Ongoing national dialogues with ecumenical partners, the role of local churches and presbyteries in fostering relations and just action with neighbors of all faiths, and deliberations over Presbyterian involvement in interchurch and interreligious councils and agencies will be on the docket of Committee 7 of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) when it meets in Saint Louis June 16–23.
Committee 7 will review the work of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (GACEIR). It also will consider a prospectus for the third round of dialogue between the PC(USA) and the Episcopal Church in America and another prospectus for the ninth round of dialogue between U.S. Reformed churches and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
GACEIR has met three times since the 222nd General Assembly (2016). A significant sector of its role is to “plan and coordinate, in consultation with the agencies and governing bodies of the church, the involvement of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in ecumenical and interreligious relations and work; connect the ecumenical and interreligious efforts of all governing body levels of the church; provide a common point for all ecumenical and interreligious efforts connecting us with those outside our church ... and promote the unity of the church as an exhibition of the kingdom to the world.”
Committee 7 will have an opportunity to examine the ways in which the PC(USA) is fulfilling these mandates and to respond to commissioners’ resolutions in its sphere.
Members will also meet with ecumenical and interfaith representatives from across the United States and around the world who are attending the 223rd General Assembly (2018).
Topics of conversation will include firsthand accounts of prospects for peace on the Korean peninsula and reports on Pope Francis’s June 20 visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
An overture from the Presbytery of Carlisle (Item 07-01), “On America’s Interfaith Context and the Church’s Challenge,” brings a sharp focus to interreligious relations. Item 07-01 asks the General Assembly to:
- Affirm and embrace the religious diversity of the U.S. and to love all our neighbors – including those of other faiths – as we love ourselves.
- Condemn all religiously inspired and motivated violence, prejudice, discrimination and hate speech, and in particular anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim behaviors and language.
- Affirm General Assembly positions on interreligious relations as stated in four documents from 1987 to 2014.
- Call upon all Presbyterians to seek reconciliation with all religious groups who have been hurt by unjust actions and words of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
- Encourage presbyteries to create interfaith relations committees or task forces to promote interreligious relations, dialogue and understanding.
- Encourage congregations to engage in interfaith conversations and partnerships in their communities.
- Direct the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to encourage congregations to use the resources of the Office of Interfaith Relations to promote education about other religions and interfaith dialogue.
Theodore Gill is an honorably retired minister living in Connecticut. He is covering Assembly Committee 7 for the General Assembly News.