Declining a proposal to admit to and apologize for harming the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community, commissioners to the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church(U.S.A.) instead opted to express deep regret for ways that those minorities of “God’s beloved children” have been led to feel that they stand outside the grace of God and are unwelcome in the denomination.
At the same time, the resolution expresses the deep sorrow of all in the PC(USA) who have left the fellowship of the church, and expresses appreciation to those who have maintained relationships despite profound disagreement.
Calling for deeper conversations about theological differences, the resolution adopted Thursday by a 463-51 vote calls upon Presbyterians to seek reconciliation and to reach out to those who have been marginalized across the spectrum of theological understanding.
The resolution was brought by the assembly’s Social Justice Issues Committee as an alternate to an overture from the Presbytery of New York City.
Nancy Young, a teaching elder commissioner from Newton Presbytery, thought the alternate resolution didn’t go far enough, saying: “We have sinned. And until we confess that we cannot be made whole.”
However, Robert Garrett, a Young Adult Advisory Delegate from the Presbytery of the Western Reserve, said the alternate allowed Presbyterians to stay at the table and remain in mutual forbearance. “The original resolution exudes a spirit of exclusion,” he said.
The assembly agreed, turning back an attempt to adopt the original language, opting instead for an approach that was seen as an admission of harms done, but one that leaves space for those who disagree with the changes in ordination and marriage standards.
By the end of the night, the commissioners had dealt with a total of 16 overtures on sweeping social-justice issues.
They adopted a call for a church-wide conversation on race, racism, ethnicity and ethnocentrism, with broad range of recommendations.
“Our whole denomination needs to engage in conversations about race,” said Julie Cox, one of the presenters. “I am convinced and convicted that it can wait no longer.”
The provisions include repudiating the “Doctrine of Discovery,” a church-wide engagement in anti-racism training and a call to settle upon more appropriate language than “racial-ethnic” in official church documents, parlance and programs.
The assembly, committed itself to continued development of a church that serves the urban poor, in a document called Gospel from Detroit: Renewing the Church’s Urban Vision. Kevin Johnson, a member of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy said: “We’re talking about a Presbyterian church that has had a diminished capacity to do city-based urban ministry. We need to be taking the church out onto the streets, where the non-white peoples are.”
The full range of policy and statements adopted by the Assembly from the Social Justice Issues Committee may be found at https://www.pc-biz.org/#/committee/573/business.