1. Gay Ruling Elder preaches just prior to debate on same-sex weddings; 2. Approves boycott of Israeli settlements; rejects use of Apartheid’ for Israel; 3. Approves actions in support of immigrants; 4. Rejects return to ‘fidelity and chastity’ language; keeps ‘Teaching Elder’ and ‘Ruling Elder’
Since The Aquila Report has limited staff and budget, we are unable to cover the PCUSA General Assembly. Our good friends at the Layman are there in force, even adding a new writer just for the occasion. We will be providing daily ‘teases’ and links to many interesting stories, such as:
Gay ruling elder selected to preach hour before GA’s same-sex wedding debate
Paula R. Kincaid, The Layman
Just a few short hours before the 220th General Assembly was scheduled to vote on several issues pertaining to same-sex marriage, a gay ruling elder preached on “Access” at Friday’s worship service.
Tony De La Rosa, executive presbyter of New York City Presbytery, began Friday’s sermon by thanking three women in his life.
The first was the 219th General Assembly Moderator Cindy Bolbach; the second was his partner Michael’s mother, Sandy; and third was his own mother Amelia.
De La Rosa’s sermon was based on Acts 8:27-39 – the story of Philip and the Eunuch and Mark 2:1-12, the story of the friends cutting a hole in the roof of a house so the paralyzed man could see Jesus.
He spoke of his late father, who was a life-long Roman Catholic and a carpenter. “Dad did not know how to handle the fact that two of his progeny were Presbyterian. As a carpenter, he taught his son some basic building techniques and the importance of maintaining the integrity of the structure – level floors, plumb walls and the roof has to be impenetrable, as it is the most exposed part of the house.
Assembly approves boycott of Israeli settlements, rejects ‘Apartheid’ label for Israel
Alan F.H. Wisdom, The Layman
The General Assembly concluded its debates on Middle East Peacemaking July 6 without a clear consensus. Thursday evening’s 333-331 vote to turn down a proposal for anti-Israel divestment revealed the depth of the division. Friday morning’s decisions on nine other Israel-related measures showed the same conflicting impulses.
On the one hand, the assembly passed an overture calling for “the boycott of all Israeli products coming from the occupied Palestinian Territories.” On the other hand, the assembly disapproved an overture that would have“recognize[d] that Israel’s laws, policies, and practices constitute apartheid against the Palestinian people.”
At the beginning of the assembly, pro-Palestinian groups had a long lineup of overtures attacking Israel in one way or another. They had a large band of visible and vocal volunteers eager to advance the cause. Early in the week, when the divestment report and the boycott overture both passed the Middle East Peacemaking Committee by margins of more than 3 to 1, it looked as if Israel might be hit with a barrage of verbal and symbolic Presbyterian protests. But in the end the boycott was the only measure that made it through the assembly.
The boycott overture never engendered the same controversy as the divestment proposal. In the plenary session of the assembly, Teaching Elder Marilyn Daniel from Transylvania Presbytery in Kentucky praised the authors of the overture: “You have drafted a narrow and focused action, which clearly states that we are opposed to the Israeli settlements on the West Bank.” Daniel commented that the overture “is not a broad and general condemnation of Israel, but it is a focused message about that current policy.”
Assembly approves actions in support of immigrants
GA220 Communication Center
On its final evening (July 6), the 220th General Assembly approved a long list of recommendations intended to show the church’s solidarity with immigrants and refugees in the United States. A number of those recommendations affirm actions of previous General Assemblies.
Commissioner Joann Lee, moderator of the Assembly on Immigration Issues, said the committee changed language that reflects an “us” and “them” mentality to language that “reflects the reality that our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) includes persons, churches and mid-councils that are predominantly immigrant.”
Lee placed all 12 of the committee’s business items, most of which were approved unanimously in committee, on the consent agenda. Two items were then pulled from the consent agenda by commissioner David Ofori Jr. (New York City Presbytery). Ofori attempted to make amendments that would assist multicultural congregations without pastors by setting up pastoral exchanges to provide them with immigrant pastors and by enabling overseas theological institutions to offer courses in Presbyterian polity. Both amendments were voted down.
Commissioner Chris Romig (Presbytery of Peace River) worried that language expressing support for the DREAM Act might be too political in an election year. But commissioner Annie Rawlings (New York City Presbytery) insisted, “This is more than a political issue. It’s a human issue. What is happening to immigrants in this country is a moral catastrophe.”
Assembly rejects return to ‘fidelity and chastity’ language; keeps use of terms ‘Teaching Elder’ and ‘Ruling Elder’
GA220 Communication Center
The 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rejected a return to the language of “fidelity and chastity” in its ordination standards and instead approved a statement saying the Assembly acknowledges that the PC(USA) “does not have one interpretation of Scripture on this matter.”
The Assembly approved the recommendation of its Church Orders and Ministry Committee, which included a comment with the recommendation that “this statement be brought before each presbytery at a stated meeting in which the report” from this Assembly is given.
The vote was 405-230-7.
In other action, the Assembly approved keeping the terms “teaching elder” and “ruling elder” rather than changing back to “minister of Word and Sacrament” and elder. The Rev. Paul Hooker of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution told the Assembly that “minister of Word and Sacrament” and ‘elder” are used in several parts of the Book of Order and may be used along with the other terms
[Editor’s note: Original URLs (links) referenced in this article are no longer valid, so the links have been removed.]