My role at GA is as an Overture Advocate. All business presented to the Assembly first goes to a committee for discussion and hopefully recommendation to the Assembly as a whole for final action. The fascinating piece of this is that an action which goes to the Assembly, therefore the entire denomination, for a decision always comes through:
- An overture from a presbytery or a synod, with required concurrence by at least one other presbytery or synod.
- By referral from a permanent committee of the General Assembly.
- By a Commissioner Resolution which requires concurrence by at least one other commissioner.
But the true origin of an overture from a presbytery is usually in a single congregation, sometimes by an individual member of a congregation!
The Overture for which I advocated was “Responding to Racist Nationalism.” It was written by the Saratoga church and was adopted and concurred with by Albany Presbytery and Hudson River Presbytery. Each presbytery which concurs with an overture may send an Advocate to speak to the overture in the committee meeting in which it is being discussed. That is my role at this Assembly.
Advocating for Our Overture at GA223
This overture went before the Social Justice Issues Committee Monday evening around 10:00 p.m. – it was a long day of business for the Committee with many issues addressed!! Each of the two advocates for this overture, myself included, had five minutes to present an advocacy piece – and yes it is timed exactly! My task was to create a speech encouraging the members of the committee to vote to recommend passage of the overture to the Assembly. The Committee consisted of 50 plus Commissioners (Ruling Elders and Teaching Elders), from around the denomination and a variety of Advisory Delegates (Young Adult, Theology Student, Mission and Ecumenical) – each Committee member has voice and vote within the Committee. There were 14 Committees dealing with a huge variety of decisions.
Committee consideration of an overture includes the addition of possible amendments (and sometimes amendments to the amendments!), discussion and action on those and then discussion and action on the overture as a whole as amended. Some of the issues before the Social Justice Issues generated MUCH discussion and MANY amendments!!
The Committee will present the overture to the GA plenary session!
The original action was taken Monday evening however members of the Committee requested reconsideration, which just occurred this evening, Tuesday. The Committee will present the overture to the GA plenary session later in the week for the same procedure. The final vote was 31 in favor, 6 opposed and one abstention. Note that deletions in the text indicate specific amendments which were made during committee discussion. (Click here to see the notes and rational in PC-Biz)
Our parliamentary process at work!!
OVERTURE ON RESPONDING TO RACIST NATIONALISM
The Presbytery of Hudson River overtures the 223rd General Assembly (2018) of the PC(USA) to respond to expressions of racist nationalism in the statements and actions of politicians and government officials by taking the following actions:
1. Adopt the following resolution: The 223rd General Assembly (2018) of the PC(USA) strongly condemns the unjust, racist disparagement of people and entire nations lately promoted by politicians and government officials at all levels in the mistaken effort to place “America First.” As Christians, our call is to bring to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19) the good news that God loves all people equally. [REMOVED TEXT: Historically, America has been “first” in espousing human equality as the principle on which nations are founded.] We call upon our national leaders to lead by that principle. We pray that God may open the minds and hearts of the American people to understand that the real problems they face result from real causes and not from the presence of demonized “others.” We commit to working with people of good will, regardless of political or religious affiliation, in a collective effort to solve the real problems facing our nation and the world. We ask forgiveness from those who have been hurt by hateful rhetoric and harmed by unjust government policies. We acknowledge our responsibility and urge our elected officials to speak out against hate and “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly” with God (Micah 6:8).
2. Direct the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) to send this resolution to the President of the United States and to each United States Senator and Representative.
3. Direct Presbyterian World Mission to send this resolution to world mission partners.
4. Encourage PC(USA) pastors and congregations to publicize this resolution in their communities and with officials of local and state government.
Valued members of PC(USA) congregations and mission partners abroad are from countries that have been disparaged in the recent debate over immigration. Our friends deserve to hear from us a renewed commitment to stand with them in a relationship of equality and genuine Christian love. Seeking cooperation among “people of good will, regardless of political or religious affiliation,” this statement is non-partisan and does not focus on remarks by any one individual. The problem is bigger than one comment by one man. It is a problem in which, under a democratic form of government, all citizens share some measure of responsibility. Acknowledging our share and asking forgiveness may serve as an example for others.
Abstention to approve the overture as amended and to recommend that it be adopted by the General Assembly.
Read All Blogs Written by Albany Presbytery Representatives during #GA223:
- #GA223: Proposed Changes to the Rules of Discipline by Dan Rogers
- #GA223: Ah, Yes – Committee Work!! by Laura Rogers
- #GA223: Reflections from a YAAD by Maxine Quaye
- #GA223: Reflections by Larry Greenwold
- #GA223: Reflections by Charlotte Hasselbarth
- #GA223: The Church is Alive! by Bill Hasselbarth
As a long time member of First United in Troy Laura has served the presbytery in a number of ways including on the Personnel Committee, as a member of the Hebron Board, as a member of the Committee on Minsters and Congregations (COMAC) (formally known as COM), as the Vice Moderator/Moderator of the presbytery in 1991/1992, and as a Ruling Elder commissioner to the General Assembly in Baltimore in 1991. Before retirement in 2001, Laura worked for 18 years in Christian Education.