Reported by Stephen Valastro
I have made notes on the plenary for Friday afternoon and I will share those here with you all. Once again when I state that the advisors approved or disapproved I am not breaking it down but taking into account the YAADS, TSADS, Ecumenical advisors and Mission advisors as one unit of advisory delegates.
Plenary began this afternoon at 1:30 and we are actually on schedule for the week. An immense amount of work on your behalf has been done here at General Assembly this week but we are not done. This may turn out to be the longest day this week if history is any example. The plenary opened with prayer from a young volunteer alumnus who spent a year in Northern Ireland as a young man. We have had Ecumenical greetings from all over the world this week and this afternoon the greetings were from right here in the US.
David Won TEC from the Hanmi Presbytery brought a message to the body of the General Assembly thanking them for what has been done for his Presbytery. The Hanmi Presbytery will be dissolved by an overture brought to and approved by the 221st GA this morning.
J. Herbert Nelson the director of the office of Public Witness spoke to the body about Justice from John Calvin to Martin Luther King Jr. up to the present day and how it relates to the justice Jesus spoke about and what Mr. Nelson’s office has been doing. He spoke of peace, what we should be truly fighting for! We must turn this country around.
A motion was made by a commissioner on the floor to reconsider 10-03 the assembly’s action on the AI of W 4.9000 Marriage in the book of order. With minor debate the question was called and it was approved to call the question. A voice vote was taken and was too close to call so the body went to the clicker which there is a picture of on our blog. The motion to reconsider was defeated 414-166.
The committee on Immigration and Environmental Issues was up at this time.
The committee moved 15-02 be approved with amendment. There was a voice vote and the advisory delegates approved. The commissioners voted to approve by voice vote. The committee then moved 15-01 be referred with comment. A minority report was moved The minority report of 15-01 follows.
Final Text: Committee 15 recommends that the 221st General Assembly declare our intention for the PC(USA) Board of Pensions and Presbyterian Foundation to categorically divest from fossil fuels within 5 years. To that end we request that the Moderator of the 221st General Assembly appoint a Committee of 7 (seven) to work with MRTI to develop a comprehensive strategy for full divestment from fossil fuel companies within five years. The Commission is to be appointed by September 30, 2014 and report back to the 222nd General Assembly in June 2016 with a plan for complete divestment by June 2019. The Commission will meet electronically and in person at no expense to the PMA.
The main motion was perfected and the body got to work on the amendment. There was an amendment to the minority report to add “and immediately stop any new investment in fossil fuel companies”. The vote on the amendment was narrowly defeated by the advisory delegates and defeated by the commissioners 370-208. A movement to amend to add paragraphs 1 and 4 of the ACSWP recommendation to the minority report. Advisory delegates were in favor of the amendment and the commissioners agreed. A move to further amend the minority report to add a personal reduction in energy of 10% over the next two years and it was passed and added to the minority report. The minority report was deemed perfected by the moderator. The Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) spoke on this as well as the Chief Investment officer and the chair of the Presbyterian Foundation. There was a lot of discussion on this topic and it was very heated, with many still standing to talk the question was called. The advisory delegates voted to approve the call as did the commissioners 445-120. The substitute motion was voted on with the advisory delegates split and the commissioners voted to defeat the substitute motion 418-180 bringing the main motion back up. The main motion debate began. The debate once again was heated. The YAADS were unfortunately unfairly called upon during the minority report debate. The moderator apologized stating he highly valued the YAADS opinions and would make sure to keep them in the cue to speak. The question was called by voice with both the advisory delegates and commissioners affirming the call to vote. The motion to refer was affirmed by the advisory delegates and the commissioner also affirmed to refer 469-110. The committee on Immigration and Environmental Issues ended its report with prayer.
The committee On Middle East Issues was up next.
A member of MRTI discussed that their committee does, with shareholder engagement, attempt to change the way the company we partially own does operates. MRTI recommended divestment of Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. MRTI showed a power point explaining why they made this recommendation and to say the least I was appalled and at times sickened by the way our Christian Brothers and Sisters in Palestine are treated as well as their homes being taken by settlements. The moderator accidently went from questions to discussion and ruled himself out of order apologizing.
Minority report on 04-04 The 221st General Assembly (2014):
1. Declares its commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people.
2. Instruct the Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions of the PC (U.S.A.) not to divest from Caterpillar, Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. Ask the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) of the PC (USA) to continue its conversations (which HP has already expressed a willingness to continue). In these conversations, MRTI will express this General Assembly’s profound objection to some of its corporate practices in the Middle East.
3. Call for all presbyteries and congregations within the PC (USA) to include interfaith dialogue and relationship-building as part of their own engagement in working for a just peace.
4. Call for all foreign aid given by the U.S. government—including aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority—to be comprehensively and transparently accounted to the American people and held to the same standards of compliance with all applicable laws.
5. Call for church advocacy for foreign-aid accountability to be directed toward its universal adherence rather than targeted for selective application to some recipients and not others.
6. Encourage Presbyterians to travel to the Holy Land, and give broad support to the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities throughout the Middle East.
7. Affirm the importance of economic measures and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians that support and advance a negotiated two-state solution.
8. Urge all church institutions to give careful consideration to possible investments in Israel-Palestine that advance peace and improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.
The committee moved 04-01 to approve the overture and with little discussion being brought forth the vote was done. The advisory delegates voted highly to approve as well as the commissioners who voted 482-88 to approve.
The committee moved to disapprove 04-03 and the advisory delegates again voted highly to affirm this as did the commissioners voting 450-139 to disapprove.
The committee moved 04-04 be approved with amendment on supporting Middle East Peace Making with a minority report. The motion needed to be perfected. There was a motion to amend to change item 3, “divestment is not to be construed or represented by any organization of the PC(USA) as divestment from the state of Israel, or as alignment with or endorsement of the global…” The vote on this amendment was advisory delegates voted over 75% to approve and commissioners voted 513-81 to approve.
Still on 04-04 an amendment was made to add the preface “The PC(USA) has a long standing commitment to peace in Israel and Palestine. We recognize the complexity of the issue, the decades long struggle, the pain suffered and inflicted by policies and practices of both the Israeli Government and Palestinian extremists (the word extremists was amended with a high vote to “Palestinian entities” later in the process by a very high margin by red card vote). We further acknowledge and confess our complicity into the historic ad current suffering of Israelis and Palestinians yearning for justice and reconciliation. The 221st GA 2014 recommends the following” The advisory delegates voted highly yes as well as the commissioners who voted 529-72.
Another motion to amend 04-04 to add  Reaffirm PC-USA’s commitment to interfaith dialogue and partnerships with the American Jewish and Muslim friends and call. A motion was made to add “Palestinian Christians” was approved by both the advisory delegates highly and the commissioners 412-72. The previous motion was voted on and the advisory delegates voted to approve as did the commissioner 446-7.
The moderator declared the main motion perfected.
The body moved on to the minority report. A motion was made to add to g. “the moderator of the 221st General Assembly to accept the invitation to meet as soon as possible with the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to discuss in person the contents of this overture.” After some discussion and the fact that the invitation from the Israeli government was contingent upon what the GA vote on divestment was a voice vote was taken and the advisory delegates as well as the commissioners declined to add this to the minority report. With no others waiting to amend the minority report the moderator declared it perfected. After some discussion the question was called and the body voted to take a vote on replacing the main motion with the minority report. The advisory delegates voted overwhelmingly not to replace the main motion and the commissioners agreed though not as drastically with a 316-269 vote.
The plenary broke for dinner prior to any business being done to finalize 04-04.
At 7:30 the plenary was resumed with a prayer led by David Gambrel, one of the first class of Young Volunteers back in 1994. A memorial minute was given for Albert Winn by Sid Batts.
The question of 04-04 was called and the advisory delegates affirmed the call as did the commissioners 481-126. The vote on the committee’s motion on 04-04 showed the advisory delegates highly in favor of the motion though the commissioners were highly divided approving the motion 310-303 to approve.
The committee moved that overtures 04-08, 04-07, and 04-02 be answered by the action taken on 04-04. The advisory delegates and commissioners both voted to approve with the commissioners vote at 469-99.
The committee moved disapproval of 04-05 and both advisory delegates and commissioners affirmed with the commissioner’s vote being 503-82.
The committee moved to approve as amended 04-12. An amendment to strike “in cooperation with the Israel Palestine Mission Network” from the document was made. With minor discussion the question was called and the vote was taken on the amendment with the advisory delegates voting over 60% and the commissioners voting 504-82 in favor of removal. The vote on 04-12 as amended was taken and the advisory delegates voted over 90% in favor and the commissioners voting 533-37 in favor of 04-12 as amended.
The committee moved 04-14 be approved. This was a commissioner overture that was a 44 page document from the Presbytery of Chicago. After some discussion the question was called with over 86% of advisory delegates wishing to call the question and the commissioners 467-73 to call. The vote on the committee’s motion on 04-14 showed the advisory delegates slightly approving the overture. This was one of the few times in which the commissioners did not take the advice of the delegates and voted 363-240 against the committee. A motion was moved to disapprove 04-14 with the advisory delegates and commissioners agreeing with the final vote by commissioners being 461-97 to affirm disapproval.
The moderator turned the assembly over to Vice-Moderator Larissa Kwong Abazia. So ends my report.
In Christ’s Service
Stephen M. Valastro Ruling Elder Commissioner 221 General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church USA