Affirming a commitment to work for the common good in society together with people of other faiths, the 221st General Assembly (2014) on Thursday voted to approve a policy statement titled “The Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”
Also on Thursday, commissioners followed the recommendation of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and voted 506-72 not to approve the development and distribution of material making a distinction between ancient and modern Israel.
“Relationships are a way in which we live out our faith in Christ,” said Aimee Moiso, corresponding member of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, in introducing the ‘interreligious stance’ recommendation. “In 2008 the General Assembly adopted the Ecumenical Stance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which reiterated our relationship with Christians of other denominations. It also stressed the ongoing and mounting need for similar guidance on how we relate to people of other religious traditions.”
Moiso said in 2013, the General Assembly on Interfaith and Ecumenical Relations convened a diverse group of 65 Presbyterians, Christians of other denominations and representatives of many faith traditions to study how Presbyterians should best engage in relationships with people of different faiths. What resulted was the ‘interreligious stance’ policy statement approved on Thursday. Moiso called it a “framework for how we as Presbyterians understand and relate to people of other religions’ traditions.”
If ratified by the presbyteries, section G-5.0102 of the Book of Order shall be amended to include the following:
“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at all levels will be open to and will see opportunities for respectful dialogue and mutual relationships with entities and persons from other religious traditions. It does this in the faith that the church of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is a sign and means of God’s intention for the wholeness of all humankind and all creation.”
The recommendation also calls for the Presbyterian Mission Agency to develop and promote resources explaining the "interreligious stance."
After commissioners approved the recommendation, Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Vice-Moderator John Vest led the Assembly in reciting the words of An Affirmation of Interreligious Commitment.
In regards to Overture 07-01, which called for the General Assembly to make a distinction between ancient and modern Israel, Moderator Jihyun Oh said members of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations “wrestled over this for quite some time.” After much debate, the committee voted 53-8 to recommend the Assembly not approve the overture.
Oh then read an accompanying statement from the committee: “Though the committee voted not to approve Item 07-01, we take the matter of language, and specifically the tension around the use of the term ‘Israel,’ very seriously. We hope the discussion and education about the use of language continues.”
The overture, submitted by the Presbytery of Chicago, was prompted by the heading “God’s Covenant with Israel” in the publication of Glory to God, The Presbyterian Hymnal.
The Assembly also heard a report on Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Seventh Day Adventist Dialogue and a report from the World Council of Churches Delegation.