Pat Cole, Outlook correspondent - The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 219th General Assembly (2010) has called for the United States to end direct combat operations in Afghanistan, the denomination’s first such statement since the war began in 2001.
The action, approved by the Assembly by a show-of-hands vote Friday, also asks the U.S. government to increase humanitarian and economic development assistance to Afghanistan. In addition, it calls for the United States to work with the Afghan people to facilitate peacemaking through consensus-building, open communication, economic incentives and diplomacy.
“There is no more appropriate time for the church to proclaim the peace of the gospel and pursue its mandates than when the country is at war,” said George Lynch of Pacific Presbytery, moderator of the Assembly’s Peacemaking and International Issues Committee.
Jillian Oberg, young adult advisory delegate from Beaver-Butler Presbytery, said that prior to the Assembly she told a friend who had served in Afghanistan that the Assembly would consider issuing a statement calling for peace in that country. “He said this is one of the best things we could do as a Presbyterian church to support our soldiers.”
In addition to addressing current issues, the Assembly took action aimed at helping the denomination address issues of peace and war in the future. The Assembly authorized a denominational study to consider new thinking and approaches to peacemaking and nonviolence. Specifically, it asks that the study “seek clarity as to God’s call to the church to embrace nonviolence as its fundamental response to the challenges of violence, terror and war.”
Contemporary issues such as weapons of mass destruction, globalization, pluralism, climate change and the growing competition for natural resources are among the topics to be considered in the study.
The multi-year study will be led by a five-member steering team to be appointed by the General Assembly Mission Council. The Assembly directed the steering team to seek participation from various constituencies of the church concerned with peacemaking and ask the entire church to engage in a study on peace and justice.
The steering team is charged to build on the 1980 denominational statement titled “Peacemaking: The Believers’ Calling” and other denominational policies on peacemaking.
The steering team is to make recommendations to the 221st General Assembly in 2014. The Assembly will receive the report for a two-year period of study and then take final action at the 2016 meeting.
In other action related to peacemaking, the committee issued statements urging:
- The United States to end its use of seven military bases in Colombia;
- Prayers and advocacy for peace in Sudan;
- Restoration of sustainable agriculture in Haiti;
- Reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and the reunification of North and South Korea;
- Restoration of democracy and increased civil liberties in Madagascar and Honduras;
- Protection of religious minorities around the world.