|220th GA Report: Part 1 - GA actions and attitudes|
Facebook post sums up GA actions on life: "In the PC(USA), you are condemned if you spank your child, but are free to kill the child in the womb..."
Similar comments to the one above were simultaneously posted by several observers at the 220th General Assembly when by a vote of 334/306/9, the assembly approved a recommendation encouraging PC(USA) members to "adopt discipline methods... that do not include corporal punishment of their children."
One commissioner noted that 'corporal punishment' is mandated in Scripture (Proverbs 13:24) while abortion—the taking of a human life is prohibited (Exodus 20:13). The PC(USA) clearly no longer looks to Scripture as their authority for faith and life.
Another Facebook post by PPL GA team member, Dr. Martha Leatherman, attending her first GA expressed her reaction:
When people asked me one-on-one what happened, I told them very clearly that a) there was a Hindu religious leader chanting over the people in prayer to what we believe are idols, b) that we were challenged to "spare the rod and abort the child, c) all attempts by orthodox Presbyterians to live within this denomination and remain true to our consciences were thwarted, including non-geographic presbyteries, a national gracious dismissal policy, and ROC for abortion and same-sex partnerships, d) that the deck was stacked with rainbow scarves draped over the cross, and e) that YAADs were falsely taught that our church is pro-choice by PARO without allowing Presbyterians Pro-Life to even address them.
Leatherman, who recently helped found a new PPL chapter in Texas, may be new to General Assembly, but her vision and insight is crystal clear. On the matter of abortion, commissioners did not want either debate or change. They received pages of comment from advocacy voices of the denomination. Allowed to comment on items of business before the assembly, Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy and Advocacy Committee for Women's Concerns are particularly prolific on life issues. Those comments are retained in the Assembly minutes though not approved by action of the Assembly. In some cases comment is quoted in subsequent years as though it were 'policy' instead of commentary. Historically, ACSWP and ACWC are among the most socially liberal, left-leaning, extreme voices in the denomination.
There are no official voices of the PC(USA) who speak on behalf of unborn human life. Only in open hearings will you hear those voices, limited to 2 minute sound bites and with no questions allowed from commissioners. In one committee (Health Issues) an outstanding resource, the Executive Director of Women's Choice Network, overseeing five pregnancy centers in Pittsburgh—an organization sponsored by 31 PC(USA) churches—was denied the opportunity to answer the questions of a committee regarding an item of business that specifically attacked the integrity of pregnancy centers. The Overture advocate for this abortion advocacy item was repeatedly given opportunity to speak without the balance of another view.
PARO (Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options) which Leatherman referred to in her remarks, is a network under PHEWA (Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association) a 501c3 corporation (as is Presbyterians Pro-Life) that has a covenant with the PC(USA)that allows them voice at every meeting of the General Assembly Mission Council (now the Presbyterian Mission Agency). In nearly every report made by PHEWA to the Justice sub-committee of the GAMC, they seem compelled to affirm that they are a covenanted body in relationship to the PC(USA) and NOT just an "issue" group.
IRD reporter, Bart Gingerich, reported on a PARO luncheon during General Assembly describing it as "one of my darkest experiences." He quoted guest speaker, Reverend Vincent Lachina, official chaplain to Planned Parenthood, who publicly disparaged the legitimacy of Presbyterians Pro-Life by saying: "[PARO] isn't just on the flip side" of Presbyterians Pro-Life. It is an official body formed in response to General Assembly action." Gingerich also quoted Brian Simons, co-moderator of PARO (who repeatedly defined himself as a "Gay Teaching Elder commissioner during plenary) who requested, "Please remember us as we continue the work that is forever going to be a part of the denomination. We need to make sure to preserve the pro-choice stance of our denomination and to avoid slipping back into the role and position from before that we aren't anymore."Jim Berkley, writing for The Layman, also commented on PARO's "simmering resentment" toward PPL:
Presbyterians Pro-Life must truly be a sore point, because PARO co-moderator (and commissioner) Brian Simons piled on PPL: "We're saying that we [Presbyterians] as a body have already decided and discerned that this is where we are," he declared--where PARO stands, not where PPL or pro-life overtures might lead. "As a body upholding the policy of our denomination, we must carefully discern the wording of overtures," he urged the troops. "We want to make sure that we are upholding the pro-choice stand of the denomination that we not go backwards."