Recognizing the unique circumstances in which the 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) would meet, earlier in June the assembly’s Committee on Business Referral added an item of business not originally on the docket of “core and critical business.” Given that the virtual meeting of the General Assembly came about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee on Business Referral put forth item 00-30, “On Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which reads, in part: “From the moment of Creation to today’s unprecedented pandemic known as COVID-19, God has called the church to embody the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Word made flesh. In this time of global catastrophe, the church must rise to answer the call, offering its life as witness in word and work, heart and hand, in prayer and practice for the healing of the world God so loves.”
It goes on to affirm the church’s need to advocate for access to good medical care and help for those impacted economically by the pandemic. Perhaps weary from several hours of debate on the previous item of business, 00-29, “On the Church in This Moment in History” that addressed racial injustice and subsequent response in the U.S., there was no debate on the language or sentiment of this response to COVID-19. By a vote of 419 to 4, the motion passed.
However, following several other items of business, a motion to reconsider this item of business passed and subsequently three motions to amend were made, with two of the three motions passing. The two amendments that passed intended to make the list of those adversely impacted by COVID-19 more inclusive by including the LGBTQIA+ community and those living with HIV.
The amended motion included the following language, “We seek compassion and justice for the most vulnerable among us, especially those who have been further marginalized by the pandemic—older persons, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)], the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrant communities, impoverished and working poor persons, homeless persons and those for whom home offers no safety, those who are ill, afflicted, or challenged in body, mind, and spirit, persons living with HIV, and all whose lives are threatened because of harmful social structures and discrimination, which have been made even more apparent during the COVID-19 outbreak. We repent of the role we have played in these injustices.”
The motion as amended passed by a vote of 412 to 38.