The Presbyterian Outlook is an independent weekly newsletter covering the life of the PC(USA). This series of articles provides a helpful overview of the actions taken by the 221st General Assembly.
Report from Hans Hallundbaek, Coordinator Presbytery Prisoner Partnership (PPP) and appointed advocate for this overture.
This important overture was originally introduced by St. John’s Presbyterian Church of Berkley California, and quickly gained support and concurrence from Santa Fee, West Virginia, Oklahoma, New York City and of course early on from Hudson River Presbytery.
During the first two days of GA, advocates from other presbyteries and I huddled to compare notes and develop an appropriate presentation strategy.
With only 10 minutes allowed for our presentation we decided to make a closely orchestrated presentation with two minute speaking time for each of the five presenters: A judge for West Virginia presented the view for a legal perspective, a pastor from NY City talked about the effects of drugs on youth in his district, a female advocate related to imprisonment of women for drug trade, and the pastor from the church originating the overture gave a powerful change for change of the drug laws incarcerating so many minority people.
In my two minutes I focused on the following brief statistical facts and managed to get on the projector screen a graph demonstrating the six fold growth of incarceration after the Pres. Nixon’s declaration of the war on drugs in 1971.
- In our society whites outnumber blacks five to one.
- Still African Americans comprise 35% of those arrested for drug possession, 55% of those convicted, and 74% of those imprisoned.
- As a result of the ”war on drugs,” the USA with 5% of the global population imprisons 25% of the world’s prisoners.
- And almost half of them for drug related crimes.
I am pleased to report that after our presentation to the committee and two quick procedural questions, the overture was vote on and approved by a 64 to 0 vote.
Join us in prayer for a similar reception on the assembly floor.
My gratitude for the committee approval of this overture was further enhanced by the approval of the overture on a moratorium on the death penalty and on divesture from private-for-profit prison companies.
For these reasons, as well as other promising signs of PC(USA) becoming a more proactive and progressive church, I am very gratified.
By Noelle Damico, “Prayers for a New Social Awakening,” eds. Iosso and Hinson-Hasty, Westminster John Knox Press, 2008
Guard your church, O God
From illusions of grandeur
From obeisance to power
From vanity that demands notice
Guard your church, O God
From certainty that exterminates novelty
From uncertainty that precludes action
From neutrality that blesses what is