News from the 211th General Assembly

The General Assembly of the PCUSA met over eight days in Detroit to worship, pray, and to give thanks to God from whom all blessings flow. The commissioners and invited guests also met to consider overtures from across the nation, reflect, and vote on policy changes and new mission directions for the denomination in the years to come.

Elder Dick Hasbany was one of the commissioners from the Presbytery of Southern New England. In addition to Dick, church member Margaret Fox, and YDS Intern Jackie Spycher were also in attendance.

The assembly was life changing for so many, and it was difficult and wonderful and challenging too. The Session of First Presbyterian Church sent three overtures to this year’s Assembly.

The overture that our Session supported on Sustainable Development passed along with others asking the denomination to continue to advocate for better food policies, eco justice, and attention to the ways we care for the creation. Much attention was paid to the ways we as faithful Christians are called to be attentive to the ways we care for the earth, and for our water, soil, and air, as we also give thoughts to the food we eat and the way that food is grown and cultivated.

The overtures on Marriage Equality that our Session initiated were also approved with an overwhelming majority of votes. The first overture which calls for an Authoritative Interpretation of Christian marriage passed and now permits pastors of Presbyterian congregations to officiate at weddings of same gender couples in the states where such marriages are legal. The other overture sought to amend the language in our Directory for Worship to state that Christian marriage is between two people … traditionally a man and a woman, opening the way for the Presbyterian Church to once again affirm its identity as an inclusive church. This overture will need to return to the Presbyteries for their vote and a majority of Presbyteries will need to approve it in order for the policy to change.

Finally, the General Assembly decided (in a very close vote) to divest pension monies from three corporations, Motorola, Caterpillar, and Hewlett Packard because of the work that they do in Israel and Palestine. This decision will surely invite some conversations with our Jewish sisters and brothers, as we move forward in our relationship and work together. Co-Pastors Bill Goettler and Maria LaSala have been in conversation with Rabbi Herbert Brockman of Congregation Mishkan Israel to assure them of our friendship and our commitment to working together for peace in the Holy Land.

Come fall, our Adult Christian Education class will explore what these decisions mean for the life of the Presbyterian Church. For complete reporting, go to www.pres-outlook.org. Copies of  The Presbyterian Outlook’s post-assembly report are available on the Welcome Table.