The Ecumenical and Interfaith Engagement Committee will hear a variety of recommendations from how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) relates to other denominations and faiths in the United States and abroad to formalizing statements against antisemitism and Islamophobia when it meets June 27-29 during the 225th General Assembly.
Among the things the committee will consider:
- A Theological Rationale for Interreligious/Interfaith Relationships as an official statement of the PC(USA) [ECU-01]. This item was referred from the 224th General Assembly in 2020, which was abbreviated due to the Covid pandemic. It was developed over several General Assemblies starting in 2014 and reflects a desire “to offer a concise theological rationale to help Presbyterians and our friends of other religious traditions better understand the value Presbyterians place on strong interfaith relations.” Among themes it addresses are the United States’ pluralistic culture, interfaith relationships based on God’s love, transformation through mission engagement, and the challenges of interfaith relationships.
- A General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (GACEIR) recommendation [ECU-02] that it be directed to explore a global covenant agreement “as a formula for establishing unique relationships with other denominations,” in partnership with the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Also a referral from GA224, the recommendation grew out of conversations about developing such a relationship with the Gereja Masehi Injili di Minahasa (The Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa) founded in the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi, and recognizing similar conversations are happening with other churches. “Rather than piecemeal our approach and hold hundreds of bilateral conversations, it makes sense for us to think together creatively about ways we might enter into partner agreements as we seek to be in ministry together with Diaspora communities in the United States and their home churches,” the recommendation states. The next recommendation [ECU-03] from the Presbytery of New York City is about developing a memorandum of understanding with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana.
- Consideration of the report and recommendations from the third round of Bilateral Dialogue Between the Episcopal Church and the PC(USA) [ECU-05]. It recommends receiving the “Episcopal-Presbyterian Agreement on Local Sharing of Ministries” and commending it to Presbyterians for study and questions directed to the Office of Ecclesial and Ecumenical Ministries by January 1, 2023. The dialogues stem from a desire to explore how “our ecclesial communions could work toward a path of increased ministry together, especially in the localities where there is great need for collegial partnership, whether in more rural areas or in urban or ethnic ministries.” A final report will be made to the 226th General Assembly (2024).
The committee will also consider receiving the “Statement Denouncing Antisemitism and Islamophobia” as study documents of the PC(USA) to be distributed to churches and mid councils, inviting comment. The recommendation cites both historic harms by the church and the broader culture as well as increases in antisemitic and Islamophobic actions and hate crimes, including gun violence, in recent years as reasons for the statements.
“Antisemitic ideas have been embedded in our Scriptures and our confessions,” the recommendation’s rationale reads. “We have often, intentionally or unintentionally, promoted ideas of Christian superiority over Jewish people. Presbyterians have also had misconceptions about the Qur’an and the value and the beauty of Muslim ways of faith and life. Contemporary theology, biblical study, and liturgy that affirm our ongoing kinship with Jewish and Muslim peoples will begin to repair and strengthen our interfaith relationships, bring renewed understanding and appreciation for the uniqueness that each community brings.”