June 14-21, 2014, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. held its 221st General Assembly. Commissioners from all over the country come together to discern, pray, and vote on matters that not only affect the wider church, but our response to actions in this world.
You may have heard on the news a few of the decisions made.
Pastors allowed to officiate same-sex marriages.
The Assembly voted to allow pastors and ordained clergy to officiate same-sex marriages where it is legal. You can read the full article here. The Assembly also voted to change the definition of marriage in the Book of Order from “between a man and a woman” to “between two people.” This vote will go on to each presbytery and will need a majority to be approved for the change to take effect.
Divestment from three companies who make profit off of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Divestment has been a hot topic at General Assembly for the past ten years. This Assembly was the first time that they voted in favor of divestment. The vote was extremely close – a difference of 7 votes. There has been a lot of misinformation in the media regarding the facts of the decision and the reasoning and intentions of the decision.
To be clear, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. did not divest from Israel. They voted to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions – companies that have participated in the occupation of the West Bank. The decision was also to continue to invest in companies who do business in Israel prosper as well as investments that improve the lives of both Israel and Palestine. You can read the letter regarding this matter here.
Given our relationship with Congregation Emanu-El across the street, pastor John Anderson who has been involved with overtures regarding Israel-Palestine has sent a letter to Rabbis Beth and Jonathan Singer communicating our commitment to continuing our interfaith relationship as well as clarifying the decisions made at General Assembly.
Pastor Theresa has been on the Committee to Review Biennial Assemblies whose duties included recommending needed changes to not only General Assembly, but the Standing Rules. You can read about her report here.
The Assembly also made actions on gun violence, abortion, and tax reform. This article gives bulleted points on what was decided.