While the “big news” at this year’s General Assembly is likely to concern marriage issues, the ongoing struggle in the Middle East and efforts to redefine PC(USA) structures, the Committee on Social Justice Issues will also deal with grave concerns — national and military affairs and matters of righteousness and justice.
The first category of issues coming before the committee surrounds the ongoing economic crisis.
Overture 11-01, from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, asks the assembly to condemn personal and corporate greed as a moral sin and to express sympathy and concern for casualties of this greed. It urges policymakers to meet human needs rather than cut “safety net” programs.
Overture 11-02, from the Presbytery of Baltimore, is also economic in nature, asking the assembly to support low-wage workers in their attempts to organize.
The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy has submitted its own response to the economic issues that can so often be linked with deeper moral issues related to greed and inequality in society.
“World of Hurt, Word of Life: Renewing God’s Communion in the Work of Economic Reconstruction” calls for repentance and renewal and affirmation of communion principles as a basis for economic redirection.
The Advisory Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns will bring a “Resolution on Workers’ Rights and Income Inequality” to the assembly. This measure addresses the plight of the working poor and the reality of the cycle of poverty.
Though the PC(USA) does not currently invest in companies that operate for-profit prisons, Overture 11-06, “On Instructing MRTI to Report to GAMC on the Corporate Practices of Publicly Traded Corporations That Operate For-Profit Prisons,” asks the assembly and the General Assembly Mission Council to try to prevent future support for the companies that benefit from this business. The proposal comes from the Presbytery of Hudson River.
Overture 11-19, “On Advocating for Trade Reform and Accountability” (from the Assembly by the Presbytery of Plains and Peaks) is a call to address trade-related issues, specifically those within the North American Free Trade Agreement. It asks presbyteries and individuals to advocate for corrective measures to mitigate trade imbalances, recognizing that these tend to privilege corporations over citizens and often come at the expense of the world’s poor.
Overture 11-03, endorsing “A Fifty Year Farm Bill,” relates to both economic and environmental sustainability, with emphasis on a plan crafted by the Land Institute as an attempt to aid in the “perennialization” of crops — moving toward a goal of both social and ecological sustainability.
The committee will also take up overtures dealing with the welfare of women and children. Overture 11-05 calls for an end to corporal punishment in homes, schools and child care facilities; 11-16 calls for implementation of the updated Safe Child Policy in the PC(USA); 11-18 advocates for justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault; and 11-12 deals with the ongoing efforts of Deborah’s Daughters to meet the needs of women clergy.
Committee 11 on Social Justice Issues will also deal with broader issues related to justice, such as Overture 11-11, “A Resolution to Recognize the Call to Prophetic Witness in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).” Brought to the assembly by the Advisory Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns, the overture is a wide-ranging call for the church to remember its central commitment to justice in speaking truth to power wherever needed.
Race-related issues being brought before the committee include Overture 11-04, “On Strengthening Connections with Racial Ethnic Churches,” from the Presbytery of Grand Canyon, and 11-08, “A Resolution on Racism, Incarceration, and Restoration,” from the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns.
ERIN DUNIGAN is a freelance writer, photographer and pastor who lives in a small coastal community in Baja California, Mexico, when she is not following her wanderlust out into the world.