Friday, June 6, 2014

Advocacy as Discipleship Pre-GA Issue

221st General Assembly (2014):
The Office of Public Witness Prepares

As the public policy information and advocacy office of the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Office of Public Witness watches PC(USA) General Assemblies closely. 

Each General Assembly has several specific responsibilities outlined in Chapter 3 of the Book of Order. The Assembly seeks to protect our church from errors in faith and practice and is responsible for assuring that the expression of our theology remains true to the biblical standards in our historic confessions. The General Assembly presents a witness for truth and justice in our community and in the world. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies.

The upcoming GA is no different.  The commissioners and delegates elected by each of the 172 Presbyteries will become “the council of the whole church and it is representative of the unity of the synods, presbyteries, sessions, and congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).” 

Public Witness Ministry in Washington offers a chance to translate the church's deep convictions about justice, peace, and freedom from words into reality. The political process is where decisions are made that help or harm people; decisions that help to make the kind of world God intends.

For Presbyterians, this expectation of faithful political engagement does not begin in Washington – it begins at the General Assembly.  GA is where the decisions of the gathered council will faithfully guide the future practice of the church within the church and world.  We believe that church, if it is to remain true to its biblical roots, theological heritage, and contemporary practice, must not fall silent.  The church (and its people) must speak faithfully, truthfully, persuasively, humbly, boldly, and urgently.    For the community of the faithful to live into this expectation, to hear the prophetic call through scripture to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God,” we must prepare.  We must prepare ourselves and our communities through prayer, through reading scripture, and through becoming familiar with the business set before our denomination. 

As we seek humbly to serve God, our neighbor, and our church, we are taking the opportunity to share our preparation for GA.  In this Advocacy as Discipleship, we will highlight various recommendations and overtures to be considered at the 221st GA that will guide and direct our Public Witness ministry in Washington. This is not intended to be a comprehensive view of all social witness policy before the 221st GA, but rather a snapshot and quick study of the business to come. We encourage you to keep our denomination, each commissioner, delegate, overture advocate, resource person, and all those who will be present in Detroit for the Assembly in prayer, and to use (click on the “PC-Biz box”) as a resource to see all the business before this GA.  When the Assembly meets in Plenary, the business will be broadcast via live stream.

Contents of this Issue:

For a complete look at all the business before the 221st General Assembly, please visit the General Assembly's business website at

The Assembly Approaches

There are certain themes that begin to rise out of the collected witness of the presbyteries and other bodies bringing business before the 221st General Assembly, but only time will tell us what the voice of this particular Assembly will be. Guided by the Spirit, commissioners and delegates to the Assembly will spend nine days wrestling with hard questions that are not all, by any means, identified or encompassed by this document. Even as related to social witness policy, we confess that this is not a complete list of the vast witness that the church will consider. What these overtures, resolutions, and recommendations do, however, is to show a deep denominational concern for the current state of the nation and the world, and an earnest effort to faithfully and prayerfully struggle with appropriate solutions to the challenges that face us.

Stay tuned and follow the 221st General Assembly.
Visit the GA website here: for information about attending and following the Assembly, including social media handles and hashtags.

Click on the “PC-Biz box” in the upper right-hand corner. PC-Biz is the business site of the Assembly and you can read each of these items in their entirety, along with their Rationale, other comments, and recommendations (either urging approval or disapproval of each item).

The Office of the General Assembly also live streams Assembly business sessions online, so you can tune in to the votes that are most important to you. Check back on the GA 221 website to find information about the live stream.

The Most Important Preparation
As we all continue preparing for this General Assembly, let us all enter into the conversation in a spirit of respect and goodwill. These are big questions, but as the Body of Christ, we rely on the Spirit to guide these deliberations. Please keep in prayer each person whose participation in the General Assembly will contribute to the collected voice of the church and especially pray for the commissioners, whose task is to listen for the Holy Spirit and to speak the prophetic voice of God to the church and the world.

See you in Detroit!