General Assembly backgrounder: peacemaking and international issues

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in warfare and church policy on human trafficking will be among the issues discussed by the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 221st General Assembly.

The Assembly runs June 14-21 at Detroit’s COBO Center.

An overture (11-04) from Genesee Presbytery asks the Assembly to urge all countries to stop using drones as weapons of war. It calls on the United Nations Security Council to authorize the use of drones in peacekeeping operations “only when such usage is restricted to decreasing military conflict and protecting civilians.” In addition it asks the U.S. government to not use drones in border enforcement activities.

Also before the committee is a resolution from the Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns (ACWC) calling for the development of a comprehensive human trafficking policy for the denomination. While past Assemblies have addressed human trafficking and related issues, this overture contends that the “the policy that currently exists does not begin to address the scope and breadth of human trafficking.”

ACWC recommends that the Assembly authorize the formation of a Reference and Study Task Group. Members of the task group would be appointed by ACWC and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), and the group’s findings would be reported to the 222nd General Assembly (2016).

The committee will also consider three overtures that deal with the relationship of the United States to Cuba. Long Island Presbytery submitted an overture (11-03) that calls for the U.S. State Department to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Another overture (11-05) asks the U.S. government to lift all travel restrictions for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. An overture (11-06) from Santa Fe Presbytery requests the Assembly to direct ACSWP, in consultation with Presbyterian World Mission, to organize a consultative process that would produce recommendations to guide the denomination’s response to the “evolving changes in Cuba.”

The committee’s agenda also includes a resolution from ASCWP (11-05) that encourages the continuation of a churchwide discussion on peacemaking. The resolution proposes that five affirmations related to peacemaking be sent to the presbyteries for an advisory vote. This engagement of presbyteries would be the second part of a discernment process on peacemaking that was initiated by the 219th General Assembly (2010). An overture from Baltimore Presbytery (11-01) commends the work of the Peace Discernment Steering Team, which designed and is implementing the process.

Other overtures to considered by the committee deal with the following topics: the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide (11-07), self-determination for the people of Western Sahara (11-08), advocacy for people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic (11-09), sexual violence in the U.S. military (11-14) and a recommendation that Presbyterians give preference to hotel, airline and travel agents that have signed the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, which was developed by the group End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (11-15).

Matters related to peacemaking and international issues will be considered by Assembly Committee 11. Pat Cole, communications specialist with the Presbyterian Mission Agency, will be covering Committee 11 for the General Assembly Communication Center.