Skip to main content
Listen to Acton content on the go by downloading the Radio Free Acton podcast! Listen Now

Sirico Parables book

ACSWP Commentary

The 204th General Assembly (1992) appproved “Seeking to be Faithful Together:* Guidelines for Presbyterians During Times of Disagreement,” and requested that all governing bodies and future Assemblies do likewise.* The guidelines are highlighted below.

1992 Statement - PC(USA),* p. 658

In a spirit of trust and love, we promise each other that we will:

a.* Treat each other respectfully so as to build trust, believing that we all desire to be faithful to Jesus the Christ;

- we will keep our conversations and communications open for candid and forthright exchange,

- we will not ask questions or make statements in a way that will intimidate or judge others.

b. Share our concerns directly with individuals or groups with whom we have disagreements in a spirit of love and respect in keeping with Jesus' teaching.

c. Focus on ideas and suggestions instead of questioning people's motives, intelligence, or integrity; we will not engage in name-calling or labeling of others prior to, during, or following the discussion.

f. Indicate where we agree with those of other viewpoints as well as where we disagree.

h. Seek to stay in community with each other although the discussion may be vigorous and full of tensions; we will be ready to forgive and be forgiven.

i. Follow these additional guidelines when we meet in decision-making bodies:

- urge persons of various points of view to speak and promise to listen to those positions seriously;

- seek conclusions informed by our points of agreement;

- be sensitive to the feelings and concerns of those who do not agree with the majority and respect their rights of conscience; and

- abide by the decision of the majority, and if we disagree with it and wish to change it, work for that change in ways that are consistent with these guidelines.

j. Include our disagreements in our prayers, not praying for the triumph of our viewpoints, but seeking God's grace to listen attentively, to speak clearly, and to remain open to the vision God holds for us all.

Ecumenical Social Action and Cooperation

ACSWP Introduction

The General Assemblies have been involved in ecumenical social action and mutual cooperation for decades.* At various times they have spoken with their ecumenical partners, worked with them, encouraged church inter-cooperation, and, at times, considered withdrawing from some of the ecumenical organizations.* Regardless of the position, the history of the Presbyterian church's involvement with the ecumenical movement is outstanding and remarkable.* As the General Assembly of the PCUS said in 1957 “. . . [t] to withdraw from either [the National or World Council of Churches] would be a regrettable step which we cannot believe our church desires to take.”* (PCUS, 1957, p. 169)

In 1986, the 198th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) adopted a resolution on ecumenical involvement and its own participation in the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches saying, in part:* That “[it] recognize[s] and give[s] encouragement to the continuing task of broadening ecumenical relationships of Presbyterians and Presbyterian governing bodies with other Christians and Christian churches.”* (PC(USA), 1986, p. 230).* In this spirit, the 204th General Assembly (1992) received the report of the Mission Consultation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, and the Uniting Church in Australia on a mutual mission agreement (PC(USA), 1992, p. 602), and adopted Guidelines for Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Participation in Interfaith Bodies. (PC(USA), 1992, p. 599).

The 205th General Assembly (1993) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved the resolution from the Special Committee on the Consultation on Church Union on “Churches in Covenant Communion.”* Perhaps the most contentious point in this resolution is the move by the General Assembly towards the recognition of the office of bishop within the Presbyterian church, “. . . As this church now prepares to put forward persons for the function of the bishop, it will keep in mind the requirement that this officer be ordained to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament . . . ” (PC(USA), 1993, p. 263).* The 205th General Assembly commended to the church the World Council of Churches document, “Issues in Christian-Muslim Relations: Ecumenical Considerations,”* which notes, in part, that “. . . Christian-Muslim relations have been an issue since the historical rise of Islam, more than fourteen centuries ago . . .” (PC(USA), 1993, p. 840).

In 1993, an Ecumenical Vision Statement was approved by the General Assembly which affirms four major points, “The Church is one. . . The Unity of the Church is God-given. . . The Church is worldwide. . . [and] God's love encompasses all. . .”* (PC(USA), 1993, p. 673).* The Assembly also approved an overture expressing support for the World Council of Churches and asking the General Assembly Council to “. . . establish regular communication regarding the work of the World Council of Churches, especially regarding potentially controversial actions so that local churches may be informed . . .” (PC(USA), 1993, p. 900).

A central focus of the 206 th General Assembly (1994) was the large ecumenical gathering called “ Re-Imagining . . .* God, Community, the Church . . . ,“ held in Minneapolis in November of 1993.* The conference was planned in response to the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Decade:* Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998).* The gathering was attended by more than 2,000 people from 32 denominations, 49 states and 27 countries.* The Assembly affirmed ”the historic ecumenical commitments of our church.* We value ecumenical, cross-cultural, and interfaith conversations and the right of all persons to attend . . . “* (PC(USA), 1994, p. 87)

1947 Statement - PCUS,* p. 92

(3)* Therefore, we recommend that this Assembly hereby submit immediately to the presbyteries the question of withdrawal of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. from membership in the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America.

(4)* That the General Assembly in passing this question down to the presbyteries does so without expressing either approval or disapproval of the present relationship between the Presbyterian Church in the United States and the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America.

2.* We recommend that overture 31 from the Presbytery of Nashville be answered in the affirmative as follows: “That the General Assembly shall, through its regularly appointed representatives on the Executive Committee of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, make clear to that body that it cannot and does not speak for the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., when its leaders or spokesmen make statements upon doctrinal matters which run counter to the standards of our Church.”*

1948 Statement - PCUS,* p. 62

We recognize with gratitude the broad services of the Federal Council as set forth in its official report representing a common front of American Protestantism in ten vital areas of Christian service, particularly in the fields of Evangelism, Church World Service and International Cooperation.

We commend our representatives on the Executive Committee for their success in gaining clarification of the council's policy with respect to legislative hearings in harmony with the point of view of our church, and the recognition of rights of representatives of any denomination to record at a hearing their dissent from a position taken by the council or by its executive committee.

We report that the presbyteries responded with one exception to the Assembly's request to express their judgment concerning the relation of our church to the Federal Council, voting as follows: 61 presbyteries expressed the opinion that the church should remain in the council.* 24 presbyteries expressed the opinion that the church withdraw from the council.* 1 presbytery recorded a tie vote.* In the light of this great preponderance of opinion, and in view of the essential services of the Federal Council to cooperative Christianity we recommend:

1.* That overture 35 from the Presbytery of Meridian and overture 75 from certain elders of Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia, to withdraw from the Federal Council, be answered in the negative.

1956 Statement - PCUSA, p. 233

Believing that our churches have an important role to play in their communities by joining forces with other churches and agencies in meeting human needs:

. . . [The 168th General Assembly] . . . Urges local congregations to give strong leadership and support to their community councils of churches, and in communities where such councils do not exist, to take steps to bring Protestant communions together in order that all Christians in all communities may have organized channels through which to share their concern.*

1957 Statement - PCUS, 1957, pp. 65 and 169

That the Majority Report on the Interchurch Relations Committee on the National and World Councils be adopted as amended and that the Presbyterian Church, U. S. continue its relationship with the National and World Councils.

It is the judgment of our Committee, after investigating the charges made against the National and World Council of Churches, and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of membership in them, that our church should maintain its membership in both.* To withdraw from either would be a regrettable step which we cannot believe our church desires to take.

1962 Statement - UPCUSA,* p. 314

The General Assembly concurs in recognizing the right and the obligation of the National Council of Churches to speak in areas affecting the economic, social and political life of this nation.* It is the duty of the Christian community to judge in love the culture in which she resides; still, there are certain errors and dangers inherent in the speakings of councils and of men.* Therefore, it should be the duty of the National Council of Churches to clarify the issues in particular matters, to call for action in areas of need, and to lend prayerful support to those forces working for the improvement of the conditions of men.**

1963 Statement - UPCUSA,* p. 319

The 175th General Assembly:

1.* Commits the services and resources of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to help achieve the intent and extend the spirit of the National Conference on Religion and Race; and directs the Office of the General Assembly, the General Council, the Boards and Agencies to cooperate in this endeavor.

2.* Calls upon every session, presbytery, and synod to initiate or cooperate in efforts to bring together the leadership of the major faiths in their locales to discover the problems, define the issues, and take the indicated action to bring about positive resolution of actual, incipient, or unacknowledged racial problems.*

1968 Statement - UPCUSA,* p. 214

. . . We are learning the truth of our Lord's insight (John 17:21 ff.) that the unity and mission of his Church in our time are interrelated.* If we confess one Lord, if we worship one God, if we respond to one Holy Spirit, if we experience one baptism, if we share one faith (Ephesians 4:4 ff.), we simply must meet, and not evade, the challenge to implement this unity for mission in the local setting where believers, who are called in Christ to meet and to serve the needs of men, and to witness to him as the way and the truth and the life, live and work and worship and have their being.* We believe positive response to this challenge is part of the work of reconciliation that we are called by God in Christ to perform in our generation, in order that the barriers that separate men from each other and from God may be more effectively overcome.* Thus, we believe, and constitutionally affirm, that “communions and particular churches ought to cooperate in so far as possible in giving expression to their oneness in Jesus Christ within his body, the ecumenical, catholic Church.”* (G.III, 5.) . . .

. . . the feeling is growing that our Constitution should authorize the formation of union churches by particular churches of our denomination with particular churches of other denominations beyond the Reformed family.* The restrictive nature of our Form of Government at this point will be extolled by those who most vigorously desire to preserve our parochial Presbyterian identity.* But to others, who place mission and service higher on the scale of values than identity, and who perceive that dying to traditional forms may be a necessary prelude to a flowering of new life in the Church, the Constitution's lack of breadth is a sign of weakness, not strength.* Consequently, at numerous places across the longitudes and latitudes of our Church, where it has been felt first, that we should be making a more serious effort to discover means at the parish level for fulfilling the work of the kingdom through cooperative ventures and planning; second, that joint planning with other denominations on such matters as new church development, is not only strategically desirable, but also sometimes in the best interest of effective ministry to a particular community; and third, that formal union between Presbyterian and non-Presbyterian congregations seems, in some places, to be the best way of strengthening the witness and work of the Body of Christ—the desire has been expressed that our denomination amend its Constitution to permit the formation of such union churches. . . .

ACSWP Commentary

A proposed amendment to the Form of Government was sent to the presbyteries and subsequently approved.* The PCUS Assembly took similar action the following year.

1974 Statement - UPCUSA,* p. 197

Whereas, the Year Of Jubilee celebrates the reality of God's healing grace in the lives of persons;

Whereas, Pope Paul VI has proclaimed 1975 a Year of Jubilee and has emphasized its themes of renewal and reconciliation;

Whereas, observing a Year of Jubilee in 1975 would be appropriate preparation for the Bicentennial year as we move into the third century of our nation's life;

Therefore, be it resolved that the 186th General Assembly (1974):* (a) call upon United Presbyterians to observe 1975 as a Year of Jubilee, (b) urge the Program Agency to assist congregations and judicatories to celebrate the Year of Jubilee, emphasizing that appropriate involvement be encouraged in the areas of worship, postwar healing (amnesty and ministry with Vietnam era veterans), criminal, economic, and racial justice, and (c) encourage other United States Protestant and Orthodox denominations to join The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in the call for the celebration of a Year of Jubilee.