the 221st General Assembly

Posts tagged ‘Pesbyterian Church (USA)’

For General Assembly Home Gamers


Many of the controversial issues considered by this General Assembly have been considered by committees, but remain to be decided by the whole assembly.

Committee recommendations are, of course, not official actions of the PC(USA).  They are indicators of the mood of a General Assembly, and there is a higher likelihood that the plenary will take the action recommended by the committee.  Nonetheless, I’ve seen this go either way many times.

In the meantime, we wait.

If you – either Presbyterian members, or concerned non-Presbyterian stake-holders, are trying to follow this from home, you might find these links helpful:

1.  The PC(USA) General Assembly plenary meetings are live-streamed here

This, of course, would not have helped us follow committee deliberations as they were not streamed.  However, some of the reports from the committees will be presented today, and the more controversial votes will likely take place tomorrow.

If nothing else, watching this will give an insight into the odd process of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) politics.  The effect of blending religious worship, spiritualized language and church jargon with political wrangling is – and should be – rather jarring.  It doesn’t lend itself to clear thinking and good decision making.  It does, however, lend itself quite freely to the manipulation of commissioners without their complete awareness.

2.  The docket gives an indication of the times issues will be debated.

This is NOT a hard and fast thing because business items can always be reconsidered – or even sometimes rescheduled if discussions on other items go long.  But if you have an issue that concerns you closely this will give you an idea when to tune in.

The version of the docket I have linked to has Middle East issues being addressed Friday afternoon.  The item on distinguishing between “biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel” (that the committee recommended against) should come up tonight.

3.  PC-biz is a system that has been used for several General Assemblies now.

I find it easiest to follow the progress of specific items by looking under the “Committees” tab.  Here is where you will find the current status of business items – how committees handled and what action the whole GA has taken.

This is particularly useful if you want to know the exact wording of a measure, or if you want to see the supporting materials that accompany it.  The fact that many business items have been amending during the process makes this more complicated and more important to keep straight.

This was done by Committee 4, for instance in that the committee chose not to act on the MRTI divestment recommendation, but instead to amend an anti-divestment overture – keeping its more spiritual and ethical language, but adding divestment to it.  Someone simply following the overture could easily be confused because now, it takes the exact opposite action than that intended by its authoring presbytery.

 

Update on PC(USA) Support for Two State Solution


It seems Committee 4 passed item 04-01 “On Reviewing General Assembly Policy Regarding the Two-State Solution in Israel Palestine” without any amendment or alteration.

Of course, this is not an outright rejection of a two-state solution; it only calls for a reconsideration.  If it passes the plenary, it will still not be “acted upon” until the next General Assembly in 2016.

Given the records of the people specifically tasked with this project, I can only say with absolute certainty that it will be bad for Israel.

Perhaps members of Committee 4 were very naive; perhaps they meant well.  (For example, someone said that all 8 YAADs supported divestment …) It doesn’t matter really – we only have their results to look at.  And these are pretty much uniformly bad.  Uniformly unfair – they do not take into account legitimate perspectives that don’t follow their basic narrative.  Uniformly dishonest – they spring from dishonest sources, and they foster continued fictions.  Uniformly unhelpful – nothing in this committees recommendations, if taken, will in any possible way increase the likelihood of peace or bring any conceivable benefit to any Palestinian or Israeli – with the possible exception of a tiny handful of professional activists.

 

How’s that Again, ACREC???


How’s that again, ACREC?  You’re supposed to be the PC(USA)’s Advocacy for what exactly?  Oh … “The Advocacy Committee for Racial and Ethnic Concerns”.  Hmmm.  Your “Advice and Counsel” on Overture 04-09 – “Resolution on Equal Rights for All Inhabitants of Israel and Palestine and on Conversations with Prophetic Voices” would be deliciously ironic if it weren’t so sad.

For the uninitiated:  Business items considered by a General Assembly are first taken up by committees of GA commissioners.  In theory, these are able to delve more deeply into specific topics and then return recommendations to the whole assembly.  In the majority of, but by no means all cases, the committee recommendations are followed by the plenary.

But before items ever get to these committees, they are vetted by permanent standing committees of the denomination.  These are not GA commissioners.  They are basically the ‘religious’ version of bureaucrats.  They give advice to the committees, and they often provide resource people to “help” the committees’ deliberations.  This practice ensures a certain degree of institutional control over the outcome – in spite of the fact that the GA itself – the commissioners – are in theory, the highest governing body of the PC(USA).

So … ACREC attached its recommendation to pass Overture 04-09.  Committee 4 – the actual commissioners considering “Middle East Issues” – dutifully approved it.  But in the middle of ACREC’s “advice” we find this gem quoted:

The ADL [Anti-Defamation League] goes after anti-Semitism with a fist, it goes after Israeli racism with a sigh. As a matter of fact, the ADL and the entire American Jewish establishment should suspend their campaigns against anti-Semitism indefinitely and take a look at what’s going on in Israel.

Now, the quote is taken from an article by Larry Derfner in the Jewish Daily Forward.  Obviously, therefore, it must be just fine for ACREC to quote it without context.  Just putting it out there.

Just what, exactly?  What function does it serve?

Is ACREC really suggesting that antisemitism isn’t a problem?  That “the American Jewish establishment” should ignore antisemitism?  Perhaps there is something uniquely hypocritical in Jewish concern over antisemitism … at least in ACREC’s fevered imagination.  Perhaps an ethnic minority should not be concerned by attacks on its members?

Or is the point more visceral?  Is it more intended to cultivate distaste for American Jews … who might, just might, oppose the institutional PC(USA)’s ultra-biased preferred narrative on Israelis and Palestinians?

Rather an interesting choice for a committee supposedly dedicated to racial ethnic concerns …

 

Will Spotts

The Same Old Song and Dance, my Friend


When it comes to Presbyterian Middle East policy decisions, not much changes.

Sure, faces and names change: since the 2004 divestment decision, the PC(USA) has a different stated clerk, a different moderator of the General Assembly, a different executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency – in fact, in 2004, the PMA was called the General Assembly Council (GAC) – then it was the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC), a different coordinator for the Advisory Council for Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), different members for these committees or boards.

Sure, specific emphases change to reflect both facts on the ground in the Middle East and advocacy trends and fashions.

But the central issues remain the same. Indeed the concerns, problems, emphases, and thrusts of PC(USA) policy – especially on Israel and Palestine – has not changed one bit in all the time I’ve observed it. No General Assembly has altered this. (Arguably, the 216th General Assembly in Birmingham in 2006 intended to do so; but if that was its intent – as I believe can be clearly demonstrated – it failed to give its actions enough force make a difference. Among other things, there were no consequences for committees, agencies, networks, employees of the PC(USA) failures to comply with GA instructions.)

The takeaway here: when it comes to PC(USA) Middle East policy decisions, we are in essentially the same place at the beginning of the 2004 General Assembly. Ten years of polity wrangling, of excessive spin, of cosmetic adjustments, of argument – in some rare cases, reasoned argument, have still left the same basic problems and questions unanswered in any meaningful or satisfactory way. (more…)

What You Can Expect


My purpose in this blog is to offer observations and opinions.  Readers can do with them what they want.  My focus is chiefly PC(USA) actions on Israel and Palestine, but I reserve the right to post on other topics that capture my interest.  The opinions expressed here are solely my own.

I have given up strategic and tactical considerations.  I was never very good at them anyway.  More importantly, as long as I’m thinking about how something I say might be used or misused by people with agendas of their own, a particle of falsehood will intrude into the equation.  My adventures in Presbyterianism have taught me that those with agendas will, in fact, do this no matter what approach I take.  So I here and now abandon thinking about it at all.  I do not go to cause offense, but I refuse to worry about it if I accidently do so.

Comments are welcome; abusive comments are not.  For instance, within the confines of my blog universe, an idea or an action may be stupid or evil; a person may not.  Possible motives of others may be suggested; absolute motive may not be declared.  False statements about and false characterizations of people are also off limits.

I will make two commitments for this site.  I will always be honest and candid in my opinions; and I will make every effort to be accurate and fair.  By accurate and fair I mean I will try not to misrepresent the actions and statements of others.  I will not impute motives unless they are stated.  I have no intention, however, of framing issues as their advocates might prefer:  the framing is part of the argument, not the thing itself.  As such, the framing is inherently biased.  I also have no intention of skirting foreseeable bad consequences or reads of proposals – even if these are unintended.

Having said these things, I invite you along for the 220th General Assembly ride.  With any luck it will prove interesting.  At the very least, it should be entertaining.

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