This past June, I had the opportunity of a Presbyterian lifetime to attend General Assembly in Portland, Oregon as an intern with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. As interns, PPF welcomed us into the fold of the multi-generational, often rambunctious crew that became like family. The old-timers showed us the ropes of advocacy and the tedious details of commissioners’ resolutions. The young adults taught us to stake a claim in the conversations on the church’s identity, racial injustice, and divestment.
My personal call to action is this: Remain involved with PPF (and our made-up grassroots group from this GA, “Presbyterian Peace Feminists”) by attending the activist council meeting in the spring. Pick two to three issues that I am passionate about, and learn all that I can about them-- including divestment from fossil fuels, and the Israeli-Palestinian Mission Network, as I plan to pursue a trip to Palestine with the church and attend their fall retreat. And lastly, vow to live as an activist.
I am disappointed that the overture for fossil fuel divestment did not pass through GA 222. We have an urgent call to stand alongside those struggling to survive the devastating ramifications of the oil and gas industries. I, along with my delegation team and others in the PCUSA, will work to continue the call for divestment. It's difficult for me to not feel like we have failed our friends - family - who are impacted daily. Those whose livelihood, water, and life have been compromised by corporations invested in fossil fuel. Those who so vulnerably shared with me the hardships and death in their community revolving around oil excavation. But, this is still the beginning.
In a world that is fraught with conflict and derision, how can the church be a global witness to the peace of Christ? While observing Committee 12, Peacemaking and International Affairs, I saw commissioners, advisory delegates, and advocates grapple with this central question as it pertained to contemporary issues. From Korea to the Congo, the committee passed overtures that call upon church, corporate, and government bodies to support the dignity and welfare for all involved in conflict regions. Committee 12 also passed two PPF-supported Commissioner's Resolutions that uphold the principles and ministry of Sanctuary, a movement to advocate for the rights of international refugees (12-12 and 12-13).
The 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) was one of the most positive church experiences I’ve had in a long time. There were moments of disappointment and frustration, as always, but I sit several days after closing worship with a sense of hope and deep gratitude for the people and the work of the PC(USA). I also sit ready to get back to work (after a brief rest, which I hope you all are taking as well), because we as PPF have a special role after this GA that could have just changed the way our denomination engages with peace and nonviolence.
In our judgment, Presbyterians largely agree that climate change is real. Most of us believe that that this crisis poses a huge threat in communities that are at risk across our country and around the world. Further, there is broad consensus among Presbyterians that the scientific consensus is correct that this threat will grow exponentially over the years to come. We saw very little debate about these basic facts as Committee 9 deliberated this week.
On Sunday June 19, 2016, ten moderators of the Presbyterian Church will endorse the proposal for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest itself of all fossil fuel investments in the national church endowments and pension funds. Part of a growing international movement to abate climate change, the proposal will be voted on later in the week by the commissioners to the 222nd General Assembly (PC(USA), meeting in Portland.