|J. Herbert Nelson is installed as Stated Clerk|
Friday afternoon and evening were filled with important decisions about polity, and the two most anticipated issues before the Assembly, our social witness policy on the Middle East and climate change.
The decision in 2014 to divest selectively from three US corporations supporting the military occupation of and illegal settlements in Palestine sparked a howl of outrage among pro-Israel groups. As we approached this Assembly, it remained to be seen whether there would be a reconsideration of the denomination’s approach or an intensification of our efforts. In the most significant item from the committee on Middle East Issues, the Assembly approved with amendment the report, “Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace.” The document calls for a continued support for a two-state solution, while “seeking fresh approaches” to the conflict, and noting an imbalance of suffering between the Israelis and Palestinians. In related actions, the Assembly adopted a resolution calling for safety and civil and human rights for Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system. It also rejected a call to move beyond divestment to a boycott of Hewlett-Packard products and services because of their support of the occupation.
|The vote on the minority report on fossil fuels divestment|
The report of the Assembly Committee on Church Polity had a number of lesser important but notable outcomes. The Assembly voted to recommend to the presbyteries for vote a number of constitutional amendments, including:
- Restoration of the title “minister of Word and Sacrament” and alteration of “Ruling elder commissioned to limited pastoral service” (commonly called “Commissioned Ruling Elder”) to “commissioned pastor.”
- Amendment of the 2014 action barring those who have renounced jurisdiction during a disciplinary proceeding from serving as employee or volunteer in any church to grant permission only following restoration to membership, self-accusation, and submittal to judicial process where applicable.
- Referred to the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly a request from the Synod of the Northeast to provide for individually commissioned ruling elders so that underrepresented groups such as youth and immigrants might be commissioned to higher councils more easily.
Despite the occasional lapse of decorum, the Assembly headed toward the finish line Saturday with a spirit of joy, unity, and accomplishment. I will have one more wrap-up post you can look for soon.