General Assembly backgrounder: social justice issues

Gun violence, abortion, hunger, and the U.S. economy are among the topics that will be discussed by commissioners to the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) when they gather June 14–21 in Detroit.

Two of the overtures assigned to the Assembly’s Committee on Social Justice Issues — from the presbyteries of National Capital (09-01) and Hudson River (09-07) — advocate measures to prevent gun violence. Another overture, from the Presbytery of Nevada (09-12), seeks training in trauma crisis counseling for pastors and other caregivers so that they can respond more effectively to the needs of survivors following a mass shooting or homicide.

The Presbytery of South Alabama is calling for appointment of a special committee to review PC(USA) policies on abortion and propose new policies if needed. The presbytery’s overture (09-02) also urges a two-year churchwide “season of reflection” on the plight of unwanted children, “both born and not-yet-born.”

Two overtures (09-09 and 09-11) seek to address root causes of hunger and poverty. The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta is calling for measures to promote food severeignty, which includes the right of all people to “safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and food-producing resources.” The Presbytery of National Capital urges the Assembly to affirm the importance of maternal and child nutrition in the 1,000 days between the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. The overture cites the 1,000 Days Movement, a campaign of Bread for the World supported by Presbyterian Women and other faith-based women’s organizations.

Two measures seek to address injustices in the U.S. economic system that have contributed to the widening gap between rich and poor. An overture from the Presbytery of Santa Fe (09-06) urges the church to support financial and political reform, including “advocating for strategies that address the lack of persecution of the individuals and financial institutions responsible for the 2008 meltdown of the U.S. economy.” In a paper titled “Tax Justice: A Christian Response to a New Gilded Age” (09-16), the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy offers recommenations seeking a fairer tax system in the United States.

Other overtures call for a national moratorium on the death penalty (Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, 09-04), a new study of end-of-life issues (Synod of the Covenant, 09-10), and a churchwide study to discern how to advocate for more effective drug policies in the United States (Presbytery of San Francisco, 09-05).

A resolution from the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (09-15) proposes actions to counter a “new wave of voter suppression” it says is disproportionately affecting racial ethnic communities following the June 2013 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court nullifying a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

These and other social justice issues will be considered by Assembly Committee 9 — Social Justice Issues. Eva Stimson, a free-lance writer and editor, will cover Committee 9 for the General Assembly Communication Center.