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Topics of interest to Clerks of Session, Session Moderators and others who are interested in Presbyterian local-church governance.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summary of General Assembly Action on Divestment

The following summary was put together by members of the General Assembly Mission Agency staff:

Summary of General Assembly Action on Divestment

The 221st General Assembly (2014) voted by a narrow margin to divest from three U.S. companies— Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions—whose products are used to further the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The assembly’s vote was 310-303.
     o These non-peaceful activities are inconsistent with the church’s socially responsible investment policy. The church does not believe it should profit from the occupation.
     o Caterpillar provides bulldozers used in the destruction of Palestinian homes and for clearing land of fruit and olive tree groves.
     o Hewlett Packard provides electronic systems at checkpoints, logistics and communications systems to support the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as business relationships with illegal settlements in the West Bank.
     o Motorola Solutions provides military communications and surveillance systems in illegal Israeli settlements.
     o The church’s committee on socially responsible investing has been engaged with these companies for more than a decade urging change in these corporate activities with no results.
     o This action is not divestment from Israel; the church has other significant investments in Israeli organizations which it will maintain.

     o The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is explicit in:
     - Affirming the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders.
     - Advocating for the right of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, free from threats or acts of force.
     - Declaring that this action does not indicate alignment with the overall global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
     - Regarding Zionism Unsettled, the assembly declared that the publication does not represent the views of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) but that it will continue to be available through the online store.

     o In the past year, the church has made several positive investments in economic development in Palestine.
     o The measure also reaffirms the PC(USA)’s commitment to interfaith dialogue and partnerships
with the American Jewish and Muslim friends, and with Palestinian Christians.

Charles Wiley described it in this way:
     o “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We are trying to love two neighbors at the same time. In the midst of these two loves, we are compelled to speak for justice for what is occurring in the occupation. We refuse to choose between these two neighbors, even if our specific choices are difficult for one of our neighbors to understand.

Summary of General Assembly Action on Marriage

The following summary was put together by the General Assembly Mission Agency staff:

Summary of General Assembly Action on Marriage

The 221st General Assembly took two actions regarding marriage:

1. The first was an Authoritative Interpretation allowing pastoral discretion to conduct
same-gender marriages in states where such marriages are legal. This went into effect
immediately on conclusion of the General Assembly.
     o The action that passed by a vote of 371 to 238.
     o Teaching elders are empowered to use their discretion in performing marriage
ceremonies, including civil unions permitted by the law and have the
responsibility to assess the readiness of a couple to be married.
     o This action expressly does not require that congregations, sessions, or teaching
elders perform civil unions or same-gender marriages. Congregations and their
sessions still have the right to decide what happens in their facilities.

2. The second was a recommendation to change language in the Book of Order to indicate
that “marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man
and a woman.”
     o The Book of Order change requires the approval of a majority of presbyteries
within the next year.
     o The action that passed by a vote of 429 to 175.

Both decisions came with much discussion and prayer on the part of the General Assembly

We continue to be in dialogue, both in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and among our
international partners. We will not end relations with a mission partner because of differing
opinions and pray that those who may disagree with this action will remain in relationship to
continue the work of the church.