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GA 2010: Assembly deals with issues of gun violence, disappearance of coastal wetlands, and the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

MINNEAPOLIS – Presbyterians’ determination to be an “exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world,” found expression in the recommendations of the committee so named adopted today (July 9) by the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 

The assembly together spoke out regarding gun violence, coastal wetlands, and the Deep Water Horizon Oil Disaster. The assembly acted according to the recommendations of Committee 11 in all of the items brought to the vote.

            Resolution 11-06, Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call, passed easily in the assembly. It calls on the church at every level, from individual members to congregations to the national church, to become informed and active in preventing gun violence. In addition to a call for prayer and pastoral care, this recommendation also calls congregations to work with local law enforcement agencies to identify gun shops that engage in retail practices designed to circumvent laws on gun sales and ownership. In such cases ‘straw buyers,’ those with no record and the legal ability to purchase guns, purchase guns that are then sold to others and may wind up used in crime.

            Recent articles in the press have focused on the expanded provisions for concealed carry laws in many states that now allow guns to be carried openly in public places as well as in houses of worship. This resolution recommends that, in light of this, churches and other entities prominently display signs that prohibit carrying guns onto their property.

            The General Assembly followed the committee’s deliberation to indicate that this recommendation is not meant to preclude the legal use of personal firearms for hunting or sports-related purposes.

            Committee 11 was also asked to consider a recommendation brought by the Presbytery of Southern Louisiana regarding the loss of coastal wetlands in southern deltaic regions of Louisiana. The recommendation shared with the committee that a landmass the size equivalent of the state of Delaware has been lost from the Louisiana coastline over the last 70 years due mainly to human-caused factors. Local communities in those areas may be lost. The report also pointed out that the wetlands of Louisiana are the buffer zone that protects inland communities from storm surge due to hurricanes.

            The recommendation, which the assembly passed, asks the General Assembly Mission Council to develop resources as well as asking the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to examine the role of corporations and institutions in the destruction and restoration of the wetlands.

            Because the committee did not want to diminish the importance of the coastal wetlands issue, it recommended an item of new business, 11-nb, to respond to the Deep Water Horizon Oil Disaster. The recommendation directs the moderator of the 219th General Assembly to send a letter of condolence to each of the families of the workers who lost their lives, asks the General Assembly Mission Council to work in partnership with impacted communities, asks the stated clerk to send a letter to the CEO of BP urging BP to ensure the safety of all workers, and asks the MRTI Committee to conduct a thorough review of oil and gas companies engaged in offshore exploration and drilling. This urgent action, according to the recommendation, is a Christian responsibility.