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General Assembly backgrounder: ecumenical and interfaith relations

221st GA will be asked to distinguish between ancient, modern Israels

May 30, 2014

HARTSVILLE, S.C.

Making a distinction between the ancient land of Israel and the country’s present political state will be among the topics to be considered by the Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations during the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.), June 14-21 in Detroit.

In an overture (07-01) submitted by Chicago Presbytery, the assembly is being asked to distinguish between the biblical terms that refer to the ancient land of Israel and the modern political State of Israel. It also requests the development of educational materials regarding the distinction between ancient and modern Israel. 

According to the rationale submitted by the presbytery, the overture was prompted by the publication of  Glory to God, the new Presbyterian hymnal published last fall. The hymnal contains a section of hymns under the heading: “God’s covenant with Israel.”

The presbytery believes that a distinction between modern and ancient Israel is necessary given the current conflict between Israel and Palestinians, in which Palestinian Christians are a rapidly shrinking minority. The overture suggest that the section be renamed “God’s Covenant with Ancient Israel,” “God’s covenant with the Poor,” or “Our Covenant with the Oppressed.”

The overture also requests the help of PC(USA) seminaries in clarifying the use of these terms and how to use them appropriately to reference biblical Israel.

Other business that will be addressed by the committee:

  • 07-02 from the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (GACEIR) recommends that the assembly approve the paper “The Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)”  along with an amendment to G-5.0102 of the Book of Order that states “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at all levels will be open to opportunities for respectful dialogue and mutual relationships with religious entities and persons outside the Christian tradition. It does this in the faith that the church of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit, is a sign and means of God’s intention for the wholeness of all humankind and all creation.”
  • 07-03 and 07-08 from the GACEIR recommends that the assembly continue participation in Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., respectively.
  • 07-04 from the GACEIR recommends that the assembly invite the following churches to send Ecumenical Advisory Delegates to the 222nd General Assembly (2016): Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa: Presbyterian Church of Kinshasa; Church of Bangladesh; Church partner in Sri Lanka; Methodist Church in Bolivia; Guyana Presbyterian Church; Presbyterian Church in Grenada; Evangelical Lutheran Church of Russia and Other States; Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Egypt (Synod of the Nile);  Orthodox Church in America; International Council of Community Churches;  Korean Presbyterian Church Abroad; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.
  • 07-05 and 07-07 from the GACEIR reports on the ongoing church-to-church dialogues between the PC(USA) and the Episcopal and Seventh-Day Adventist Churches, respectively.
  • 07-06 from the GACEIR recommends that the assembly send a letter of appreciation to the World Council of Churches (WCC) staff and leadership for their organization and facilitation of the WCC’s 10th Assembly last fall in Busan, South Korea.

Matters related to the PC(USA)’s ecumenical and interfaith relations will be considered by Assembly Committee 7 ― Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. Bob Sloan, who will cover committee 7 for the General Assembly Communication Center, is a Presbyterian elder and editor at the Hartsville (South Carolina) Messenger.

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