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Social Justice Issues Committee finishes work

July 4, 2012

Pittsburgh

The 220th General Assembly Social Justice Issues Committee concluded its work Tuesday afternoon (July 3), voting to send on to the full Assembly a lengthy list of recommendations covering a wide range of issues.

Committee members reconsidered an overture they had voted to disapprove a day earlier calling for reports on the corporate practices of for-profit prisons in the United States. The Rev. Susan Andrews, executive presbyter of Hudson River Presbytery, thanked the committee for a second opportunity to make the case against for-profit prisons.

“Conditions are getting worse due to rising incarcerations of non-violent drug offenders and the increase in immigration detentions,” she said. “We need a proactive and preventive way to make sure that we are not wittingly or unwittingly investing in these prisons. And we must raise the issue to public awareness.” With some amendments to clear up how reports will be generated, the committee recommended the overture.

Also coming to the full Assembly is a resolution commending study of the 2011–2012 Horizons Bible Study and the World Communion of Reformed Churches’ Accra Confession. The confession was adopted by the delegates of the 24th General Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Accra, Ghana, in 2004. It is based on the theological conviction that the economic and ecological injustices of today’s global economy require the Reformed family to respond as a matter of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Why study the Accra Confession?” asked the Rev. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, overture advocate. “[Because] it speaks of our own complicity, our guilt in enabling an economic system that oppresses 2/3 of the world.”

Hinson-Hasty spoke of women forced to leave their homes to serve as domestic servants in other countries. “A woman who worked in Saudi Arabia for seven years returned home with only seven hundred U.S. dollars after all that time,” she said.

An overture encouraging the leadership of every congregation to build a relationship with at least one racial ethnic congregation passed enthusiastically. “This will be great for us,” said commissioner the Rev. Deborah Paton from Chicago Presbytery. “We’ve been in a series of conversations in my presbytery and what we keep hearing is that we don’t know each other. This is a great way to start.”

The Assembly will have the opportunity to consider a number of other recommendations that offer ways for congregations to find resources, grow in cultural proficiency, and connect with other churches looking for innovative ways to become more diverse, just and engaged.

“Í loved being on this committee,” said the Rev. Rob Lohmeyer from Mission Presbytery. “I learned a lot about the process of discernment in responding to the needs of our time. It was overwhelming at times, but at the end of the day the committee leaders facilitated us to deal with it all. The one motion that failed, and then was recovered, was a profound testimony to the way the Holy Spirit works.”

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