumenical awareness that deepens relationships among congregational, denominational, and conciliar ecumenism. Each must be enriched by the others, leading the whole church to deeper communion in Christ.”
            4. Enlarging the table of ecumenical relationships. The PC(USA) “is called to discover deeper forms of ecumenical commitment to the integrity of the gospel, embracing new partners whose different theologies, traditions, and structures can enrich our theology, traditions, and structures.”
            5. Covenanting for justice in the economy and the earth. The PC(USA) “is called to sustained study and serious engagement with the Accra Confession of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.”
            6. Peacemaking in a war-torn world. The PC(USA) “is called to renew its commitment to peacemaking within families and communities, in the church, and among societies and nations. As we live in unity with brothers and sisters around the world, working ecumenically to overcome violence, we both embody and proclaim fullness of the Lord’s peace.”
            7. Nurturing inter-religious engagements. The PC(USA) “is called to forge inter-religious relationships with all who yearn and work for the healing of our wounded world, grounding inter-religious engagements in our ecumenical commitments and practices.”
            8. Renewing a commitment to disciplines of Christian spirituality. The PC(USA) “is called to renew its commitment to disciplines of Christian spiritual formation, especially worship, regular reading of Scripture, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. As we join with other Christians in praying with Jesus, we can better discern God’s will, join God’s mission, and nurture our life together.”
            9. Celebrating gifts we receive and share. The PC(USA) “is called to receive gratefully the gifts God gives through others, and to share generously with others the gifts God has entrusted to us.”
            10. Revitalizing practices of ecumenical formation. The PC(USA) “is called to encourage commitment to the unity of Christ’s church through a range of educational, experiential, and missional opportunities.”